5 Tips To Keep Septic Tank Systems Flowing Properly

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Mr Rooter Tip Of The Day: When purchasing a lot to construct a home in an area which is not served by a public sewerage system, the owner may have to arrange for soil tests to be made by an engineer or surveyor before a decision can be made on its suitability.

One of the most important homeowner maintenance tasks is to keep septic tank systems flowing properly. A septic tank system consists of an underground watertight container, almost always constructed of concrete, and is built to receive sewage and retain the liquid portion for approximately 24 hours. The tank has three functions: First, it acts as a settling chamber to allow solids to settle to the tank bottom; second, the tank serves as a digestion chamber to allow some biological treatment; and third, the tank becomes a storage vault for solids until removed.

The tile absorption field (nitrification field) is probably the most critical part of the septic tank system. It is sometimes referred to as the leech bed and consists of a trench, or system of trenches, with gravel or crushed stone and jointed tile or perforated pipe. The purpose is to receive the liquid sewage after treatment in the septic tank and to distribute this liquid to the soil for absorption and final biological treatment.

Mr Rooter Tip Of The Day

Tip #1 Standard recommendation is to have the septic tank pumped (cleaned) out every 3-5 years. Some townships, boroughs or mobile home parks will have strict ordinance code regarding frequency.

Tip #2 Only household waste and toilet tissue should be disposed of in a septic tank system. Keep all kitchen greases out of the system. Female personal hygiene items, cotton swabs, cigarette buds, hair from hair brushes, paper towels, toys or dead mice from traps should never be flushed down the toilet. Even a cotton swab can lodge sideways in a pipe and toilet paper will accumulate blocking the pipe going to the septic system.

Tip #3 Any leaks that develop in the plumbing fixtures should be immediately corrected. A leaking faucet or toilet tank, no matter how small the leak, will eventually result in complete saturation and failure of the absorption field.

Tip #4 A septic tank needs periodic cleaning or pumping out of the accumulated solids. If the solids are allowed to build up in the tank to a point that they begin to pass out of the tank into the soil absorption network, the soil will soon become clogged with the solids, resulting in failure of the system. If this happens, costly repairs will have to be made before the system will again function properly.

Tip #5 Automobiles and other heavy vehicles should not be allowed over the septic tank system. This causes excessive compaction and actual structural damage to septic tanks and tile absorption field. A sketch of your septic tank system can usually be obtained from your county health department to aid you in knowing the location of all parts of the system. This can be helpful in case of problems with the system or when the tank is cleaned.

TRADE SECRET: The frequency of tank cleaning or pumping is hard to determine as it depends on many factors and varies with different families. The only sure way to determine the need for service is to open the tank periodically and inspect it to determine the accumulation of solids. This should provide a margin of safety, but remember the most accurate way to determine the need for service is to inspect the tank contents on a yearly basis.


To protect the public health from the dangers of improper sewage disposal practices, state regulations have been adopted. The regulations are designed to help insure that when a septic tank system is used, it will be constructed to meet appropriate standards, of sufficient size to handle the anticipated waste load, and that the soil is suitable for absorption of sewage. These regulations require that a permit to construct a septic tank system be obtained from the county health department. A septic tank system may not be covered with earth until an inspection is made and approval is given by the county health department sanitarian.

Remember that a septic tank system cannot be safely installed on all lots or building sites. Some lots or building sites are unsuitable because of the type of soil, terrain (too steep, too low or wet, etc.), size, ground water, rock, or other factors which would interfere with operation of the system. Die testing is required and in some cases sand mounds are constructed to accomplish the installation of a septic system.
Roots of trees and shrubs growing near the septic tank system will intrude and infiltrate the absorption trenches and block the flow of sewage. It is advisable to remove trees and shrubs growing over the trenches or near the septic tank system.

There’s A Reason They Call Us Mr.™

Debra Santavicca PR, SMM, WebIT
Mr. Rooter Media Center

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