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More than 21 million homes in the United States use septic systems instead of public sewers. For each of those households, ensuring they undertake a routine septic pumping schedule is essential. One of the most important elements of maintenance is septic pumping.

A septic pump is a process by which a professional septic technician removes sludge and solid buildup from your septic tank. The sludge builds up over time as part of the waste removal process. The solid waste is left behind and broken down by naturally occurring bacteria, while the liquid waste moves out of the tank through your drain field.

Routine septic pumping is essential for keeping your system healthy and well. But what happens during a septic pump, anyway?

Let’s look at how a septic system is typically pumped.


Septic System Overview

Septic systems are underground wastewater treatment structures, commonly used in rural areas without centralized sewer systems. They use a combination of nature and proven technology to treat wastewater from household plumbing produced by bathrooms, kitchen drains, and laundry.

A typical septic system consists of a septic tank and a drainfield, or soil absorption field.

The septic tank digests organic matter and separates floatable matter (e.g., oils and grease) and solids from the wastewater. Soil-based systems discharge the liquid (known as effluent) from the septic tank into a series of perforated pipes buried in a leach field, chambers, or other special units designed to slowly release the effluent into the soil.

Alternative systems use pumps or gravity to help septic tank effluent trickle through sand, organic matter (e.g., peat and sawdust), constructed wetlands, or other media to remove or neutralize pollutants like disease-causing pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other contaminants. Some alternative systems are designed to evaporate wastewater or disinfect it before it is discharged to the soil.


What to Expect

While it might seem like a complicated experience, the entire procedure usually only lasts between 15 minutes and 1-hour. Overall, septic pumping is quite simple. On the day of your appointment, a licensed technician will come to your home and locate the lid of your septic tank. Then, using specialized equipment, they will remove the lid and place a vacuum pump inside. That pump will suck up any liquid, solid waste, or sludge that is sitting in your septic tank.

After the tank has been thoroughly cleaned out, they will flush out all of the outlets and filters that connect to the drain field before replacing the lid.

You can also expect them to inspect the drain field for any issues during your septic system maintenance appointment.

In general, septic pumping involves the following steps:


Step 1: Septic Tank Access Lids Uncovered and Opened

Before any work can begin, the technicians at West Coast Sanitation will need to uncover your tank access lid. From this point, the work crew will open the lids to your tank. This might seem like a simple task, but corrosion and general wear-and-tear can make it difficult.

Step 2: Your Tank Will Be Pumped Out

Using a high-power hose that is connected to our vacuum truck, all the liquids and solids will be sucked out of your sewage tank. While the hose is usually powerful enough to remove all debris and waste, there are certain times when thick sludge and solids will be left behind.

Step 3: The Tank Will Be Washed Out

To help remove any residual waste, your technician will use water to clean out the interior of your tank to remove most of the remaining solids.

Step 4: Visual Inspections Will Take Place

After the septic pumping and cleaning steps have been completed, our crew will check the tank’s interior and exterior for any root presence or deterioration. They will also look over the septic tank baffles and dividing wall.

Step 5: The Tanks Lid Will Be Closed and Reburied

Once the inspection has been completed, your lid will be closed and covered back up.


When Does Your Septic Tank Need to Be Pumped?

Generally speaking, you should have your septic tank pumped every 3-5 years or if you notice that it is getting full. It is a good idea to visually inspect your septic tank at least annually, and you should schedule routine septic system maintenance by a licensed professional.

If you are not sure whether or not your septic tank is due (or overdue) for a professional pumping, look for the following signs:

  • Pooling Water
  • Clogged Drains
  • Noises from Pipes
  • Flow Flushing
  • Backed Up Sewer
  • Flooded Lawn
  • Strange Odors


How to Prepare For Septic Tank Pumping

Once your appointment with West Coast Sanitation is confirmed, it is time to start preparing your property and your home for them.

You will first want to locate your septic tank and all the different components of it. If your septic system is older, it is most likely completely buried underground and will not be as easy to find.  If you are not sure how to locate your septic tank, we recommend obtaining a map or layout of your home from your town or city. Once you have this, you will want to mark off where the tank is itself, where the pipes are, where the drainfield is, and so on. This is extremely important to do before the pumping team comes to your home with our machinery.

Another important thing you’ll want to do before our team comes for your septic tank pumping is ensuring your land and your property on top of your septic tank is ready to go. During a pumping, the cover of the tank will be removed so the technician can assess the tank and pump the contents out. Any yard debris that falls into the tank during this process can catastrophically damage your septic components. Particularly in Spring, which is often a time when septic systems need extra attention, it is important to pick up any leaves or twigs that may have fallen during heavy storms.

Mulch is particularly harmful for septic systems, and many homeowners make the mistake of laying mulch around or near the septic system. Be sure mulch has been cleared away from the area surrounding the septic system. When landscaping around your septic tank, we always recommend using stones as a septic-safe alternative to mulch.


Keep a Record of Septic Tank Maintenance

Maintenance reports help keep track of the septic tank maintenance done on your property. When the specialists come to your home, you can give them a copy of the report to have an idea about your septic system’s history. This served as their data when they ran into problems and questions along with the service. Additionally, keeping records of your maintenance services can help sell your home fast.


Call West Coast Sanitation Today!

When the appointment is set for the septic inspector to come out, make time to be there and watch how things proceed. This commitment to the sale is important. Everyone involved wants a fast sale and this is one you do not want to shortcut to come at your expense.

At West Coast Sanitation, we understand the value and importance of a septic system inspection prior to buying or selling a home. Our professional inspectors strive to exceed your expectations and help you obtain the essential information you need to make an informed decision.

Call us at (951) 780-5922 right away. We have professionals ready to answer your questions.