Sewage Tank Emptying: When & How to Empty Your Tank

If you own property, knowing where your sewage tank is and how to maintain it is crucial.

This article sheds light on the critical aspects of sewage tank maintenance, focusing on when it’s necessary to empty the tank and the procedural details involved in sewage tank emptying.

Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about sewage tank emptying!

Do All Septic Tanks Need To Be Pumped?

Not all septic tanks require pumping at the same frequency, as various factors influence the need for pumping. The frequency depends on household size, tank size, usage, and maintenance practices.

The general guideline recommends septic tank pumping every 3 to 5 years. However, this is a broad estimate, and multiple factors affect the pumping frequency:

  • Household Size and Usage: Larger households with more occupants tend to produce more wastewater, leading to a higher load on the septic system. Increased usage means more solids accumulating in the tank, necessitating more frequent pumping.
  • Tank Size: Smaller tanks fill up more quickly than larger ones. The tank’s capacity directly impacts how often it needs pumping. A larger tank can accommodate more waste, delaying the need for pumping.
  • Water Usage Habits: Excessive water usage or habits like doing laundry in large quantities or using a garbage disposal can strain the septic system, leading to faster filling and requiring more frequent pumping.
  • Septic System Maintenance: Regular maintenance, including annual inspections and adherence to good practices like not flushing non-biodegradable items, can prolong the time between pumpings.
  • Soil Type and Drainage: Soil composition and drainage affect the system’s ability to absorb effluent. Poor drainage can lead to backups and may necessitate more frequent pumpings.

Regular inspection by a professional helps determine the optimal pumping schedule for your specific system. These professionals assess factors like sludge accumulation, scum layer thickness, and overall tank condition to recommend a suitable pumping interval.

Ignoring septic tank maintenance can lead to backups, system failure, environmental contamination, and expensive repairs. Maintaining a pumping schedule based on your household’s needs and professional recommendations ensures a healthy and functional septic system.

Signs of a Full Septic Tank

A full septic tank can lead to various indicators, signaling the need for immediate attention to prevent backups or system failure. 

Recognizing the following signs early helps avoid potential inconveniences and costly repairs: 

  • Slow Draining Fixtures: Sinks, toilets, showers, or tubs draining slowly or inefficiently indicate potential septic tank issues. This could mean the tank is reaching capacity, causing wastewater to drain more slowly.
  • Foul Odors: Unpleasant smells around the drain field, yard, or indoors could signify a full septic tank. As the tank reaches capacity, gases escape through plumbing fixtures or vent pipes, creating foul odors.
  • Pooling Water: Excessive water or sewage pooling in the yard, particularly around the drain field or above the tank, suggests a full tank unable to accommodate more waste. This could lead to backups or even surfacing of sewage.
  • Gurgling Sounds: If you hear gurgling noises from drains or toilets when using water fixtures, it might indicate a full tank. As the tank fills up, air trapped in the plumbing can cause gurgling sounds.
  • Backups or Overflow: Sewage backups in drains, toilets, or plumbing fixtures inside your home signal a critical issue. A full septic tank might force sewage back into the property instead of properly draining into the tank.
  • Lush Vegetation or Unusual Plant Growth: Unexpectedly lush or greener patches of grass or vegetation around the drain field can indicate a saturated septic system. This might be due to excess effluent escaping from the system.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial to address them promptly. 

Ignoring a full septic tank can lead to system failure, property damage, health hazards, and costly repairs. Contacting a professional septic service provider for inspection and pumping is essential to resolve the issue and prevent further damage to the system and your property.

Regular maintenance, including scheduled pump-outs based on household size and usage, prevents a full tank, ensuring the smooth operation and longevity of your septic system.

What Happens if You Never Pump Your Septic Tank?

Neglecting to pump your septic tank can lead to severe consequences that pose health risks, cause property damage, and result in expensive repairs.

Here’s an overview of the consequences that result from neglecting your septic tank:

  • System Failure and Backups: Over time, solids accumulate in the septic tank, forming sludge at the bottom and scum at the top. When left unattended, these layers increase, reducing the tank’s effective capacity to separate and treat waste. Eventually, the tank fills up, leading to backups into your home or yard.
  • Property Damage: Backups from an overflowing septic tank can cause extensive damage to your property. Sewage backups inside the house can ruin flooring, walls, and belongings, leading to costly repairs and cleanup.
  • Health Hazards: Raw sewage contains harmful pathogens and bacteria that pose serious health risks. Exposure to untreated sewage due to backups or leaks can lead to illnesses and infections for inhabitants and animals on the property.
  • Drain Field Damage: When the septic tank overflows or backs up, excess waste reaches the drain field. This overload can clog the soil pores, preventing proper effluent absorption. A saturated drain field results in standing water, foul odors, and eventual failure of the entire septic system.
  • Structural Damage and Sinkholes: Continuous saturation of the drain field can cause soil erosion and compromise the ground’s structural integrity. This erosion can lead to sinkholes or collapse of the drain field, necessitating extensive repairs.
  • Costly Repairs or Replacements: Neglecting septic tank maintenance often leads to significant damage, requiring expensive repairs or even complete system replacements. Regular pumping and maintenance are far more cost-effective compared to repairing a failed system.

