Septic tanks and cesspits need pumping. There is no question about it! The question is, how often and why? Since your septic system will inevitably become full at some point, making sure that your sludge levels do not flow out to your drain field is critical to the long term performance of your system.
Septic systems are generally designed to hold solids and liquids that leave your home through drains, toilets, tubs and other plumbing in your home. Some septic tanks have multiple chambers inside to separate the solids from the liquids so as to add another safeguard to prevent solids from entering your leach field. Some systems, like cesspits, are merely large tanks with perforations that act as a cylindrical drain field or leach pit. These types of systems also need pumping on a regular basis.
So when exactly do you need to pump your tank? Well, most homes need their tanks pumped every two or three years since this is the average time it take for solids to reach critical levels nearing the outflow pipe to your leach bed. Since every household has different habits, some systems need pump out every year with others requiring a pump out every 8 to 10 years. Why the difference? The secret lies in the digestion of the solids. The more healthy bacteria you have in your tank, the better it will perform and the longer the period between required pump outs in most cases. Bacteria break down the waste that enters your system. The more bacteria you have, the slower your solid levels increase. By growing healthy bacteria, and allowing it to thrive, your solids will degrade much more rapidly than that of an abused or neglected system. Many laundry detergents, dishwasher chemicals and other potent additives that carry strong antibacterial properties, inhibit the growth of bacteria, escalating the amount of solids and sludge levels inside your system.
Avoid using potent antibacterial products unless you have a medical condition that requires the use of such products. Many products offer little to no benefit with daily use and only harm the healthy bacteria inside your septic system. When in doubt, check the ingredients of most all of your household products and do a little research to determine if the ingredients carry antibacterial properties. A simple Google search will help you locate the characteristics of most any chemical where you can get a grasp on whether or not the chemical is a tad bit too strong for your liking. Supplement your bacteria with septic system enzymes that promote optimal digestation of waste without the clogging affects often associated with chemical based septic additives. Think of your system as a “large compost”, but one that is buried underground. Care for the compost and it will dwindle away and break down properly. Abuse the compost and it will grow much faster than a well cared for pile or organic waste.