County's Environmental Management Department has an
informative septic system FAQ (Frequently Asked Question)
page with good information for consumer's. Click
here to visit (opens new window).
My neighbor pumps his septic tank every few years
and told me I should do the same, but the guy down
the road says he hasn't pumped in twenty years and
his works fine, what do you say? How often should
I pump my septic system?
A: The vast majority of neglected
septic systems fail prematurely. Chances are, if you
try the 20 year method, you will be "disappointed"
with the results.
Should I use septic additives like the ones advertised
A: No. They don't work.
Somebody told me to add a pound of ground beef to
the septic tank every year to keep up the bacteria,
Is that legitimate?
A: No. there is ample culture,
and nutrition coming down the pipe to the septic tank constantly.
same kind of bacteria that live in your digestive
system live in the septic tank. It is patently absurd for
anyone to tell you that you must add bacteria to the
long as the conditions in the septic tank are favorable to
the microbe culture they will thrive...period.
We just pumped our septic tank a month ago and now
its full again, what is going on?
A: Septic tanks are configured
as sumps. The inlet and outlet are both very near
the top of the septic tank. They should always be
How often should I pump my septic tank?
A: When combine solids level
in the septic tank are at about 25% of the septic
tank's volume. This is a function of the septic tank's
size and the waste load. This can vary widely with
the number of occupants and their personal habits.
septic tank should be opened and inspected every 3 years,
to make sure that the baffles are intact and functional.
At this time the solids level can be measured to determine
if pumping is appropriate.
NOTE THAT FAILURE TO PUMP IS THE MOST COMMON CAUSE
OF PREVENTABLE FAILURE.
When servicing our septic tank the pumper told us
the outlet tee was broken off and in the bottom of
the septic tank, and wanted a lot to fix it. Is it really
that important, and why can't I climb down there and
do it myself?
A: You can do it yourself (call),
but NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! enter a septic tank.
is a deadly, dangerous hazard that can only be properly
done by persons with confined space entry gear and
are overcome by "sewer gas" and die in septic tanks every year, and so do their would-be rescuers.
Outlet tee is the LAST LINE OF DEFENSE for your drainfield.
it your septic is sure to fail sooner than later.
Lately we have noticed an increasingly bad odor coming
from the drains, does that mean we should pump our
A: Maybe...or there could be
a problem with a pee trap or a roof vent. If it has
been a few years since your last septic tank service, it's
a good place to start.
Do we need to use septic safe toilet paper?
Our septic system has a root problem, can we use a
herbicide to kill the roots?
A: No. Herbicides can kill the
bacteria in your septic tank. Roots must be dealt with by
We have a garbage disposal under our sink and like
to use it. Can we use our garbage disposal with a
A: No, but remember undigested
food waste (especially oil and grease) break down
very slowly in the septic tank. If you like to put food waste
down the drain you have to pump your septic tank more often.
Do it only if you are willing to pay the additional
Should I get septic system risers?
A: Yes. Everybody who has a
septic tank should have risers. Tanks without risers
don't get serviced.
just how it is...human nature. If you have to find
and then dig up your septic tank, you'll find something else
to do, until you have sewage in your bath tub. Then
you'll dig, but very often...it's too late.
We have two septic tank lids, do we have two septic tanks, and do they both have to be pumped?
A: Maybe and yes. If your house
is 40+ years old you may have two septic tanks, or it may
be that there is one septic tank with two compartments. It
is almost always the case that there will be two lids
and you need to remove both and pump from both.
How would I find my septic tank?
A: This can be difficult. Most
septic tanks can be found close to the house, about 5-10
feet, but they can be much further away. Most septic tanks
are 1-2 feet deep, but can be much deeper (the further
from the house the deeper they get).
probe (metal "T" shaped rod, pointy on the
end)will be useful in finding the septic tank.
Look for depressions in the lawn, about 2 feet in
diameter, and the lids will be about 5-8 feet apart
there is discoloration of the grass above the septic tank...this
also indicates septic trouble.
for a clean-out, this can put you in the vicinity.
If there's no clean-out, maybe you can spot where
the main sewer pipe exits in the crawl space under
maintain records on septic systems, but the quality
of these are hit and miss, and may or may not be useful.
may be able to locate it with a metal detector, if
there is enough iron in the septic tank.
Maybe ask neighbors if they have been around longer
you can't find your septic tank, maybe it's under the driveway,
or even under the house itself.
do have special flushable radio transmitters that
we use to find lost septic tanks, so if you can't find it
we can do it for you.
We have an old redwood septic tank and it is collapsing,
can it be repaired?
A: No, and stay away from it.
Falling in a septic tank is often DEADLY!
the area and call a professional.
Can using bleach in the laundry harm the bacteria
in the septic tank?
A: No. Normal bleach use will
not have a negative impact on the septic system.
I have been told that If I add yeast to my septic tank it will work better. Is this true?