In most instances, septic tank pumping companies do much more than simply drop an oversized vacuum hose into your tank. Many will also perform inspection services, at least on the parts they can see when they pump, as well as offer advice on how to best care for your system. These services include checking the condition of the baffles on the inlet and outlet, checking the effluent filter (if you have one), and assessing the overall condition of the system. Fortunately, most issues become obvious by pumping and doing a visual inspection.
What Actually Gets Pumped?
Inside a septic tank there are three basic levels. On the bottom is the sludge level, where all of the heavier waste accumulates and on the top is the scum layer comprised of oils and grease that float on top of the liquid layer, called effluent. When the pumping companies visit, they pump out the sludge and scum, along with some of the effluent, so that your unit can continue its work of collected waste that can’t be absorbed into the drainfield.
Their costs are based on the size of your tank, as well as the amount of waste they remove. The number of gallons, as well as how well it has been maintained, will also play into the cost factor. There will also be a price for them to dump the waste at the local sewage treatment plant although that cost is usually built into the cost pumping.
What They Look
Typically companies will send out a vacuum truck large enough to empty your tank completely. They will locate and open the lid and drop in a hose to pump out the waste. The second cover on most models is used for inspection, which cannot be accomplished until the waste has been removed. Things they look for:
- Flooded with water
- Unusually high levels of sludge and scum
- Effluent backflow (after pumping, if the drainfield is absorbing properly, effluent should not flow back into the tank)
- Cracks in the risers and inner walls
- Broken baffles/tees
- Uneven settling
- Water standing over drain field
Many companies offer annual contracts that can save you some money since they know they will have you on their pumping schedule. Tank maintenance will also be on the contract providing an extra layer of protection from problems developing with your system. In addition to visually inspecting your tank they may also look over your drain field to ensure it is functioning properly.
How Often to Pump Tank
When the company arrives, if you haven’t already, ask them if they’ll also take a look inside the tank to be sure everything is working. The only way to get a clear view inside is when it is empty, and there probably won’t be a better or less-expensive time than when you are having it cleaned.
When you contract with septic tank pumping companies they should provide you with details of the job to include the number of gallons they pumped, the condition of the baffles, the condition of the tank along with any other service work they may have performed.