Why is it important and how often?

In order to reduce health hazards and expensive repairs it is important to pump out your septic system regularly. Please visit the Understanding Your Septic System page to further understand your system and the necessity to have it properly maintained. Septic systems should be pumped out every 3-5 years depending on the number of individuals in the household. Older septic systems typically have small septic tanks that may require pumping every two years, while newer systems with low usage may only need to be pumped out every 4-5 years.

A maintenance plan develops a pumping schedule based on your individual usage. The maintenance plan includes routine maintenance such as cleaning filters, inspecting the outlet baffle, and monitoring ground conditions.

Your Septic System

Chances are that you are one of the 25% of Canadians who have septic systems. Septic systems are another method of sewage treatment aside from city sewer. A septic system treats household waste water (human waste, showers, sinks, dishwashers, washing machine, etc) on your property and releases the treated effluent, or human waste, into the ground water system. As a result of the nature of septic systems it is imperative to maintain your system to protect your household health, the environment, and your water source. This image illustrates the general concept of how your septic system works.

Your Septic Tank

Septic tanks separate solids from liquids before sending the liquids into the septic field (or leaching bed). The septic tank breaks down the organic matter through bacteria. Solids accumulate on the bottom of the tank and it results in “sludge”. Lighter solids, such as grease and fats, rise to the top of the tank and form a layer of “scum” (also referred to as a “crust” layer). The middle section of the septic tank that is liquid travels to the drain field to be dispersed. If maintenance is neglected, the septic tank becomes filled with sludge and scum that travel down your drain field and clog your pipes. This results in your septic waste backing up into your dwelling and having to replace your drain field—which can be expensive and require excavation of your yard.

Your Drain Field

The liquids that enter your drain field, either by gravity (through a distribution box) or by pressure (with a pump), are dispersed through a system of perforated pipes. These “runs” of perforated pipe must be kept clear for proper functioning of your system. Ultimately these liquids enter the ground water; this is why it is important to maintain your system.

Indication of Septic Failure

• The ground around the septic tank or over the leaching bed may be soggy or spongy to walk on.

• Toilets, showers and sinks may back up or may take longer than usual to drain.

• Occasional sewage odours may become noticeable, particularly after a rainfall.

• Gray or black liquids may be surfacing in your yard or backing up through fixtures into the house.

• E. coli or fecal coliform indicator bacteria may be found in nearby well water or in a surface ditch close to the leaching bed.

• Wastewater is ponding in the distribution lines — inspection should be conducted by a qualified practitioner or an engineer.

• The water level in the septic tank is higher than the outlet pipe (this indicates that the water is ponding in the distribution lines) — inspection should be conducted by a qualified practitioner.

DO’s and DON’Ts

DO’s and DON’Ts

• DO have the septic tank and pump tank pumped by a licensed septic tank pumper every 3-5 years or more frequently if recommended.

• DO keep your tank readily accessible by installing “risers” on tank accesses

• DO maintain your septic system effectively – ask us about annual maintenance checks

• DON’T ever inspect or pump out a septic tank yourself. There is no oxygen in the tank for you to breathe and the tank contains deadly gases which can kill you in only a few seconds.

• DON’T put anything into the septic system that doesn’t break down naturally or anything that takes a long time to break down. Small amounts of paints, solvents, thinners, nail polish remover and other common household compounds flushed or poured down the drain can kill the bacteria that break down the organic matter in the wastewater.

• DON’T use excessive amounts of household disinfectants such as laundry bleach or toilet bowl cleaner. They can be used in moderation without affecting the operation of the septic system; however, overuse of disinfectants can kill the bacteria in a septic tank.

• DON’T use septic tank “cleaners”, “starters” or “enhancers” to aid in the digestion of the waste. Some manufacturers promote these products but they are typically of little value and are not recommended.