Maintaining the septic tank system certainly isn’t glamorous, but it’s an important task on many homeowners’ to-do lists. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a whopping 60 million people in the US are supplied by a sewage treatment plant.
A well-functioning sewage system protects the environment by removing pollution from surface water. These systems make it unnecessary for the municipalities to build large wastewater treatment plants. However, if a sewer system is not properly maintained, you and your belongings can be removed from a truly nasty disaster.
Need a reason to take septic tank maintenance seriously? We didn’t think so.
Why septic tank maintenance is important
Septic tanks are relatively simple in structure and consist of a tank that is fed into a drainage field, also known as a leaching field or leaching drain. Ideally, liquids and solids decompose in the tank and then flow into the drainage field to be absorbed by the bottom.
The problem? Solids that have not decomposed remain in the tank and can build up until they block the passage to the drain field. Slow drains or backwater in your home’s sinks are signs that you need to act now and clean it up right away.
Maintaining your sewage system is all about pumping and removing these solids. Excess solids that are not caught in the septic tank will clog the openings in the leach area and cause premature failure.
How often should you clean a sewage treatment plant?
A septic tank professional should inspect your system every two to three years for cracks and signs of leaks, he says Cristhian Perez, a certified professional inspector from Home Check Inspections in Tampa, FL.
How often a septic tank needs to be pumped out depends on the size of the household, the amount of sewage produced, the volume of solids in the sewage and the size of the septic tank. However, the general rule of thumb for pumping is every three years in a four-person home, they say Joe Martins from Accu Sepcheck in South Dennis, MA. The more people live in your home, the faster the septic tank will fill up, which means you will need to be cleaned more often. A household with eight people should therefore be pumped out every year and a half.
If your home is being dumped, your septic tank needs to be cleaned annually. Septic tanks are not designed for food waste like potato peel, which doesn’t break down like sewage. If food waste doesn’t decompose, the tank will become overloaded with solids.
The best time to clean out your septic tank is in the fall – just before Thanksgiving and Christmas, when piles of trash clog the system. Delete it just before the holiday season and you’ll eliminate the possibility of stressful – and lazy – emergencies.
What does it cost to clean a sewage treatment plant?
The exact cost will depend on the size of your septic tank. However, a standard tank with a capacity of 1,000 to 1,500 gallons will be in the range of $ 250 to $ 375. This overhead is minimal compared to the cost of repairing or replacing a septic tank, which can run into thousands of dollars. A qualified technician will also provide you with a service report detailing any repairs required and the general condition of the tank, says Perez.
How to maintain your sewer system
Pumping out a septic tank is straightforward. Professionals come to your home with a tanker, remove the protective plate from the septic tank and lower a vacuum hose into the septic tank.
When cleaning your septic tank, “it is of the utmost importance that the tank is fully pumped,” says Martins. If you cannot see the bottom of the septic tank, any solids remaining in the tank should be broken up and the tank backwashed.
Make sure the technician also checks for a tee or baffle at the outlet end of the tank that separates the tank from the leach field – both of which are barriers that prevent floating solids from entering the leach area. If the tee or baffle is missing, any floating solids will be directed towards the leach area – and your sewer system could be poised for a premature (and catastrophic) failure.
Do not rinse!
Limit the amount of solids you flush down the toilet, especially materials that don’t decompose easily and can be harmful to your sewer system. The biggest septic offenders people can flush are paper towels, diapers, tampons, cat litter, and cigarette butts, says Perez. Also, watch out for floating solids known as FOG: fats, oils, and greases that can clog the leach field openings.
Your best bet is not to flush anything down the toilet other than what’s coming out of your body and toilet paper, even if the product says it is flushable. This includes all household chemicals that interfere with the natural decomposition process of your sewage system.
And in general, you should keep your water consumption to a minimum. For example, do not let the taps run when you brush your teeth. Excess water damages the sewer system, which can only handle so many gallons per day.