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Homeowners who rely on septic tanks must pump their tanks on a regular basis to keep them functioning properly.  A septic tank is an expensive piece of equipment to break down and can cause major problems inside and outside your house.

If you fail to pump your septic tank, you are basically exposing the soil surrounded by the system to harmful untreated water, risking clogging the system, risking clogging your drainage pipes every now and then. All this could result in a costly project to cope with.

Let’s discuss the potential damage that an unpumped tank can do.

 

What Is a Septic System?

A septic system is a dedicated on-site wastewater treatment structures, typically relied on by properties situated in rural areas with no centralized sewer system access available. These systems use a combination of nature and reliable technology to treat wastewater from the household’s plumbing coming from its bathrooms, kitchen drains and laundry. Simple yet effective, these tank-and-soil absorption systems remove solid matter from wastewater and send the treated wastewater into the ground, where filtration, helpful microbial activity, and time all work together to render clean water safe for release to the environment.

 

How Does a Septic System Work?

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 Does “Full Tank” Mean?

Before we take you through the signs that you must look out for, it is also important that you understand what a “full tank” actually means. Experts usually refer to the below three definitions to define a “full tank”.

  1. Tank Filled To Normal Level

This simply means that your septic tank is filled to the level deemed to be normal, meaning the water level is the height it was designed to hold. This level of “full” also implies that the intake and outtake valve allows waste and wastewater to flow in and out of the septic tank with no issues. When a tank is pumped it will be emptied, but as it’s used it will return to the normal level of “full”.

  1. Sludge Has Accumulated

This is a common situation that is faced by many people who own a septic tank. Sludge gets built over time and gets trapped in the tank. It does not disappear on its own, but needs to be removed periodically so that it does not block the tank. When paper and solid waste continues to be used in a filled tank and gets trapped in the tank due to not being pumped. Wastewater continues to flow out to the drainage area.

  1. Over-Filled Tank

This is the point on concern, when the drainage field stops accepting water. In this situation, water will start backing up into the overflow tank. At this stage, the water level rises beyond the normal level.

 

What Happens When the Septic Tank Is Pumped?

Over time, sludge will build up in the bottom of the tank. Even though bacteria does help control the amount of sludge in the bottom of the tank, these bacteria cannot break down sludge fast enough to completely eliminate sludge and keep the tank clean. When the tank is pumped, the sludge is removed and the tank is emptied.

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’s 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.

 

What Are the Consequences of Not Pumping Your Tank?

If you fail to pump your tank on schedule, the solids will accumulate in the tank, reducing the tank’s holding capacity. Finally, the solids will reach the pipe that feeds into the drain field, causing a blockage.

Once your outlet pipe or leach field pips are clogged, homeowners may see some of the following symptoms:

  • Smell of sewage in the yard
  • Swampy areas over the drain field
  • Bright green, healthy grass over the drain field
  • Waste water backing up into the house.
  • Lowest drains in the house become slower

It doesn’t take long for these problems to become critical. Most homeowners find that the only way to solve this problem is to call in a professional.

 

How Often Should You Pump Your Tank?

The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years by a septic service professional. Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years.

These are the major factors that influence how often to pump your septic system:

  • Household size
  • Total wastewater generated
  • Volume of solids in wastewater
  • Septic tank size

 

What Happens When a Septic System Fails?

A septic system failure causes untreated sewage to be released and transported to where it should not be. This may cause sewage to come to the surface of the ground around the tank or the drainfield or to back up in pipes in the building. The sewage could also find its way into groundwater, surface water or marine water without us ever seeing it. The sewage carries pathogens and other dangerous contaminants. Exposure to these pathogens and contaminants can make people and animals sick. They can also contaminate water sources and make them unsafe for drinking, swimming, shellfish harvesting and agricultural uses.

 

Why Is Septic Tank Bacteria Important?

Your septic tank is home to an array of microbes, including various kinds of bacteria, nematodes, and fungi. Since solid materials need to remain within the septic tank to prevent clogging the drainage field and causing serious backup, they must be removed with the use of septic pumping trucks. What may be surprising is how infrequently pumping is needed (typically only once every 3-5 years).

This infrequency is all thanks to the vast colonies of microorganisms living within the tank. These work non-stop to break down waste materials, converting much of the solids into liquids that join the stream of effluent and gases that simply dissipate through the soil or leach field. A healthy bacterial environment is vital to maintaining septic system health. Without it, you would be faced with frequent maintenance and nasty, inconvenient issues.

Just as your own body processes the solids and liquids you eat and drink, these helpful bacteria further digest and break down the organic waste deposited into the septic tank. Naturally occurring and able to thrive both with and without oxygen, these sturdy microbes work together to further process our waste before it can be sent out of the tank and into the drainfield.

The very act of using the septic tank as intended encourages bacterial growth. You do not need to purchase septic tank bacteria. Instead, use the tank for its intended purpose and let bacterial colonies take over. Under their direction, solid waste is transformed into liquid or gaseous waste, thereby creating more space in your tank to prevent overfilling. These tiny microbes keep your system running as smoothly as possible.

To maintain the bacteria balance in your septic tank, it is imperative to have it regularly pumped and inspected. Solids that are not digested by the bacteria will start to accumulate in your tank, which will need to be pumped out. An inspection is also necessary every three years or so to make sure all your system components are in good shape.

 

Call West Coast Sanitation Today!

The fact is that many homes and septic systems were not designed to handle the load put on them from modern appliances and modern lifestyles. But, with a little care and awareness, you can manage this impact and help to avoid increased maintenance problems and the need for costly system repairs and replacement.

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.

Please give us a call at (951) 780-5922 right away. We have professionals ready to answer your questions and get your system working properly again.