I have a house that was built new in '88. I've never had the septic tank
pumped, never put any of these treatments in it. Never had any problems
with it to date. For the most part, after the ex vamoosed around '90, I've
been the sole user.
Is pumping the tank periodically necessary? Is there any benefit to using
any type of septic tank treatment? I was under the impression that the
bacteria that's in there is supposed to be self sustaining.
Thanks for all shared wisdom
Put nothing in the septic tank that hasn't been thru you. Skip the
gimicky treatments. If you have a garbage disposal use it sparingly.
Use liquid laundry detergent.
There are charts that suggest when a septic system should be pumped.
It's based on family size and tank capacity.
I'd definately get it pumped after 17 years, even with one user.
:I have a house that was built new in '88. I've never had the
: pumped, never put any of these treatments in it. Never had any
: with it to date. For the most part, after the ex vamoosed
around '90, I've
: been the sole user.
: Is pumping the tank periodically necessary? Is there any
benefit to using
: any type of septic tank treatment? I was under the impression
: bacteria that's in there is supposed to be self sustaining.
: Thanks for all shared wisdom
If it's working fine after all those years especially don't worry
about it. A properly used and maintained septic system does not
require pumping. Apparently you or whoever have been good users.
Personally I think using one of the tank bacterial treatments are
a good idea, just in case some soap or other liquid that kills
off the bacteria gets into it, or at least there should be some
on hand, but if it's working well, don't worry about pumping it.
We haven't had ours pumped since 1983, but we do use
treatments once a month, just for the heck of it. We were a
family of 4 til the kids left, now it's just the two of us.
The ONLY problem we've ever had with it was once when the
stand pipe managed to get frozen shut so it couldn't let air in
to assist the flushing. The rain cap had fallen off and was
letting freezing rain go down the pipe. Thawed it out and it
went right back to proper working.
You're right, the normal bacteria can keep a septic system
you have a problem, you have the potential for a BIG problem.
The purpose of pumping is to remove the solids that are not digested
by the bacteria. Even a perfectly operating system that is not
stressed by putting the wrong types of things into it will gradually
build up undigested solids. If these are not removed by pumping, you
run the risk that they will rise high enough in the tank to be carried
into the leach field. The leach field is a big series of pipes
connected to the outlet of the tank. Normally, only water and liquid
wastes flow out these pipes, where they disperse into the ground
If the solids, which are by their nature very fine, flow out with the
drain water into the leach field, they can over time plug up the holes
in the pipes, or saturate the leach field so it no longer drains
properly. When this happens, the system can no longer drain liquid
properly, and backs up. What's worse, by this point the damage is
done, and just pumping the tank doesn't fix it, except for a few days
or weeks. The only solution is to replace the leach field, which
involves digging it up and either moving it to another location, or
replacing all the soil in the field with soil that will drain
properly. This is big bucks, a big mess, and big hassle.
If you want to save bucks on pumping, ask the septic guy to measure
the solids level in the tank before he pumps it. If you know how fast
the solids are building up, you can adjust how often you have it
pumped to minimize the expense while not risking ruining your system.
But after 17 years, you are almost certainly way overdue.
Excellent explanation of the need for pumping. I have mine pumped every
5 years and there are only 2 of use. I will add one thing.
Forget about adding the snake oil treatments - they aren't needed. Of
course if it makes you feel better to toss money away on unecessary
On 9/1/2005 10:11 PM US(ET), Harry K took fingers to keys, and typed the
From the Virginia Department of Health page at
"Some of the solids in the tank are sand, grit, bits of plastic and
similar materials. No enzyme or bacteria can digest these. Other organic
solids are not very digestible. Hence they accumulate. Bacteria that are
added must compete with bacteria that are adapted to living in your
septic tank. These adapted bacteria have the home field advantage. The
newly added organisms can't compete and become dinner for the resident
organisms. Enzymes on the other hand are not living and cannot
reproduce. Whatever is added to the tank is all that will ever be there.
Most septic tanks are 1,000 gallons or larger and the quantity of
enzymes added are too low to be helpful.
In short, adding enzymes or bacteria usually won't cause a problem but
they won't help either. The solution is simple. Pump your tank every
three to five years. This solution is easy, safe, and often cheaper than
buying septic tank additives."
fill up and the top will fill and you will start
getting stuff flowing into the drain field. That
can plug the field but it might not, all depending
on composition of the drain field, how wet you
keep it (how much you are using), temperature,
etc. With only one guy, no feminine pproducts
(which shouldn't be flushed anyway) it will take a
long time. At our house, one woman, one man, and
one kid, we had ours pumped the first time after 8
years. There wasn't much there and the pumper,
smiled, and said, "See you in another 10 years."
The next time we had it pumped, there wasn't much
there either. So you could easily go 15 years or
so, but then you might not.
We put yeast in ours once in the early years
(about year 2, I think). Supposedly helps, but I
doubt it. Just to be careful you could put
bacteria in ever so often, especially after long
vacations (no use) but certainly not more than
once a year. Probably won't do any good, but......
do you have to put bugs in it: no
do you have to get it pumped out once every 5 years or so: yes
you will not know something is wrong untill it is too late, and a dead
septic/leech field is a big problem; you might have to move out of your
house (or get tank pumped once a week untill leech field is fixed).
It all depends upon what you put into it. If you can keep all
detergents and solids out of it and only put in human waste, then the
chances are fairly good that you will never have to pump it. What you
should do is, as someone else mentioned, is to check the amount of
solids. If there are none, then you won't have to pump.
Here, we managed to divert almost all gray water and don't have a
kitchen sink disposal. We do have a dishwasher connected to it (but
use a biodegradable detergent), but the showers and laundry do not
connect. We have had our tank checked twice in the last 31 years, and
each time there were essentially no solids and it did not require
If you a washing machine connected, then you probably will need to
have it pumped. It is VERY important to see that solids never plug
the leach field as others have mentioned.
Additives, such as enzymes or bacteria are not needed - you're right,
the bacteria IS self sustaining.
Up here it's known as a dry well. It is basically a large (maybe 6'
diameter by 20') cylinder made out of cinder block with holes in it.
It is placed on gravel and there is a large concrete cover over it. It
is located over 150' from both the well and septic system. That's
been in place for over 30 years as well, but it's never been checked,
however nothing ever seems to back up from it.
Actually, it will eventually back up at the exact wrong time.
For instance, you have guests in for holidays or you have guests for
an event like a wedding or shower. I can guarantee that is when it
will happen. So go ahead and pump it out the week before such an
To summarize responses: septic tanks need periodic pumping, however,
the "right" interval varies a lot from one installation to another.
In some, it could be decades. And in another, as short as a year.
Your best bet is to get it pumped once, and see how much head/sediment
there is, and compute the next time accordingly. The pumper will
often give a suggested interval.
Look yourself - how much "hard" foam is there on top? You've waited
too long if the pumper has to hack away at the foam layer to get
the hose through.
Our governments all say that "additives" are a waste of money,
and don't do anything useful.
Just don't put anything down it you shouldn't, pump it often
enough to keep the foam or sediment plugging the outflow, and
it'll be just fine.
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It\'s not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
It's called "preventative maintenance" for a reason.
PM usually cost between 1% and 10% of the cost of the repair you are trying
to prevent. If you own insurance, this should be a no-brainer. If you're
concerned enough to ask about it now, buy yourself a little peace of mind
and be happy its not a DIY job.
Living alone, you probably don't need to do it very often and I doubt you
are flushing any tampons.
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