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What do you know about your septic tank? Do you know how often it should be pumped out? It is no secret that it is important for the health of a septic system to get periodic septic tank pumpings. Many homeowners can attest to the problems that can arise from ignoring this simple task. However, there are many myths regarding septic tank pumping that need to be debunked.

Have you heard any advice that sounds questionable? Have you been told to flush a pound of yeast down your toilet? Do you think a septic tank only needs to be pumped if you smell an odor coming from it? There is a lot of misinformation out there, and the last thing you want is a backed up system or system failure.

Part of the job of a good septic service company is ensuring you are informed. Your septic system can have a long life and function smoothly with some attention, maintenance and practical knowledge.

We will tackle some common myths about septic tanks and help you understand what is true and what is not.


Common Septic System Myths You Need to Know

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about septic systems. Here is what you need to know.

Myth #1: Pump-Outs Are Unnecessary

This is terrible advice and anyone saying this is doing a disservice to septic owners.  Many things accumulate, even with good septic use habits, that need be removed in order to keep your tank functioning at full capacity. Tanks should be inspected to ensure all is physically intact and in working order.  Every three to five years your septic system should be pumped out or have the sludge measured to determine if pumping is necessary. The size of your family, tank size, whether or not you have a garbage disposal and climate is a few factors that will influence the service interval.


Myth #2: Using Additives Means Pump-Outs Are Unnecessary

There are products that are offered as solutions to keep septic systems healthy and functional. Some even say that using them will eliminate the need for pumping. The claim is that by adding “secret” microbes and enzymes to the system they can increase sewage digestion and eliminate the need for pumping. However, the claims cannot be substantiated in every case and leaves a lot of factors unaccounted.

Bacteria enzymes, such as CCLS, can be beneficial to maintain a healthy level of good bacteria throughout your septic system to keep it operating at peak performance. This is especially important if you use harsh cleaning products or antibiotics. However, no septic tank additive replaces the need to get your septic tank pumped. Even if you use an additive, your septic tank should be pumped every 2 to 3 years to remove the solids.


Myth #3: You Can Flush Most Things Down the Drain

While septic systems are relatively robust, it does not mean you can flush anything you like down the toilet or drain. They are designed to handle only two things: wastewater and sewage.

Even adding bleach and strong disinfectant cleaners can upset the balance of the beneficial microbes needed to break down sewage. Coffee grounds, feminine hygiene products, cat litter, grease and oils are common problematic items flushed down drains or toilets. These items in the system can lead to drain blockages, irreparable tank malfunctions, pipe damage, and the release of toxins or dangerous bacteria into the environment.


Myth #4: You Cannot Repair a Clogged System

The fact is, many clogged septic systems can be restored with maintenance, so replacement is not always necessary.

Three of the most common causes of clogs — indigestible sewage solids entering the leaching bed, biomat growths blocking the holes in the perforated leaching pipes and tree roots physically clogging the leaching pipes — can usually be solved without replacing any part of the system.

Instead, look into a process called “jetting,” which involves installing access ports on the ends of the leaching pipes so you can give them an internal pressure-wash to clear them out.

Myth #5: A Full Tank Always Needs Pumping

A properly working septic tank will always be full of water. The solids are the reason to have your tank pumped on a regular schedule. Once pumped, a tank will typically be full again within 4 to 7 days.

You only need to do a pump-out when there are high solid levels in the tank (they should take up about a third of it). A professional septic tank cleaning company can establish this point by conducting a sludge test that checks the solid levels present.

If you experience backed-up toilets or sinks and your tank has not been pumped in a while, it may mean that something is wrong with the sewer lines or that the tank itself has exceeded its capacity.


Myth #6: It Is Fine to Build on Top of Your Septic Tank

You shouldn’t place any trees, decks, patios, or other structures in a way that would block access to the septic tank or drain field. If your tank is difficult to access, you may need to empty it other ways, which will take additional time and money.

Other potential problems include insufficient ventilation. Proper ventilation is vital for the system to function properly, which in turn will keep the tank from growing algae, becoming smelly, breeding mosquitoes, and generating odors.

Instead, growing a lawn or planting non-aggressive, water-loving plants over your septic system is a perfect solution.


Myth #7: You Will Never Have to Replace a Well-Maintained Septic Tank

Some people may tell you that your septic system needs replacing at least every 20 years, while others will say that it could last a lifetime with proper maintenance. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

No matter how good your septic system maintenance is, the tank will need replacing at some point if it gets old enough. Poor management could see the system fail a little after five years of use. However, with regular tank pump-outs, efficient water use, appropriate waste disposal, and careful drain maintenance, your septic system could still work after 20 to 30 years or more.


Myth #8: All Septic Systems Fail

It is important to factor in the design life of an onsite wastewater treatment system. The majority of people will say a septic system will last 20 years; a septic system requiring replacement before the end of a design life would be considered a failure. All products such as tires, roof shingles, bridges, etc., have a lifespan. Replacing a system after it has provided long years of service should not be confused with failures.


Myth #9: Septic tanks must be replaced after 20 years.

Many septic systems keep working perfectly after two decades of service. The systems that last the longest are those that are well maintained and minimize waste that cannot be processed. Septic system working life has much more to do with management than it does with some arbitrary lifespan expectation.  Keeping the system pumped and clear of growing tree roots and debris will allow your system the longest life possible.


Myth #10: Seeding Your Tank Is Beneficial

Seeding is the understanding that by adding organic material to your system you can aid or help the process work. Some ideas include; flushing a pound of yeast, manure, worms and others. Septic systems only require human waste to get started.

You will be glad to hear this is entirely unnecessary. As soon as you flush regular toilet waste away, it is enough to introduce the beneficial bacteria needed to kick-start the system.


Myth #11: Professional Maintenance Is Not Necessary for a Septic System

Regular professional maintenance is essential to maximize the longevity of your septic system. A septic system specialist can test the waste levels in a tank to check when it needs pumping, perform those pump-outs, and reduce the chances of problems with poor drainage and clogs.

Getting into the habit of arranging an inspection by a reputable local contractor every year or two is well worth the expense.



Call West Coast Sanitation Today!

Like everything else, your septic system requires regular maintenance. Have it inspected by a septic company near you at least once every year. During a maintenance session, your contractor will pump your septic system, conduct a drain test, and look for & rectify issues.

At West Coast Sanitation, we know that you don’t have time to deal with septic problems. If you think that your system has reached capacity, please give us a call right away. We have professionals ready to answer your questions and get your system working properly again.