Septic systems are actually a mini sewage treatment plant in your backyard and you are the operator. The County requires you to pump or have your your septic tank checked to see if it needs pumping. A tank must be pumped when it is 1/3 full of solids. A licensed plumber or pumper can check the tank and sign off on the County maintenance requirements. However most systems require additional maintenance. If your tank has a filter it should be cleaned on a regular basis. Some filters require pumping before removing, to avoid solids escaping down stream. Also some filters have an alarm on them that should be tested to see that it is functional.
If a system has a pump tank, it should be checked for solids at least when the septic tank is serviced. The pump, pump switch, and high water alarm should be checked annually. There also may be a pressure filter in the pump that needs to be cleaned. Make sure to shut the pump off first.
Drain fields come in different types, but all have observation pipes that should be checked for ponding. Mound and At-Grade laterals should be flushed on an annual basis. Older mounds don’t have clean outs to allow for flushing and should probably have clean outs added before there is a problem. Mounds and At-Grades should also be checked for breakout or effluent leaking out.
Most of these maintenance items can be checked by the homeowner with a little training from a septic professional. Remember it is never safe to enter a septic tank or pump tank and always replace and lock tank covers!
Written by: John Schmitt
John Schmitt has 42 years of septic installation experience. John is a licensed Wisconsin master plumber (MPRS223760), a Wisconsin licensed sewer designer (1927), a certified WOWRA septic system evaluator (2008035), and a licensed Wisconsin septic system maintainer (MPRSW 223760).