Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I have my tank pumped?
- That depends on how many people are using it. This table should give you a good idea:
What should I do before having my tank pumped?
- Clear the driveway and uncover all lids on the tank.
What is a septic tank?
- Tanks can be concrete, steel, fiberglass or polyethylene, and range from 2300-5000 litres. For comparison, a standard bathtub holds about 200 litres, and an ordinary toilet uses 20 litres per flush.
How much work is a septic system?
- Septic systems work automatically and should require very little maintenance by the homeowner.
How do I keep my system working its best?
- Only put into the system what it is made to handle. Don’t overload it with large amounts of water at once and pump regularly. One of the best things you can do is to make sure the sludge is pumped out of your tank every two or three years.
What should NOT go in a septic system?
- Tampons, pads, condoms, diapers, wipes, q-tips, cigarette butts and paper towels are common problem makers for septic systems. Harsh chemicals like paint solvents, thinners, and nail polish removers should never be poured down the drain. Bleach, sink and toilet cleaners, and drain openers are also harmful to the organisms in your tank that help to break down bacteria.
What about water control and my septic system?
- Every time you put water into your septic tank, that same amount of water moves into the tile bed. So the faster you put the water into the tank, the faster it moves into the tile bed. However, it takes time for the solids to settle out of the liquid waste and for the microorganisms to digest the solids. The longer the “retention time” of the wastewater in the septic tank, the more purification that occurs. If water moves too quickly through the system, less purification occurs before the water reaches the tile bed and the effluent may be discharged to the soil while still containing dangerous pollutants in unacceptable concentrations.
How do I take care of my tile bed?
- The ground above the tile bed should be covered with grass. Also, ensure good ventilation and adequate sunlight to promote evaporation.
- Avoid putting patios, decks, or parking areas on top of the tile bed ans the weight could crush underground pipes.
- Do not drive recreational vehicles or machinery over the bed, as the weight could crush the pipe or compact the soil covering the bed.
- Do not put skating rinks or gardens on top of tile beds. Covering the tile bed could also prevent oxygen from getting into the soil. The microorganisms responsible for digesting the waste material need oxygen to survive and function.
- Do not plant trees or shrubs near the bed. The roots can travel significant distances and can plug and damage the tile.
- Don’t water the grass over the tile bed. The additional water may interfere with the ability of the soil to absorb liquids and break down waste.
What are some signs of problems?
- Slow toilets or other fixtures.
- Odours coming from plumbing pipes.
- Water coming up in sinks, tubs or showers after flushing the toilet or doing a load of laundry.
- Seepage in the vicinity of the septic system.
- Green stripes or patchy lawn over tile bed.
Why is there an odour coming from the lids of the tank?
- That smell is methane gas. It is produced when organic materials decompose.
What can be done to avoid having to dig up the lids to my septic tank every 2-3 years?
- Install risers to bring access of your septic tank above ground level.
What about garbage disposals?
- Waste from garbage disposal units are not easily digested by bacteria in the septic tank and only add to the volume of solids which must be removed by pumping the tank. Therefore, the use of garbage disposal units is not recommended.
How do i find my septic tank?
- Generally a septic tank is a minimum of 5 to 15 feet from the dwelling, in a direct line out from your sewage outlet pipe in the basement exiting the building. Tanks vary from 12 inches to 24 inches below the ground in most circumstances. 95% of septic tanks have two clean-out access ports at either end of the tank, approximately 4 to 5 feet apart. Both the primary and secondary chambers need to be emptied at each tank pumping to enable a thorough cleaning and inspection of your system.
I am moving into a home with a septic system. Is there anything you suggest before we buy?
- We strongly recommend that the septic system be pumped out and inspected. Septic problems can cost several thousands of dollars to repair. Be informed before you buy.
How does a septic system work?
- Most tanks have two chambers and separate solids from liquids to allow waste to break down. Wastewater enters the first chamber where heavier solids settle out and are called sludge. Grease, fats and lighter materials float and are called scum. Between the two is liquid waste. Bacteria and other natural processes work to decompose this waste.
- When the first chamber fills, liquid spills into the second chamber. Sludge and scum are prevented from entering the second chamber. As wastewater enters the first chamber, an equal amount of treated liquid flows into the second chamber, forcing the same amount of liquid effluent out into the leaching bed, or drain field.
- The leaching bed evenly distributes waste water through perforated pipes or clay tiles over natural soil or imported fill. As the effluent filters down, microorganisms digest and remove remaining impurities (such as suspended solids or bacteria). Eventually the purified effluent reaches the groundwater.