Septic Tank Removal and Disposal - Local Differences

Depending on your location and health department rules, septic tank removal may need to be completed by an experienced and licensed contractor. Whether you need a contractor or not, you will need a backhoe unless you plan to undertake the back-breaking job of digging a trench. Initially, you will need to dig out any dirt on top, but before going any further call in a licensed company to pump in preparation.

Basic Steps

  • Pump out the tank
  • Cut inlet and outlet pipes
  • Seal both pipes on each end of the cut
  • Pass chain through using inlet and outlet pipe location
  • Lift from ground

Once empty, finish digging a trench around the exterior all the way to its bottom. Then cut the inlet and outlet pipes about eight to 12 inches from where they enter the tank. Plug both lines to prevent any waste that may be in the lines from flowing in or into the trench.

Need for Heavy Equipment
You will need a backhoe or small crane if one is available along with some heavy duty chain. If the tank does not have hooks on the top to which a chain can be attached, you can run the chain through the inlet and outlet holes. Bring the chains to the top of the tank and connect them to your lifting equipment. Once it is lifted out of the ground and loaded onto a truck, it will need to be disposed of in accordance with local regulations.

What Sort of License is Required
 Septic Tank Removal License by State

It’s great that we have state requirements for contractors, but unfortunately, permits and whether the tank needs to be removed completely (next section) are decided on the county level. I haven’t been able to find a resource that lists the requirements for every county across the country and doubt that one exists; however, it should be as simple as a call to your local wastewater management office to ask what permits are necessary and what methods they allow for disposal. While you’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to ask who they recommend for the job.

Is Removal Necessary?
In some communities if you are taking a tank out of service, you may not be required to remove it from the ground completely. If this is the case you may be able to simply render it unworkable by following the initial steps for removal listed above.

Once you have cleared the dirt from the top and had it thoroughly cleaned out, you can go around the four sides and remove the top completely. Once you have fully exposed the inside, it can be filled with concrete as a permanent method of disposal.

Some communities will allow it to be filled with a mixture of gravel and dirt, as opposed to concrete. You will want to notate somewhere on your home’s plans that a tank had, at one time, been located at that location to prevent a future owner from finding out by accident.  Depending on the community in which you reside and local health department rules, this may be adequate as opposed to going through the additional work and expense of septic tank removal.


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