Does my System Need to be Pumped?
I am on a septic system and my drains seem to be running slow and sometimes I get a backup usually in the tub/shower drains. Does my system need to be pumped?
Mark, not necessarily. Starting in 2001 the Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality started requiring all septic tanks installed in Arizona to have an effluent filter. This filter is inside your septic tank and filters the water leaving the tank. This filter helps prevent sending particles out into the leach field and over the years these particles form a sludge layer in the bottom of your leach field, called “bio-mat”. This filter protects your leach field, thus extending the life of the leach field. If you home was built 2001, it is possible that your filter needs to be cleaned and is the reason for slow or backing up drains. The manufacturers of the filters recommend cleaning the filter a minimum of once per year. To clean the filter, you must first locate the septic tank in your yard. If you are unsure where the tank is, walk around the perimeter of your home and look for the sewer cleanout, this is normally a black pipe that is 4” in diameter with a cap on it, sticking out of the ground in close proximity to the foundation. Once you have located the cleanout, go 10-15 feet out from the house and try to locate the tank. Once you have located the tank, you will need to expose the access opening (usually a plastic riser with a lid 20” to 24” diameter in the top of the tank. The tank will have to access ports, one over the inlet end (closest to the home) and one over the outlet end (farthest from the home). Once you have exposed the access over the outlet end of the tank, open it up and you should see the filter encased in a plastic pipe with a handle on the top. With a GLOVE on your hand, and your nose plugged, grab the handle on the filter and pull up. The filter should slide up and out of the pipe that holds it. As you pull the filer out, if you notice a big rush of water out of the tank, then the filter was clogged and backing up your septic tank. To clean the filter, spray it off with water from a hose letting the cleaning water fall back into the septic tank. Replace the filter and cover and your septic tank should be working fine. If you feel you would rather have a professional company do this, then you can contact anyone of our local septic pumping companies to come and clean the filter. They can also tell you if the system should be pumped. If you have a hard time locating your septic tank, Yavapai County Environmental Services on Marina Street and they should have on record a copy of your site plan indicating where your tank is. Periodic preventive maintenance is required to remove the “irreducible” solids which settle and fill the tank, and this reduces the efficiency. A properly maintained system, can last for decades and possibly a lifetime.