Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I have my septic tank cleaned?
Having your septic tank cleaned out regularly is a key component to maintaining the life of your septic system. It is recommended to have the septic tank pumped out every two to five years depending on occupancy and usage. Regular tank pumping helps to prevent solids from building up in the tank and exiting into the leaching fields. Use of a garbage disposal or septic tanks less than 1,000 gallons require more frequent cleaning.
Why is it important to have the septic tank cleaned out regularly?
The key reason for regular pump-outs is to prevent solid matter from entering the leach fields. As solid matter enters the septic tank, bacterial action inside the tank naturally breaks down the solids into sludge which then settles to the bottom of the tank. As the sludge layer builds inside the tank, it is more likely to become stirred up each time fluids enter the tank through the inlet. When this happens solid matter may begin to travel out of the tank along with the fluids into the leaching area. Over time the solid matter can clog the leaching area so that fluids can no longer properly exit the septic tank or drain into the underlying soils. Once the leaching area is damaged and no longer functioning correctly, you have a costly septic repair on your hands. Regular tank cleaning is a necessary and relatively inexpensive way to prevent this potential problem. A good rule-of-thumb is to have the tank cleaned out when the sludge layer occupies 1/3 of the septic tank.
How much does it cost to have the septic tank cleaned out?
Prices range from $280 to $350 to pump the tank depending on tank size.There is an additional charge of $20 per lid for reasonable hand digging to expose the tank lids, but this cost can be avoided if you expose the lids yourself. (Never open the septic tank cover - this will be done by a licensed tank cleaner). This equates to just about $100 annually to help maintain the life of your septic system. Prices are subject to change.
Should I use a chemical additive to clean my septic tank?
No, a septic system is designed to work naturally and without the use of chemical additives. In fact, chemical additives can disrupt the natural biological system within the septic tank and may cause an adverse effect on groundwater. The State of Connecticut and local health department literature on septic systems make specific statements about NOT using commercial chemical additives to clean your septic tank.
Maintaining The Life Of My Septic System - DOs & DON'Ts
DO have your tank cleaned out more frequently if you use a garbage disposal.
DO NOT overload the system with water. Spread out your usage.
Do NOT flush inorganic materials such as sanitary products or cigarette butts.
Do NOT flush products marketed as "flushable", such as cleaning or personal care wipes. These should always be disposed of in the trash and never flushed into the septic tank.
DO NOT allow discharge from a water softener system through the septic system. The salts and chemicals can be damaging to the bacterial action occurring in the septic tank and can impair the permeability of the soil in the leach fields.
DO NOT pour grease and other chemicals such as paints and lacquers down the drain.
DO NOT drive trucks or other heavy equipment over the septic tank or leaching area.
What Should I Do If I Think My Septic System Is Not Functioning Properly?
The answer is, "It Depends". See our Septic Repairs page to learn more about the process of repairing septic systems.
What are some warning signs of septic problems?
Evidence of septic system problems include:
What can cause a septic system to fail?
Improper Maintenance and Care of the Septic System As the property owner, you are responsible for the proper use and maintenance of your septic system. Septic tank pumping is a relatively inexpensive and critical component to maintaining your septic system. Failing to have the septic tank emptied on a regular basis can cause solid matter to escape into the leaching area. The leaching area is designed for wastewater only and once the leaching area is damaged by a buildup of solid matter you have an expensive repair to deal with. Also, do not treat your septic system as a garbage can. There are some good practices to follow on a daily basis to protect your septic system. See the Maintaining The Life Of My Septic System FAQ above for what you can do to protect and maintain the life of your septic system.
Change in Usage A change in usage usually results when a home is sold and the number of building occupants increases. For example, a septic system (especially an older septic system) that may have functioned well for years for two building occupants may be unable to handle the increased water usage generated by a family of five.
Drainage Issues Poor drainage can lead to problems with the septic system. Never direct gutter downspouts or other runoff into or near your septic system. If you are in an area with a high ground water table, proper drainage measures around your system are critical to protect your system from flooding.
Age of Septic System Although it is possible for a septic system to function properly for many years, an older septic system is most likely not up to current standards. Failure can occur because over time the soil has naturally compacted and can no longer efficiently absorb the wastewater, tree roots can invade the system area causing damage to underground piping and system components, the leaching area and/or the tank size may be undersized according to current standards for the current number of building occupants.
Improper Septic System Installation Be sure to use a licensed septic system installer (Sub-Surface Sewage Installer) and be sure that all work is inspected by your local health department, as required. A septic system is an expensive and critical component to your home's infrastructure. Do your homework, ask for references, talk to your neighbors.
Is it okay to flush those flushable wipes?
Protect not just your septic system, but protect the interior of your home from a messy sewage backup. DO NOT FLUSH WIPES DOWN THE TOILET. If used, flushable wipes should be disposed of in the trash.
The following situations can and have occurred:
Wipes can become stuck in the pipe between your toilet and the septic tank. Sometimes the wipes just don't make it all the way to the tank (perhaps there is not enough water travelling with the wipes such as with a low-flush toilet). Over time, solid waste material and additional wipes may become trapped with the first wipe and so on until a potential sausage of wipes and waste is stuck in the pipe. When the water and waste cannot cleanly exit the pipe into the septic tank, you will eventually have sewage backing up through your plumbing fixtures.
Even when flushable wipes make it to the septic tank, they do not break down in the same timeframe as toilet paper. They either accumulate at or near the tank inlet which prevents fluids and solids from properly exiting the pipe into the septic tank or they float on the liquid layer in the tank creating an impervious barrier for the waste and water to move through the tank properly and timely. Wipes floating around in the tank can impede the septic filter and outlet pipe to the leaching fields. If effluent cannot drain to the leach field, it will take the path of least resistance which likely means backing up through the household plumbing fixtures. Instruct everyone in your household including the cleaning service that flushable wipes must be disposed of in the trash.