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Septic Tank Pumping Schedule
Old 08-04-2009, 11:58 AM   #1
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Septic Tank Pumping Schedule

Today my computer told me that it's time to have the septic tank pumped and cleaned.

I had it done last in Aug 2004. Apparently the cleaner recommended it be done again in five years.

However, from the chart on this page, I figure I don't need it pumped until 2013 (i.e. 9 years. We have an 1800 gal tank, there were three people living here until 2006, and now only two).

Since it costs $600 to have it done, I don't want to do it any more frequently than necessary.

Is my reasoning sound?

Thanks,

Al
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Old 08-04-2009, 12:01 PM   #2
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Is my reasoning sound?
Shouldn't the question be, "Is my poop tank filling up?"
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Old 08-04-2009, 12:06 PM   #3
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Also Al, factor in the time you are off and traveling!
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Old 08-04-2009, 12:15 PM   #4
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If you wait too long, what are the first signs?

If it were me, and these first signs were anything more than a bit unpleasant, I'd probably pump it now -- you never know what the previous owners might have done.

Once you've done it, you know you are not overusing it or abusing it, the longer interval seems reasonable.

It's the unknown use factor that would push me to do at least one pump-out.
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Old 08-04-2009, 12:25 PM   #5
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Al, I have an aerobic system, so I'm far from knowledgeable on a traditional septic tank, but is there a way to measure the sludge level in the tank? I ask because our system has an access lid the septic maintenance guy removes to measure ours so we know when to pump (law requires the system to be checked for proper operation 3x a year).
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Old 08-04-2009, 12:30 PM   #6
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If you wait too long, what are the first signs?
As I understand it, by the time you see the first signs, it is too late. It's a little like asking "what are the first signs of running my car w/o oil if I know my oil pressure light is burned out?".

You get sludge in your field, and then your field cannot do it's job. By the time you see signs of that you may need the whole field replaced.

If that source appears reliable, well then I guess that time frame is OK. I'd err on the conservative side though. A good pumper may actually be able to give you an idea of how much build up is in the tank (it is always filled with liquid - it is the build up that is the issue), and you could adjust the schedule going forward.

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Old 08-04-2009, 12:33 PM   #7
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but is there a way to measure the sludge level in the tank?
Yes. I could pay $95 to have the septic service come and check it. I could make or buy a tool that will let me do that, but, ah, I think that I'm going to draw the DIY line here.

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by the time you see the first signs, it is too late.
Yes, that's correct. Perhaps an inspection in 2012 would be a worthwhile investment.
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Old 08-04-2009, 12:49 PM   #8
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Yes. I could pay $95 to have the septic service come and check it. I could make or buy a tool that will let me do that, but, ah, I think that I'm going to draw the DIY line here.
Aw c'mon T-Al, where is your sense of adventure? Pick up a snorkel at a garage sale and you're all set:






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Old 08-04-2009, 01:17 PM   #9
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Just curious, do people still have grease traps as part of their septic systems? We had one when I was growing up in rural Texas. It was basically a mini-septic tank (40 gallons at the most) and only the kitchen sink drained into it. I don't know whether it emptied into the septic tank, or just directly into the drain field.
The reason I am asking is that I am pretty sure that we never had our septic tank pumped out during the 18 years it took for me to grow up and escape leave there. We were a family of three, and I would guess that our septic tank was 750 gallons, judging from the 5 to 6 foot diameter shadow in the lawn. (As Erma Bombeck said: The grass is always greener over the septic tank) My dad would clean out the grease trap himself every year or so, a much less repugnant job than cleaning out the septic tank.
Eventually the little town voted for a municipal utility district and got a real sewer system. Who knows, maybe my parents were heading for septic field hell and just didn't know it.

REWahoo, I am impressed that any county in Texas actually inspects septic systems. Harris county never inspected ours. Good on you guys.
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Old 08-04-2009, 01:38 PM   #10
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Traditional septic system owner here.
I generally get it pumped out every 3 years, with only 2 people in the household. My cost is approx $250 per pumpout. That w*rks out much cheaper than a leach field diagnosis and replacement. Previous owners never pumped it out and it failed within 15 years of original installation when the house was built.
I use the generic brand (not RidX) additive faithfully every month. I put no grease down the sink, using a paper towel to wipe out greasy pots and pans before washing. I use A&H powder laundry detergent only, on the advice of the guys who installed the new system. They told me that liquid laundry detergents have some sort of oils in them.
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Old 08-04-2009, 01:58 PM   #11
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REWahoo, I am impressed that any county in Texas actually inspects septic systems. Harris county never inspected ours. Good on you guys.
Not so fast with the praise.

State law requires owners of an aerobic septic system to maintain them, most counties require homeowners to contract with a licensed maintenance provider for this service. These providers submit a report of their completed maintenance to the county once every four months. County inspectors show up only if the reports stop or if they get a complaint.
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Old 08-04-2009, 02:32 PM   #12
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Yes. I could pay $95 to have the septic service come and check it. I could make or buy a tool that will let me do that, but, ah, I think that I'm going to draw the DIY line here.
If you have the service guys check the tank level now then you'd be able to use that data point to predict your pumping date.

You'd also learn how to make and use your own tool. With a garden hose handy you'd never even get your gloves dirty.

Oh, the memories this brings back of submarine sanitary tank closeout inspections...
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Old 08-04-2009, 03:38 PM   #13
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I am suddenly extremely happy that we are on county water and sewage :-).
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Old 08-04-2009, 05:48 PM   #14
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You folks are modern day wimps. I grew up in houses with septic ranks & they were never pumped out. It seems nowadays they are just holding tanks.
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Old 08-04-2009, 06:25 PM   #15
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I grew up in an apartment in the Bronx. When the toilets backed up we called the super.
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Old 08-04-2009, 06:44 PM   #16
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You folks are modern day wimps. I grew up in houses with septic ranks & they were never pumped out. It seems nowadays they are just holding tanks.
The exact phrase that the septic system replacement crew used for the old metal tank (installed in 1977 prior to my ownership) they dug up in 1992 was "Swiss cheese". Leach field was completely gummed up.

Current tank is concrete.
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Old 08-04-2009, 08:52 PM   #17
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I do mine every 3 years....1500 gallons, 2 adults, one child using the toilet. It only costs me $190 and is cheap insurance.
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Old 08-04-2009, 09:14 PM   #18
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I am suddenly extremely happy that we are on county water and sewage :-).
Yes. This is why I will never, never, ever buy a home with a septic system, no matter HOW gorgeous it is, or how cheap it is. A (city) girl has to draw a line somewhere and this is it.
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Old 08-04-2009, 09:58 PM   #19
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Yes. This is why I will never, never, ever buy a home with a septic system, no matter HOW gorgeous it is, or how cheap it is. A (city) girl has to draw a line somewhere and this is it.
Just think of a septic tank of a home as a very large black tank on an RV. And the emptying is done by a hired expert, not yourself.

Does it help you any?
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:34 PM   #20
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If they charge you 95 to inspect it, would that be applied to the pump-out fee?

Our system is still relatively new, has (I think) a 3000 gal tank, and only gets used 6-8 weeks out of the year (for now) so we've never cleaned it out.

When I was a kid, the old leach field got gummed up and we had to run a new one. The old one was not dug below the hardpan, so the grass was truly greener. We dug the new one below the hardpan into the sandy layer, and we installed an automatic switching system so that it would leach to one line until it was saturated and then switch to another direction until it was saturated, and back and forth. After that, they were more faithful about adding the bacteria additive, and I don't think it ever had to be cleaned after that (they've moved to the city now).

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