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Septic Maintenance

When to Pump a Septic Tank?

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality recommends the time to pump is when the septic tank reaches 30-35% solids.  On average this means a septic tank will need to be cleaned every 3-5 years, to remove the sludge buildup and other accumulated debris. How often your tank will require cleaning depends on the size of the tank and the amount and type of solids entering the tank.

Pumping Your Septic Tank System

septic tank

Maintained Septic Tank

Why is it important?
Having your tanks pumped is important maintenance to the system. Solids exiting the house build up in the septic tank and often in the pump tank. If the solids build up too high, they can plug the baffles in your septic tank, causing a backup in the house. Solids can also be forced into your drain field (or sand/gravel filter, etc.) causing it to plug and fail.

How to Care for a Septic:

1-Inspect Your System Once Each Year
Check the sludge and scum levels inside your septic tank to assure that the layers of solids. Also, check the tank to see if the baffles or tees are in good condition.
Periodically inspect the drain field and downslope areas for odors, wet spots, or surfacing sewage. If your drain field has inspection pipes, check them to see if there is a liquid level continually over 6 inches. This may be an early indication of a problem.

2-Pump out Your Septic Tank When Needed
Don’t wait until you have a problem. Routine pumping can prevent failures, such as clogging of the drain field and sewage backup into the home. Using a garbage disposal will increase the amount of solids entering the septic tank, requiring more frequent pumping. It is recommend to pump your tank every three to five years.

3-Never flush harmful materials into the septic tank.
Limit use of garbage disposal. Any home with a garbage disposal needs their septic tank pumped more often. Grease, cooking oils, newspaper, paper towels, rags, coffee grounds, sanitary napkins, and cigarettes cannot easily decompose in the tank. Chemicals such as solvents, oils, paint and pesticides are harmful to the system’s proper operation and may pollute the groundwater. Septic tank additives are not necessary for the proper functioning of a septic tank, nor do they reduce the need for routine pumping.

4-Keep all runoff away from your system.
Water from surfaces such as roofs, driveways, or patios should be diverted away from the septic tank and drainfield area. Soil over your system should be slightly mounded to help surface water runoff.

5-Protect your system from damage.
Keep traffic, such as vehicles, heavy equipment, or livestock off your drainfield or replacement area. The pressure can compact the soil or damage pipes. Before you plant a garden, construct a building, or install a pool, check on the location of your system and replacement area.

6-Landscape your system properly.
Don’t place impermeable materials over your drainfield or replacement area.  Keep roots from trees and large shrubs (including blackberry bushes) at least 10 feet from tank and drainfield. Materials, such as concrete or plastic reduce evaporation and the supply of air to the soil for proper effluent treatment. They can also hinder getting to the system for pumping, inspection or repair. Grass is the best cover for your system.

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