Understanding The Causes Of Frequent Tank Pumping

Posted on: 23 October 2020

Most septic tanks require pumping every 3 to 4 years, although there's no single rule that fits all households. Household size, environmental conditions, usage, and system age can all impact the required time between pumping services. While you should expect some variation, a tank that fills very quickly (in a year or less) is likely suffering from a more severe problem.

How Septic Tanks Fill

It's a common misconception that your septic tank remains empty most of the time. If you've recently had your tank cleaned, then it will fill with effluent in a week or less. Low effluent levels usually indicate a problem with the tank, such as a slow leak allowing liquid waste to escape. Proper system operation relies on a high level of effluent to feed wastewater into the drainfield.

A vital part of this system is the separation of solids and grease from liquid wastewater. Only liquid effluent must reach the drainfield, so solids settle to the tank's bottom while greasy matter floats at the top. A septic tank becomes "full" when too much solid material is present in the tank. At this point, the system may begin to back up, or solid waste may find its way into the drainfield distribution plumbing.

Routine vs. Excessive Pumping

All septic tanks will inevitably fill with enough solid waste to impact their operation. The bacterial colonies in the tank keep the organic matter under control, but they do not eliminate all solids. If you pump your tank every few years and find that it runs well in between cleanings, then it's likely that your system is operating correctly.

On the other hand, waste should never build up so quickly that you must pump your tank annually (or even more often). In these cases, take a close look at your usage. Are you flushing anything other than waste or toilet paper down your drains? Have you recently added extra members to your household? If there hasn't been a significant change in system activity, there may be an underlying issue.

Common causes of septic tanks that frequently back-up include drainfield clogs or issues with the leaching field filter media. When you have your tank pumped, your septic contractor can help you to understand if there may be a more severe reason for your frequently filling tank.

Avoiding Frequent Tank Pumping

While problems can sometimes develop through no fault of your own, many septic tank issues arise from improper maintenance. Schedule routine tank pumpings every few years, and do not wait for your system to back up before performing this task. Allowing your tank to overflow can damage the drainfield, ultimately causing the tank to overflow much more quickly in the future.

For more information on septic tank pumping, contact a local septic service.