Septic System Maintenance Matters

Dated: 05/29/2018

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Septic system maintenance certainly isn't glamorous, but it's an important task on the to-do list of many homeowners. A whopping 60 million people in the United States are served by a septic system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A good, working septic system will protect the environment by removing pollution from surface water. These systems eliminate the need for communities to build large sewage treatment plants. But if a septic system isn't properly maintained, you and your property could be one flush away from a truly unpleasant disaster.

Why septic system maintenance matters

Septic systems are fairly simple in design and consist of a tank that feeds into a drain field, also called a leach field or leach drain. Ideally, liquids and solids decompose in the tank and then flow into the drain field to be absorbed by the soil. The problem? Solids that haven't decomposed stay in the tank and can build up until they block passage to the drain field. Slow drains or backups in the sinks of your house are signs to act now and clean it out, pronto. Maintaining your septic system is all about pumping and removing those solids. Excessive solids that aren't captured in the septic tank will clog the openings in the leach area and cause premature failure.

How often should you clean a septic system?

How often a septic tank needs to be pumped out depends on the size of the household, the amount of wastewater generated, the volume of solids in the wastewater, and the size of the septic tank. But the general rule of thumb for a pump-out is every three years in a house with four occupants. The more people living in your house, the quicker the septic tank will fill up, which means you'll need more frequent cleanings. So a household of eight people should get a pump-out every year and a half. If your house has a garbage disposal, then your septic needs a yearly cleaning. Septic tanks are not designed for food waste like potato skins, which don't break down the same way sewage does. When food waste doesn't decompose, you'll overload the tank with solids.

How much does a septic system cleaning cost?

The exact cost depends on the size of your septic tank, but a standard 1,000- to 1,500-gallon tank will be in the range of $250 to $375. This outlay is minimal compared to the cost of repair or replacing a septic which can be in the thousands of dollars. A qualified technician will also provide you with a service report that details any needed repairs and the general condition of the tank.


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