Tips on Tank Pumping

tank pumping

Every homeowner that uses a septic system for wastewater treatment should clean his or her septic tank every one to three years. This type of maintenance must be done to remove scum and sludge that builds up in the tank. If this material builds up too much, it will plug up the drainage field lines, creating a very expensive problem.

Cleaning of the tank must be done by a licensed and bonded septic tank professional. All accumulated material, liquid and solid should be removed. This is accomplished by pumping and flushing between the tank and the pumping truck. The cleaning process breaks up scum and sludge, allowing solids and scum to be removed. Cleaning should take place through the manhole opening in the tank. If other openings are used, the tank will likely not be cleaned properly, and may damage baffles in the tank preventing solids from entering the drain field. Ask to have baffles in the tank inspected to make sure they are not damaged.

tank pumping Credit: Dave Gustafson, University of Minnesota Extension

Make sure the pumping contractor is licensed and bonded.

When finished, the only thing remaining in the tank should be a black film on the walls and a small amount of liquid. Bacteria in the film and liquid will aid in restarting the decomposition process.

After the pumping process is complete, ask the pumper to make sure baffles in the tank are in place and functioning properly.

Septic systems should be cleaned every year in certain situations. Garbage disposals add a tremendous amount of solids into the system. More people living in the house than what the septic system was designed for is another situation making frequent tank cleaning essential.

Aerobic wastewater systems have been installed in some home sites. These systems, while more efficient at decomposing solids, still must be periodically cleaned. No system can decompose all material than comes into the tank.

Septic tanks function in an oxygen limited environment. Other gases, which can be deadly, are present in the tank. Disease pathogens are also present.

When working around a functioning septic tank, or getting one ready to be pumped, the following precautions must be remembered.

Do not go down into a septic tank. Gases such as hydrogen sulfide will cause immediate unconsciousness.

Do not smoke near septic tank openings. Combustible gases may be present.

Never use electrical tools or other appliances close to water or wet ground.

If a strong sewer gas or rotten egg smell is present inside the house, evacuate the building and call a professional to correct the problem.

After working on any part of the septic system, be sure to wash hands and clothes thoroughly. Change clothes before entering a home or other building.

Sewage is very corrosive. Care must be taken around tank components.

The safest way of having repairs or work performed is having a trained, licensed, and bonded professional do the work properly.