I've got a standard resisdential septic system. It was installed 6 1/2 years
ago, I live outisde of Colorado Springs. The diagram I have for the system
shows one holding tank, with a line going out to the leach field.
My question is, if I dig down to the lids on the holding tank, is it
possible to check the solids level to determine if I need the thing pumped
Yes, however if you're digging down to the lids you may as well have it
pumped anyway. How frequently it needs to be pumped is highly variable
based on what you let go into the system (kitchen disposer,
"flushables", etc.). A properly sized system that is only fed digestible
waste and sufficient water may never need to be pumped.
1. Yes, inspection after 6 years trouble-free use will
indicate how often the system should be pumped
(if you find an honest pumper, that is.)
2. Once you have located the four corners of the
hatch. map them exactly in relation to the nearest
window or corner of the house, so you can dig to
the hatch next time. Last time mine was pumped,
I fastened a yellow nylon rope to one handle and
extended it diagonally across the hatch and upwards
toward the surface. This way, any future digger is
likely to find the rope, and can follow it down.
But in the real world a certain amount of "indigestable solids" end up in
the system. For example, if your washing machine connects to your regular
septic system. the in-organic "dirt" on your clothing will end up on the
bottom of your tank. Maybe in a perfect world that would not go into your
septic system but ...
Pumping cost, typicaly, are less than $300. Compare that to your typical
city water bills (which are mostly for sewage treatment).
That's why most folks living on the "edge" of town only get connected to the
city system when they are forced to.
That's all I put in mine. It was pumped out for the 1st time after 10
It had less than 2" of sludge on the bottom so the service guy said
I'd probably never have to have it pumped out again.
I'd have a septic guy do it and it's probably about time you had it
pumped. It may be a good idea for you to dig and find the lid as the
septic guy will charge extra to do this and if he has trouble finding it
may cost more. I'd put a concrete ring down to the opening to make it
easier the next time. If in a conspicuous place, you can mask with
shrubbery or something.
Depends how many people in the house, and how big a tank. I'm alone with
a tank sized for 3br. I'm not anticipating that I'll ever need to get it
pumped, except maybe to have 'freshly pumped, freshly inspected' as a
sales feature. (in 5 years or so.)
You can buy sections of a plastic pipe, about 3' in diameter and one to
three feet long. (At septic tank dealers) A lid fits on the top segment.
After you remove the concrete cover (permanently) run the plastic sections
to within 6" of the surface, put on the lid and cover it up with dirt or
flagstones, or whatever.
No more digging. Easy to find and pump the next time. Many owners have to
pump their tank every two years, or so. You can also check the level of
sewage and sediment quite easily.
No need to uncover the whole lid. Most now have 2 small tapered lids
about 1' sq in the overall lid. This allow for inspection and pumping
of both baffled sections without removing the main lid. It may
require a pry bar to open these inspection lids but it is still a lit
easier than lifting that big mama.
To answer the other part of your question, when you open the lid look
for floating solids in the tank. It is the floaters that will cause
trouble by getting into the leach field whereas the solids on the
bottom of the tank will be eaten by bacteria. If there is very little
floating material your tank is in good shape.
I dug out the first access lid (nearest the house), and used a long wood
slat stick to poke down and find the solids layer.
As near as I can tell, there is no solids layer - the stick goes right down
to a hard cement bottom and there's no solids coating on the wood when I
take it out to surface, and the depth I'm reaching below the top of the tank
is about right for the total depth of the tank that's on the diagram.
I'll dig out the outer tank access and check that too, but it looks like
I've saved myself $250.
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