Regularly pumping your septic tank according to recommended schedules based on household size and usage prevents these dire consequences. It maintains the system’s functionality, prevents backups, protects your property, and ensures a safe and healthy environment for you and your family.

How Often to Pump a Septic Tank?

Determining the frequency of septic tank pumping depends on various factors, including household size, tank size, water usage habits, and the type of waste produced. However, a general guideline recommends septic tank pumping every 3 to 5 years.

  • Household Size and Usage: Larger households with more occupants generate more wastewater, leading to increased solids accumulation in the septic tank. Consequently, larger households may require more frequent pumping, typically closer to the 3-year mark.
  • Tank Size: The size of the septic tank directly impacts the interval between pumpings. Smaller tanks fill up more quickly and thus require more frequent pumping, whereas larger tanks can accommodate more waste and may go longer between pumpings.
  • Water Usage Habits: Excessive water usage or specific habits like frequent laundry, using a garbage disposal, or taking long showers can strain the septic system, leading to more rapid filling and necessitating more frequent pumpings.
  • Type of Waste: The type of waste disposed of in the system affects the rate of solids accumulation. Disposing of non-biodegradable items or chemicals can hinder the tank’s efficiency and might require more frequent pumpings.
  • Septic System Maintenance: Regular maintenance, such as annual inspections and following best practices like not flushing non-biodegradable items, helps extend the time between pumpings by preventing unnecessary buildup.

It’s crucial to consider these factors when determining the optimal pumping schedule for your septic tank. 

Keeping records of previous pumpings and consulting with a professional septic service provider can help establish a customized pumping schedule tailored to your household’s needs and your system’s specifications. Neglecting to pump your septic tank regularly can lead to backups, system failure, property damage, and health hazards. 

How Do You Pump a Septic Tank?

Pumping a septic tank is a specialized process that involves several steps and should ideally be performed by trained professionals with the right equipment. 

Here’s an overview of the typical steps involved in pumping a septic tank:

  • Locating the Tank Access: The first step is locating and uncovering the tank’s access point, usually a large lid or cover. This may involve using probing tools or knowledge of the system’s layout.
  • Inspecting the Tank: Before pumping, the technician inspects the tank’s condition, noting the sludge and scum levels. This inspection helps determine the volume of solids and the tank’s overall condition.
  • Preparing Equipment: The technician comes equipped with a vacuum truck, also known as a septic pump truck, which has a powerful vacuum pump and a tank for collecting waste. Hoses are connected to the truck and inserted into the tank.
  • Pumping Out the Waste: Using the vacuum pump, the technician starts removing the accumulated solids (sludge) and floating debris (scum) from the tank. The technician ensures thorough pumping to extract as much waste as possible.
  • Rinsing and Cleaning (if necessary): In some cases, the technician might rinse the tank to remove remaining debris or inspect and clean filters or baffles within the tank to maintain proper functioning.
  • Inspecting and Closing: After pumping, the technician inspects the tank again, checking for any signs of damage, leaks, or issues. The access point is securely closed to prevent unauthorized access and to maintain safety.
  • Disposal: The waste collected in the vacuum truck is transported to a licensed facility for proper disposal or treatment, adhering to environmental regulations.
  • Providing Recommendations: The technician might offer recommendations based on the inspection, such as tips for maintenance, system improvements, or the next scheduled pumping date.

Septic tank pumping is an essential maintenance task that prevents backups, system failure, and property damage. Professional technicians follow safety protocols, ensure proper waste disposal, and offer expertise to maintain a healthy and functional septic system.

Cost to Have Septic Pumped

Before you schedule your septic tank pumping appointment, it’s vital to know what average prices you can expect for this type of service. 

According to Angi (formerly Angie’s List), the average price range for a septic tank pumping service is between $250 to $500. For larger tanks of 1,500 gallons or more, this price can increase to the $345 to $700 range, making it necessary to pump larger tanks regularly to avoid costly maintenance. 

Final Thoughts

Regularly scheduling septic tank pump-outs is vital for maintaining a healthy and efficient system. 

The ideal frequency varies based on household size, usage, and tank capacity. Following recommended guidelines, typically every 3 to 5 years, prevents potential issues like backups, property damage, and health hazards. 

Prioritizing routine maintenance not only extends the septic system’s lifespan but also saves on costly repairs. Monitoring usage habits, staying mindful of signs indicating a full tank, and consulting professionals for tailored recommendations ensure your septic system operates smoothly, providing peace of mind and a healthy environment for your home. 

Regular pump-outs are an investment in the longevity and functionality of your septic system, ensuring it continues to efficiently manage household waste for years to come.

In business for over 10 years, Mountain Contractors, LLC has deep experience in the septic and sewer industry. They’ve successfully and professionally provided sewer and septic services to Boulder and Gilpin Counties and have excellent online feedback and reviews. For help with all your home sewer, water, and septic tank needs, call Mountain Contracting LLC today.