Pumping Your Septic Tank

Pumping Your Septic Tank

Southeastern Idaho Public Health recommends pumping your septic tank every 3-5 years to remove fats, oil, grease, and settled solids. Alternative systems with electrical float switches, pumps, or mechanical components should be inspected more often, generally once a year. A service contract is important since alternative systems have mechanized parts.

There are several factors that influence how often to pump your septic tank:
  • Household size
  • Total wastewater generated
  • Volume of solids in wastewater
  • Septic tank size

When to pump your tank:

Your septic tank includes a T-shaped outlet which prevents sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drain field area. Your tank should be pumped if the bottom of the scum layer is within six inches of the bottom of the outlet, if the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the outlet, or if more than 25% of the liquid depth is sludge and scum. 

It is recommended the scum and sludge levels in a septic tank be checked at least every 3 years under regular use. If the septic system receives above average use, i.e., large family, then scum and sludge levels should be checked annually. A property owner, licensed septic pumper, or licensed septic installer can check the scum and sludge levels in the septic tank.

NEVER enter a septic tank as the methane gas produced by the septage can kill quickly.

Who can pump my septic tank?

Any septic pumping company licensed in Idaho. For a list of those licensed in Southeastern Idaho please see the side menu.

How do I find my tank?

Southeastern Idaho Public Health maintains records of permitted and approved septic systems beginning in 1973.

To obtain these records please submit a septic records request (linked in the side menu).

While septic tank covers are generally at or just below ground level, many older systems may have deeper tanks. If your home has a deep tank, SIPH recommends placing a riser on your tank lid to bring it to ground level for future.

What if there are no records of my system and/or tank?

Unfortunately, finding your septic tank is not always easy, and many plumbers charge extra to locate them. Here are a few tips to help find your tank:
  • Most tanks are located between 5-25 feet away from your home and plumbing clean out. You may need to follow the sewer piping in your house to determine where it exits the foundation.
  • Look for extra green grass or unexplained puddles.
  • Look for uneven ground. Either a small depression or mound that may not have been leveled when the system was put in.
  • Rule out places your septic tank should not be:
    • Within 50’ of any wells
    • Under a paved surface
    • Underneath your home or patio/deck
    • Right next to the foundation
  • Many tanks are concrete, reinforced with rebar and may be found by probing the ground or using a metal detector.

What to expect when my tank is pumped?

The tank will be pumped until most of the contents are removed. But it will not be pumped dry. A few inches of sludge must be left in the bottom of the tank as seed to restart bacterial action as the tank refills.

In addition to pumping your tank a licensed septic pumper will also complete a tank inspection. This includes checking the tank's walls and floor for cracks, corrosion, or damage. They will also let you know the condition of the inlet and outlet baffle in each tank and if there are any other issues.

Should I add chemicals to my septic tank or system?

No. It is not necessary to clean or disinfect the septic tank (in fact, it is harmful, as bacteria helps your system work).

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