The Septic Tank: A Guide on When and How to Pump It

The Septic Tank: A Guide on When and How to Pump It

When Should You Pump Your Septic Tank?

A septic tank should be pumped occasionally to get rid of its constituents and avoid stress build up in the entire septic system that can lead to its failure.

One way of knowing when to pump your tank is through the scum and sludge layers. It is advisable to pump the tank when the scum layer and sludge make up 25-33% of the water depth in the tank, or when scum layer is within six inches of the outlet pipe, and sludge layer is within 12 inches the outlet layer. Other signs you should look out for are: Slow draining in tubs, showers, and washing machines, toilets being slow when flushing, stench in drains, toilets, the area around the septic tank or your drain field or pools of water around the septic area.

Before Pumping Your Septic Tank

The first agenda on the list is hiring a truck pump (if you have none) and a skilled operator to help you with the pumping process. It is important to be present on site during the pumping to make sure all the waste is pumped, and identify any faults the tank may have. Before pumping start stirring the septic tank by using a muck rake which aids in breaking the scum layer and also the settled bottom sludge layer. Also remember to remove scum near the inlet line to avoid clogging.

Pumping Your Septic Tank

Connect the vacuum pipe to the pump truck and dip it slightly into the tank’s large central manhole and not into the baffle inspection ports. Pumping done through the baffle port can cause damage to the leach field.

In a slow and continuous motion stir the top of the tank using the pipe, and the bottom of the tank using a muck rake. This will ensure that all the scum, effluents and sludge are mixed and ‘sucked up’ into the pump truck.

Continue with the pumping until you reach the bottom of the tank. Remember the goal is to remove all waste materials from the tank completely. 

After Pumping Your Septic Tank

After pumping is finished, carefully examine the septic tank by listening carefully for any effluents spilling back into the tank. If observed, it is an indication that the drain field is saturated and should be replaced. Remove sludge remnants in the tank through backflushing.

Clean the vacuum hose and muck rake when the operation is over and organize a pumping schedule with the operator. The waste is then transported for proper disposal or delivered to independent companies specializing in the treatment of the waste. 

Prolonging Pumping Periods

Some products in the market are designed to lengthen periods between pumping. They contain chemicals to hasten the process of breaking down the sludge in your tank. However, these chemicals can cause an imbalance in the natural ecosystem that exists in your septic tank, thus inhibiting the natural enzymes' ability to properly break down the waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends to use these chemicals sparingly and not substitute them for regular septic tank inspections and pumping.