In some states in the U.S., septic tank pumping and inspection is mandatory when a property is sold. A conventional septic system is made up of the tank, into which the effluent flows. The solids sink and liquid flows out of the tank through a distribution box and into the leach field or drain field, where a series of pipes distribute it across a large area and it filters back into the soil. Septic tanks fill up and should be inspected and pumped out by certified personnel every three to five years to prevent problems and prolong their life.
Locating the Tank
The inspector will charge a fee for locating the septic tank. Try to make a point of finding the tank before he arrives. You may have to dig around it to expose the top, including the inspection hatch. Do not attempt to open it, because harmful gases may have accumulated inside the tank. If you are unable to detect the tank, the inspector may flush a locator down your toilet, which will be detected by his equipment once it arrives in the tank. After the tank has been located, a seasoned inspector will know how to locate the leach field.
Inspecting and Pumping the Sludge
The inspector will open the lid and insert a probe into the tank to determine the level of the sludge and to see how much water is in the tank. Do not allow anyone in the house to use any water while the inspection is taking place or it will skew the results. Too much water may indicate a problem with the drain field. She will then insert the pipe from her truck and pump all the sludge out of the tank.
Cleaning the Tank
The inspector will require a garden hose to wash out the tank. Septic tanks can be made from concrete or fiberglass. He will remove the effluence filter and clean it to ensure that it is working efficiently and make a note of how quickly the water flows out of the tank. If it flows out slowly, it could indicate a blockage or other problem with the drain field.
Inspecting the Tank
The clean tank will be inspected for cracks. Health departments do not allow anyone to continue to use a cracked tank, but cracks can often be repaired. If not repairable, a new tank will have to be installed. She will check the baffle and tees to make sure they are functioning correctly and are not cracked or corroded and may replace them if they are faulty. They are in the tank to separate sludge and prevent solids from escaping and flowing into the leach field.
The Leach Field
Septic tank inspectors are only likely to inspect the drain field if you are having problems, which may include odors and seepage. Be sure to tell him if this is the case. The distribution box may be faulty or the drain field can fail due to hardening of the soil, a faulty distribution box, roots in the pipes or compaction due to livestock or automobiles passing over it.
Alternate Septic Systems
Conventional septic systems work on gravity. Alternate septic systems differ from conventional systems because they have a pump to move the effluent and may be contained in a mound. They are more complex than conventional systems and when they are not working correctly the inspector may recommend a plumber to check the pump or plumbing system.
Septic System Maintenance Tips
It is a good idea to install a riser showing the location of the septic tank for future inspections. Never drive over your septic tank or leach field. Do not build anything over your septic tank or leach field. Do not allow livestock to graze near your septic system.
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