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How often should I pump my septic tank

June 20, 2016

Pumping and other tips for septic system health

Your septic system is an important part of your home.  The job of the septic system is to absorb all the waste water used by the home or business throughout the course of the day.  In order to understand how to care for your system, it is first important to understand how it works.  The onsite sub surface sewage disposal system is comprised of two main components, the septic tank, and leach fields.

The septic tank is a watertight structure designed to pretreat the raw waste from house, contain larger solid waste, and allow “cleaner” effluent to pass on to the leach fields.  Pictured below is a simple illustration of what a code compliant two compartment septic tank in Connecticut would look like.

Today’s modern septic tank is divided into two compartments.  The inlet or solid side compartment holds 2/3 of the tanks volume and stores most of the solid waste. The inlet baffle directs waste received from the home into the tank, and begins the settling out process to separate scum and sludge. The outlet side, or liquid side holds 1/3 of the tanks volume and is primarily treated effluent ready to pass through to the leach fields.  The job of the outlet baffle is to keep suspended solids from reaching the leach field.  In many of todays septic tanks in Connecticut an outlet effluent filter is installed to catch any smaller suspended solids that may be floating in the effluent.  Access to the septic tank must be within 12″ of the ground surface.  On septic tanks deeper than 12″ a riser collar must be retrofitted.  The link is a copy of the state of Connecticut letter to homeowners outlining the need for septic tank risers.   http://www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/environmental_health/environmental_engineering/pdf/Septic_Tank_Risers.pdf

The second major component of the septic system are the leach fields.  The job of the leaching or drain fields is to allow the absorption and percolation of effluent into the surrounding soils.  This is accomplished through a variety of different types of systems.  Some of the more common types of system are pipe and stone trenches, drywells, infiltrators, or concrete galleries.  A properly maintained and function septic system should last years.
Properly pumping the septic tank at a regular interval keeps accumulated solids within the septic tank from entering the leach fields.  septic tank cleaning also decreases the likelihood of a sewage back up into the home.  One of the most common questions asked is “How often should I pump my septic tanks?”  The answer varies with each household.  Depending on usage, the number of people in the home, and the size and age of the septic tank determine cleaning frequency.  Older, undersized septic systems should be pumped more often to preserve their remaining life.  On average every 2-3 years is a good maintenance interval, but a cleaning schedule should be based on each individual households use.  Additional recommendations for septic system health include:

  • Space out laundry
  • Minimize garbage disposal usage
  • Avoid harsh chemicals and medications
  • Don’t allow water softener discharge to be drained into septic system
  • Pump and inspect septic tank at a regular interval
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