Your septic system can last a long time with proper attention and care. If you pump as frequently as you need to for the size of your tank, use it properly, and don’t get anything in it that shouldn’t be there your tank will last many years. Steel septic tanks eventually rust, usually once they turn 15-20 years old. Concrete septic tanks can last 40 years to almost forever. It is in your best interests to perform routine septic maintenance to see your system reach old age and not have to worry about replacing it. The first simple task you can perform is a routine septic tank inspection.

Gather Materials

In order to judge the condition of your septic tank and determine whether it needs to be pumped you need to have the proper equipment. Aside from wearing comfortable clothing and a pair of rubber gloves and shoes, you need a special tool called a Sludge Judge to measure the levels of scum and sludge that rest in your tank. This tool is simply a clear plastic pipe market at 1 foot intervals and divided in 3 sections that are 5 feet in length a piece. You can use your own tool

Every septic tank contains three layers of waste– sludge, effluent, and scum. Sludge in your septic tank is the heavy waste that sinks to the bottom of your tank. Scum is where fats, oils, cooking grease, and lighter waste float to the top. The middle layer is liquid effluent. To inspect your tank you need to measure how much sludge and scum are inside to determine if it needs to be pumped.

Inspect the Area Around Your Septic Tank

Before you open the lid to your septic tank, it is a good idea to take a look at the ground. Check to see if there is any buildup of effluent around the tank, and inspect the condition of the septic tank cover.

Remove the Manhole Cover

Many septic systems these days have “risers” that make this easy by bringing the lids above ground. If you do not see the lid of your septic tank, find out where the tank is and dig. You should find two lids, one for each compartment. In most cases, the hole on the left is the first compartment and the one on the right is the second compartment.You only need to perform measurements in the first one.

Measure the Scum’s Thickness (SC)

To measure how thick the scum lies in your tank, you need to grab your handy scum measuring stick. Measure where the stick meets the opening of the septic tank and then lower the stick until it sits on top of the scum layer and mark that point. Next, lower the through the entire scum layer, leading into the scum with the elbow end. Turn the stick 90 degrees and pull up on it until you can feel the bottom of the scum layer. Mark the scum stick where it touches the bottom of the scum layer. Measure the distance between the two marks. This is the thickness of the scum layer (SC).

Measure the Sludge’s Thickness (SL)

With your handy sludge measuring stick make a hole in the scum layer and carefully lower the stick through it after tying two feet of a white rag to it. Mark the stick where it meets the opening of the manhole or riser. Next, lower it to the very bottom of the tank and hold it for 5 minutes to allow sludge to stick to the towel. Measure the distance, or working depth of the tank. Remove the stick and measure the height of the dark stain you should find on the rag. This is the depth of the sludge layer, or SL.

Once you have these measurements you can determine when to pump your septic tank. The total of the scum thickness plus the sludge layer’s thickness, or SC+SL needs to be greater than ⅓ of the working depth, or WD.

  1. SC + SL = ____ inches
  2. WD ____ inches divided by 3= ____
  3. If  the total of A>the total of B, pump your tank!

For a precise reading, it’s advisable to hire a professional to inspect your tank, although if you feel comfortable doing it yourself, this method can save you money. Maxx’s Products can also save you money by lessening the amount of buildup in your tank, prolonging the intervals between pumps.

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