Septic Tank Pumping and Servicing

According to the American Ground Water Trust, around one-third of Americans have a septic system. A septic system treats the waste from your home, and by design is a fairly simple system. Rather than pumping waste from your home through to a central sewage processing plant via sewer mains, your septic system pumps liquid and solid waste into pipes which ultimately lead to an underground tank.

How A Septic System Works

When wastewater from your home’s washing machine, sinks, shower, and toilet, leave your house, it’s combined. But then it starts to separate when it reaches your septic tank. The ‘sludge’ which is the heaviest particle matter, sinks to the bottom. Proteins, oils, and fats, (known as ‘scum’) layer at the top. The ‘grey water’ or ‘effluent’ sits in the middle. These three components are known as ‘septage.’

A healthy septic system works by discharging only the effluent from the tank. This goes into the ‘leach field,’ or ‘drain field,’ which is a simple pipe system with holes drilled into the pipes. These pipes release the effluent below the ground. Gravity ensures the liquid waste is pulled downward, and pathogens are neutralized by bacteria prior to the waste reaching groundwater. In the meantime, anaerobic bacteria force the solids to break down in the tank, creating a sludgy substance that sinks to the bottom of the tank. When the bacteria are working effectively, the solid wastes are significantly reduced in volume as they break down.

However, while a septic system is indeed a very simple system, regular monitoring must occur to ensure everything is working well. Unfortunately, once it becomes obvious that a problem exists, it’s usually too late for a simple solution. Repairing septic systems can be time-consuming and quite costly, but maintaining your system will ensure these issues don’t occur.

Pumping A Septic System

Septic tank pumping involves the use of a large truck outfitted with tanks and vacuuming equipment. The technicians remove the septic tank cover and enter via a maintenance hole. The debris in the tank is stirred up by the technician, allowing both the fluids and solids to be efficiently siphoned off. Once the truck has removed the sludge, scum, and effluent from the tank, you now have an empty tank ready to be re-filled.

How Often Should My Septic Tank Be Pumped?

It’s recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that septic tanks be inspected every two to three years. Pumping out will typically be required every three to five years; however, when the volume of wastewater increases, your tank may require more frequent mechanical pumping.

Septic Tank pumping involves removing the sludge from the bottom of a septic tank prior to it building up and blocking the outlet pipe from which the liquid flows. There are several factors that determine how often this should be done –

  • Capacity of the Septic Tank: If you have a large tank it will require less pumping because it can hold more solid sludge.
  • Size of Your Household: Large households generate a lot of waste and are more likely to overfill the septic tank.
  • Amount of Solids in the Wastewater: If your household has multiple toilets, the septic tank can fill up quickly.
  • The Amount of Wastewater Produced: The volume of sewage entering the septic tank will determine how quickly it fills up.

To Summarize:  If you’re still learning about your septic tank system, there are a few things you need to consider.

No. 1: Learn the basics of how a septic tank system operates and why it might become clogged or backed up.

No. 2: Understand when it’s time to call in the professionals. Note that you cannot pump out a septic tank yourself. There are hefty fines involved if you try to do this. Call a licensed company to take care of this job for you.

(Business Name) is the professional company you’re looking for. We will assess the situation, and then prior to starting work, we’ll offer our recommendations on what’s required to rectify the problem. Don’t let the situation become unbearable or costly – call (Business Name), your Septic Tank Servicing and Pumping professionals, on (phone number). We’re at your service and ready to take your call.


How To Pump Out A Septic Tank

In this article, we’ll provide details on how to clean or pump out a septic tank. We’ll provide a step-by-step photo guide to explain how to open, pump out, and inspect a septic tank, in addition to how to locate a conventional septic tank, including how it’s opened, pumped out, cleaned out, and inspected.

This guide is offered to homeowners as general information only; however, it’s also offered to septic service companies and septic tank truck operators who may be involved with septic system care.

Please see below for our guide on how to service a septic tank, together with photographs that outline each critical step on how to pump, clean, and inspect a septic tank. There’s also an ARTICLE INDEX on septic tank cleaning and emptying, or for a quick search, you can try the SEARCH BOX at the top or bottom of the page.

Pumping Out A Septic Tank: Removing solids and waste from a septic tank

pumping out septic tank


Operating the vacuum or pumper truck. Inspecting the tank prior to pumping. The actual pumping out of the septic tank; carrying out inspections while pumping.

Cleaning septic tank after pumping; inspection of tank after pumping. Closing septic tank – recording location of the septic tank – informing homeowners.

This instrument looks like a long hoe and is known as a ‘muckrake.’ It’s used for the removal of sludge. The operator uses the muckrake to stir the sludge on the bottom of the tank. It’s also used to break up the floating scum layer and the settled sludge layer in the septic tank.

The operator uses the muckrake for a few minutes prior to pumping. He continues using this tool whilst pumping occurs, to break up and pump out the floating scum layer in the tank.

For a guide to scheduling a septic clean-out, also our SEPTIC TANK PUMPING FREQUENCY GUIDE.

Septic Pump Truck

The pumper truck’s vacuum pump is operating and the vacuum lines are all connected. With the muckrake inserted into the tank, cleanout can begin.

The vacuum line and the muckrake are moved continuously during the pumping operation, breaking up the scum and sludge and mixing them with the effluent in the tank. The mixture is now ready for removal by the vacuum hose.

The breaking up of sludge and scum, then the mixing of them with effluent in the tank, allows for easy removal with the vacuum hose.

After the removal of the first few inches of effluent and the scum layer, many experienced operators pause the pumping operation for a moment, sometimes even shutting down the pumper truck, so they can hear what’s occurring.

If they hear effluent spilling from the tank outlet line back into the septic tank, they know that the drain field is saturated, or in failure, and needs to be replaced. This is important information that may otherwise not have been discovered.

Fiberglass and plastic septic tanks may have a side or bottom plug. Operators should be aware of accidental loss or removal of the tank plug during pumping. Without the plug, the tank will not drain efficiently into the surrounding soil. Operators must remember to replace lost or damaged plugs.

pumping the scum from septic tank

This photo reveals a rectangular layer of floating scum material that’s fallen from the inlet baffle area of the septic tank as the level of effluent in the tank drops. This is known as the ‘pillow’ and its appearance is very important. The system may become clogged if this material remains in the tank baffles.

The pumping continues, removing effluent and settled sludge.

Septic effluent is combined with sludge from the bottom of the tank to assist with removal. For a recommended guide from Maricopa County Environmental Onsite Waste Water Treatment System visit https://www.maricopa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/7466/Operations-and-Maintenance-Recommendations-for-Septic-Systems-PDF

For complete septic services visit azseptictank.com

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