To Pump or Not to Pump

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We have a three year old home with a new three year old septic system. We live in the AZ desert with typical desert soil. There are only two adult permanent residences and the occasional visitor.
We've heard many stories varying from, "we have our septic system pumped every 4 years", to "we've had our septic system for 30 years and have never had to have it pumped".
Obviously, usage must have something to do with the need to pump out the system. We have the typical bathroom waste and use biodegradeable toilet paper, and take showers rather than tub baths. We have an automatic washing machine and a dishwasher. We do not have a garbage disposal.
I certainly want to avoid any potential problems, but at the same time, I don't want to spend money when I don't have to.
All opinions/comments welcome.
TIA
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On Sun, 20 Sep 2009 18:51:41 GMT, Wayne Boatwright

Have it pumped. The operator can tell you approximately how much sludge was in the tank(s). If it's not too much, wait five years next time...and so on. This way you are basing the decision on how well your system is performing with your ah--ingredients. A couple hundred bucks or less every few years is way cheaper than replacing the leach field or sand bed.
HTH,
Paul
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wrote:

The warter should take care of itself in the desert, the solids though can fill the leech bed if the tank is neglected too long, so a precautionary pump once in a while might be a good idea. I won't propose a schedule, but every 10 years would seem like a reasonable minimum.
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Wayne Boatwright wrote:

a baseline. If you don't mind the smell, you could even do it yourslelf. Uncover the small lid, and poke a stick down there.
My place has 3 theoretical bedrooms, and a tank sized to match. I live alone. I've been here four years, and will probably be here maybe 3-4 more. I might have it pumped when I put it on the market, just so the realtor has a fresh report to show. (I know, buyer usually has to get one anyway...)
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I'd look into a HE clothes washer. They dump MUCH less water into your system. We have a Whirlpool Duet and it has worked flawlessly for over 6 years now. If water costs as much in AZ as it does here (Austin) it would be worth it.
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Wayne Boatwright wrote:

years. Costs a lot less than municipal sewage system and gives you the peace of mind that you won't clog your drain field if solids overflow.
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Wayne Boatwright wrote:

The first pump can tell you how much non-degradable sludge and grease you generate. Adjust the next pump by that. If your sludge pile goes all the way to the bottom, solids will begin to flow out to the leach field with the water and plug it up. Some people could go 30 years without needing a pump, others would need one in 5 years. Also depends on the size of the tank.
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I've heard it's a good idea to dump bakers yeast in the toilet. The yeastie beasties decompose sugars, starches, and such. I'll admit, I'm not sure how much dead yeast a tank can hold.
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Wayne Boatwright wrote:

We are about like you (two people). I had our 1000 gallon tank pumped after 7 years. It was a waste of money, only 5-10 gallons of sludge. I made a note to have it pumped in another 10 years but I'll probably wait at least 15, maybe 20. Maybe never.
Very little goes into a septic tank - or, very little *should* go - that doesn't liquify. Additives are of no value as you are adding plenty of bacteria to those already in the tank everytime you take a dump.
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dadiOH wrote:

The house I grew up in was built around 1899. It was/is a huge house that had, until recently, 4 to 12 people living in it. The septic tank was never touched for 100 years. After 100 years, the township put a sewer line through and we had to hook up to the municipal sewer.
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Hank <~~~~pool player wannbe
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Hustlin' Hank wrote:

Hi Hank. Still in RSB, but not shooting as much.

Ain't we all?
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wrote:

My house was built nearly 200 years ago, but the current septic system is from the 1950s. When I bought the place in 1985 I was told to have it pumped every 5 years. I had it pumped in 1990 and the guy said I could probably wait 10 the next time, since there are only two of us. I had it pumped again in 2000, and was told not to bother again until 2015. That's the current plan.
However, since it only costs $99 to have it pumped it's certainly not prohibitively expensive to have it done every 10 years or so.
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On Mon 05 Oct 2009 01:23:18p, h told us...

Given the frequency range that most people are quoting, I'm thinking that 3-4 years is probably a bit premature. I may think about it at 5 years, but then again, maybe somewhat longer.
Thanks!
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On Thu 01 Oct 2009 09:59:48a, Jack Stein told us...

Thanks, Jack. That's certainly a strong recommendation.
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Wayne Boatwright wrote:

Not a recommendation Wayne, more like a "it depends":-)
My dad told me the guy that built the house told him he would never have to touch the septic tank, and he was right. I also know of people that have to have tanks pumped out on a regular basis. 100 years is probably unusual, but I have no experience in the field other than our house. I guess if it's done right, and large enough, it should need little or no maintenance over a lifetime.
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On Mon 05 Oct 2009 11:42:47a, Jack Stein told us...

Yes, I'm sure "it depends". Still, with just 2 residents and a new system, I think 3-4 years is probably premature.
Thanks again, Jack.
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Thanks, everyone for some compelling advice. I appreciate all of your input!
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wrote:

In our last house, we only pumped the tank when we were asked by the buyer. We lived there 15 years and never did a thing. It was all good and really didn't need pumping then.
If it isn't broke, don't fix it.
Hank
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wrote:

Depends on what you dump down it and how big the tank is. We (2 adults) have it pumped every 10 years. Each time the guy comes out he says, "Wow, you didn't really need it". Since it only costs $100 ($10/year) who cares that "we didn't need to do it"? I consider it money extremely well spent.
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