Although many Hill Country homeowners use septic systems, they are still a mystery to most people. We get asked lots of questions about septic systems, but the three we hear most are about septic pumpings/cleanings.
Cleaning your septic tank is the key to the life of your septic system.
The purpose of the septic tank is to separate the wastewater from the solid waste and allow only the wastewater to enter the soil absorption field. The less frequently the tank is cleaned, the more solids are likely to enter the soil absorption field.
When this occurs, your soils and drainfield will clog and lead to system failure. In most instances, the entire system will have to be brought up to current regulations set by the TCEQ and your local permitting authority — this usually requires installing an entirely new system.
In a way, your septic tank is always “full” — between pumpings it will fill up to a certain level as it is used.
The question you really need to ask is, “How do I know how much sludge is in my tank?” The only way to know that for sure is to open up your septic system’s lids. If you are scheduling routine pumpings, you should not have a problem with sludge buildup.
A conventional septic tank should be pumped every 3 – 5 years, depending on the size of the tank and the household wastewater usage. For example, a family of six on a 1000-gallon tank will need to pump out the tank more frequently than a family of three on a 1000-gallon tank.
In Bexar County, the tank is required to be pumped/cleaned at least every five years in order to renew the system’s License to Operate.
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I will be away from my primary residence for 6 months at a time. What is the proper way to leave an aerobic septic system unattended? I will have a locked gate so a licensed maintenance company would not be able to gain access to the property.
Leave the power turned on. Be aware though that since the bacteria wont be “fed” while you are gone, most of the bacteria will die off while the house is vacant. So, you may notice some odors when you start using the system again, but that should dissipate after the bacteria re-populates and is able to start treating the wastewater again. I would suggest using a lock with a key pad or code so that your system can still be serviced. Even though you wont be using water inside the house, the system will still be on so there are parts that still need to be serviced such as air filters, etc. Turning the system off might have negative effects on the parts when they are turned back on, and may lead to unnecessary repairs.