If you have a septic tank system on your property, the key to ensuring its longevity and superior functioning lies in regular, best-practice maintenance. After all, between your toilet, washing machine, dishwasher, sinks and showers, your septic tank is always in constant use so it deserves constant care.

The key to on-going maintenance is to ensure that your septic tank is emptied at regular intervals.

Why septic tanks need to be emptied

So why should you empty your tank? The liquid waste that goes into your tank creates layers of sludge and scum. The solid waste sinks to the bottom of your septic tank, where bacteria then breaks down the solid matter and turns it into sludge.

Sitting in the middle layer of waste in the tank is mostly water and sitting on the top layer above the water is a layer of fats and oils that form scum.

After time the scum and sludge can cause a backup in the system unless it is emptied. This can leak back into the house or surrounding areas of the tank, causing odours and posing hazards to the environment.

How do you know when your tank needs to be emptied?

Heavy rain aside, if you notice pools of water in the area around your septic tank, this is likely a tell-tale sign it needs de-sludging.

If flushing your toilets or your drains appears to be slow moving, this can also be a sign that a septic tank is clogged.

Of course, if your tank is emitting awful odours or backing up waste into the home, it definitely needs emptying.

What’s involved with emptying a septic tank?

  1. The contractor will arrive at your property and use a pump truck to remove the effluent, sludge and scum from the tank to the point where it is left completely empty.
  2. The sludge pumped from the tank is stored in purpose built containers during transport and taken to a waste treatment facility to be correctly disposed of.

Trying to empty a septic tank can be quite messy and often result in leaks and spills in the surrounding percolation area, not to mention you then have to arrange safe, compliant storage and disposal of the waste. There are significant fines applicable if wastewater from septic tanks is found to be not properly disposed of.

How much does it cost to empty septic tanks?

The cost of cleaning and emptying a septic tank system will depend on the size of your tank and, of course, it can vary significantly from provider to provider in Ireland. Contractors who offer the service of de-sludging septic tanks must be licenced by the local authority and are easily found on a Google search, please discuss the cost of emptying with your local licenced contractor.

This is minute in comparison to the potential costs of fines incurred and/or replacement or repairs if the tank is not de-sludged correctly and regularly.

How often should you empty your septic tank?

The average septic tank system requires pumping every one to three years. Best practices is to schedule yearly inspections so that septic tank professionals can inspect the level of sludge and scum and advise on when a pumping will be required.

It’s always best to identify a need to pump a septic tank system before it is at full capacity, backed up and causing leaks and seeping in the percolation area or leaks back into the house.

Emptying a septic tank is definitely a task for a professional. Keep your septic tank in best working order and ensure to schedule an inspection of your sludge and scum levels every 12 months.