Septic Tank FAQ

What is a septic system?
A septic or cesspool system is a highly efficient and convenient, self-contained, underground wastewater treatment system that is used to dispose of household wastewater onsite. These systems use natural processes to treat the wastewater onsite, and are usually used to dispose waste for a single homeowner or an entire building. Septic systems don't require miles of sewer lines as they mainly serve a single house or a building, and this makes them environmentally friendly.The typical septic system usually comprises of two main parts-a septic tank and a drain or disposal field for releasing effluent. The septic tank is a waterproof box made of concrete or fiberglass and has an inlet and outlet pipe. Wastewater flows from the building through a sewer pipe and goes directly into the septic tank. The wastewater is then treated naturally by the septic tank and this is done by holding the water in the tank long enough for the solid particles and the liquid to separate. Three layers are formed by the wastewater inside the septic tank during this process. Grease and oil are much lighter than water so they float to the surface to form a layer of scum. The middle layer is basically partially clarified water while solids accumulate at the bottom of the septic tank to form a thick layer of smudge. After this process, the disposal field of the septic system allows the effluent which is considered the purified version of wastewater, to flow into the ground.
How often should I pump my septic tank?
Maintenance of a septic tank will vary for each system and takes into account certain factors such as the number of people in your household, the state of the septic tank that was installed, and the type and volume of waste being released into the tank. The average cesspool or septic tank requires scheduled pumping approximately every 2-3 years, however there are cases in which attention may be required more frequently. An example of this is if drainage pipes get clogged or the type of waste deposited is not bio-degradable so bacteria have no effect on these particulates and the tank fills up faster than normal. Harsh chemicals are ill-advised because they affect the bacteria in the tank and the overall decomposition process that is supposed to occur naturally.You can monitor the septic by checking the water level as often as possible or contact Pumpco so a state certified septic tank professional can assess the state of your tank and provide a credible diagnosis.
I've never had any problems with my septic system, why should I pump my septic tank?
The main purpose of a septic tank is to separate the solids found in waste water from the liquid component. Solid particles remain in the tank after sedimentation or when they settle at the bottom and form sludge. Decomposition of solids occurs after settling however in most cases the rate of decomposition is slower than the rate at which solids are added to the tank. The solids that are found in septic tanks are not always bio-degradable and cannot be decomposed or broken down. This causes the level of solids that settle at the bottom of the tank to rise over several years. This is why it is very important to have the septic tank pumped because a tank that is left unattended will see solid particles reaching the outlet baffle and eventually the disposal or drain field. Blockage of this receptacle means that effluent will not be able to flow from the septic tank into the ground and the waste water level will also rise and more than likely cause the tank to overflow.
The grass above my septic system is a different color than the rest of my lawn. Why is this?
If the grass over your septic system is lush green and the soil is moist, you may have problems with your septic system. Often times, this is an indication that an excessive amount of liquid is escaping from the septic system and moving towards the surface of the soil. This is not normal as the water is supposed to move downwards after being released from the disposal field and is an indication of major problems. Feel free to contact us at Pumpco to examine your system so that our septic experts can isolate the cause of this condition. If it’s the case that the grass over the septic system is brown, you most likely do not have enough topsoil to support the lawn’s root system.
Should I use liquid or powered laundry detergent?
Powdered detergents are dissolved in water to form a solution and their solid components will therefore remain in the septic tank. Liquid detergents on the other hand do not pose a threat to the septic system as they don’t have solid particles to increase the chances of the disposal field being blocked.
What is a baffle?
A baffle is an internal component of the septic tank that is located in front of an inlet and an outlet, which are positioned on the opposite ends of the tank. An inlet baffle directs all sewage towards the bottom of the tank. An outlet baffle prevents floating scum such as grease and oil from escaping the septic tank and accumulating in the disposal field which can block the flow of effluent into the ground.
What is a drain field?
A septic drain field, also called leach field or leach drain is a network of perforated pipes that are placed in beds of trenches filled with gravel. Its purpose is to remove contaminants and impurities from the liquid that is released from the septic tank. A septic tank, the septic drain field, and the associated piping form the entire septic system. The septic drain field is effective for disposal of organic materials readily catabolized by a microbial ecosystem. The drain field is typically covered by a layer of soil to prevent animals as well as surface runoff from reaching the wastewater that is distributed within the network.
Do I need to add bacteria to my septic tank after a pump out?
With normal use the human waste from your body will provide all the bacteria necessary in the septic tank.
Can a clogged drain field be repaired by cleaning or adding enzymes?
Most drain field failures will require a replacement. The only way to evaluate the cause of the problem is an onsite inspection by a registered licensed septic tank contractor. Contact Pumpco septic service to get a professional so that the damage to the septic system can be evaluated as there is no conclusive data to support the long term effectiveness of enzyme use.
My system has a filter, how often should I clean the filter?
It is highly recommended that you clean the septic or cesspool filter once every six to twelve months. On the other hand if heavy usage is observed or if the household or building has a higher than average amount of waste going into the tank then the septic filter has to be cleaned more frequently.
Is it all right to flush feminine products down a toilet serviced by a septic tank?
Feminine products should not be disposed of in this manner. They are manufactured from cellulose, a non-biodegradable product which means that the bacteria in the septic tank cannot decompose these types of materials and they will only continue to accumulate space until the septic tank becomes full.
Can I plant trees or shrubbery over my septic tank or drainfield?
Try not to do this. If the tree or bush has a strong root system, such as those found on perennial plants, then the roots will infiltrate the disposal field and the septic tank. Problems will undoubtedly arise as the roots will block the drain field and even reduce the storage capacity of the septic tank. Poor drainage of effluent will be the result as well as the septic tank filling up at a faster rate than it normally does. Additional attention will be required to clear the plants that are causing the damage, repair the septic tank and the drain field as well as pumping the cesspool if it’s the case that the tank’s storage capacity is drastically reduced. The entire procedure will require digging into contaminated soil which can result in the spread of diseases.
Is it okay to drive or park cars on my drain field?
No. Driving or parking on your drain field can cause extreme damage to the entire septic system as well as increase the chance of health hazards due to possible exposure to waste. It is not safe as this can cause serious damage to a septic tank cover or lid which can eventually result in cave-ins, fall-ins, or extremely serious hazards. While it is possible to purchase septic tank covers that are rated for withstanding heavy loads such as vehicles, the residential septic tank covers are normally incapable of withstanding that kind of traffic.