Septic Pumps & Your Septic System
Septic pumping is one of the less glorious aspects of country living, but it's crucial for many reasons. Here you will learn the basics of septic pumps, system maintenance and tips on fair pricing for septic pumping. Septic pumping must be done professionally due to numerous laws covering human waste as a hazardous material. Indicators that your septic system may need pumping include slow drains (never use chemical drain openers), dark-colored water on the surface of your drain field, or an odor of sewage around the house.
How it Works
In general, septic systems are set up to reflect the size of the home and the number of people who might live there. While there are often variables, the average three-bedroom house will usually need to have a 1,500 gallon underground tank to collect solid and liquid waste. Septic tanks rarely have a capacity larger than 2,000 gallons, and are usually made of concrete.
Septic systems are set up to allow liquid waste to seep through the tank and pass down to deeper levels of earth to allow for natural purification. What is left behind is solid waste, and if enough bacteria are present, it will also break down and more or less compost over time.
Depending on how intensely the septic system is taxed, most systems won’t need to be opened and septic pumps won't need to be called for two to three years. If, for example, you had an elderly or ill family member who had to make use of the bathroom more than average, or there was a frequent need for a great deal of laundry to be done, the system might need to be pumped more often. "It often depends on the ground as well,” said Buddy Juergens, owner of Pump Grump, in Foxboro, MA.
The cost for pumping a 1,500-gallon septic tank averages $265 to $295. Make sure when pricing that the cost includes the disposal fee. The waste is pumped out of your tank by what is essentially a large vacuum hose that sucks the waste into a tank on a truck. The collected waste must then be taken to a waste treatment plant for processing.
If you are looking for a reputable septic pump service, Henrietta Kocot, of Greg’s Septic Tank Cleaning Service, of South Deerfield, MA suggests checking with your local board of health first. "Also, word of mouth can be a good indicator,” she said. Kocot added that it’s important to be familiar with your system so that "they don’t lie to you and tell you things like you have a 1,500-gallon tank when it’s only a 1,000-gallon tank.”
The average septic system, if well maintained, can last anywhere from 15 to 25 years and longer. It is well worth the effort and expense of calling the septic pumps and proper maintenance, since the cost to replace a failed system can be upwards of $10,000.
Both Juergens and Kocot said that the worst thing you can put into your system is grease. They also agreed that products that claim to be "safe for septic systems” generally are not, and will likely cause costly clogs in your system's filters or other damage.
"The cleaner the house, the worse the tank,” said Kocot, who explained that pouring bleach and other cleaning products down the drain kills the bacteria you need to make your septic system work. You also cannot have a garbage disposal if you have a septic system, as garbage would also cause clogs or damage.
With proper maintenance and understanding of your septic system, your household should function properly for years to come.
Cris Carl is a freelance journalist who lives in Greenfield, MA. She enjoys many outdoor activities and taking care of her home. She is president of the Native American non-profit Friends of Wissatinnewag.