If your property isn’t connected to the main sewage system then you probably have a septic tank. This is a tank where wastewater and sewage are collected from households and businesses when they can’t go to the mains sewer. If you are about to buy a house with a septic tank then you may not know much about them or how to deal with them, which is why we’ve put together this guide to explain everything you need to know about septic tanks.
It’s important you maintain and empty your septic tank regularly which includes finding a company that provides drain clearance and can undertake any drain maintenance you may need.
Perhaps you’ve heard of both septic tanks and cesspits but you aren’t sure what the difference is. These tanks are both places to collect wastewater and sewage when you have no connection to the mains sewer. A cesspit is a sealed underground tank that only collects the waste products, while a septic tank collects the waste and uses a simple treatment process that allows the water to drain away to a soakaway or stream. Therefore, a cesspit needs to be emptied more regularly than a septic tank and you can gain access through a manhole cover.
During the Middle Ages, the extremely unhygienic open cesspits carried deadly diseases like cholera, so inventors set out to design a more hygienic solution. In 1860, Jean-louis Mouras designed the first septic tank because he believed that storing sewage before discharging it would be better than allowing it to seep straight into the surrounding soil.
Septic tanks are split into two different chambers within the tank. The sewage and wastewater go into the tank and solids settle and decompose, while liquids exit into the environment. As most of the liquids empty into the soil surrounding the tank, you only need to empty it when the solids levels have built up. The tank uses natural bacteria to treat the waste liquid, called waste effluent, so it can drain through a soakaway or drainage field. For this process to work properly, the septic tank must be working efficiently and the subsoil should be free draining.
After a while, fine suspended solids are passed through into the drainage field, which reduces the efficiency of the drainage field and the rate at which it can discharge the effluent into the soil. Ultimately, the flow into the septic tank will be greater than its ability to drain into the subsoil which causes the drainage field to back up and can lead to effluent leaching to the surface, or the drainage backing up to the house.
If your septic tank doesn’t have a soakaway and discharges directly to surface water such as a ditch, stream, river or pond, it no longer complies with the Environment Agencies requirements and you will need to replace or upgrade your system.
As a general rule, you will only need to have it emptied every three to five years but it is recommended for the tank to be emptied at least once a year. However, this may depend on a variety of factors such as your usage and how many people are living in your home or how many households share the septic tank.
If you are in a large household, you’ll need it to be emptied more regularly than someone who lives alone, for example. If you do live alone, you may only need to empty your tank every ten years. It is important to get your tank pumped out often though, as a tank that is not draining properly can cause serious problems, including sewage back up in your drains or sewage bubbling up from the ground.
Some common signs you may need your tank emptied are:
While you probably don’t want to empty your own septic tank anyway, it’s important you contact a professional drain maintenance specialist to do the job because it is a legal requirement to have it emptied by a registered waste carrier. The average price of cleaning and emptying a septic tank is typically around £200 but will vary depending on the size, scale and time it will take. The size of your tank and the volume of waste that requires emptying will affect how long it takes to complete the job. If your tank capacity is 4,500 litres then it could cost between £90-£130 but if you have a large 17,500-litre tank, then it could cost between £260-£300.
You can search online for drain maintenance specialists near you, for example, searching ‘septic tank emptying near me’ or ‘drain clearance Cornwall’. This way you’ll be able to find a local drainage specialist that can come to your property and empty your septic tank for you.
A specialist company will be able to provide septic tank emptying services on a scheduled basis. This means you don’t need to remember when you need to get it emptied, they will just contact you several days before the emptying date and arrange a time that works for you. They will also be able to provide sewage treatment plans which ensure your septic tank is up to standard. This means they will de-sludge and clean the sewage plant ensuring not to remove any of the tank’s vital bacteria.
It’s important to get your septic tank emptied regularly because as an owner of a septic tank, you are required to comply with the Environment Agency’s general binding rules. If your septic tank overflows then it is no longer compliant with these regulations. It can also lead to a lot of costly repairs if your tank overflows as well as a whole range of nasty side effects if a clog forms in your pipes. The best way is to stay on top of your septic tank is by using scheduled tank emptying and being aware of the signs of a full septic tank.
Aqua Rod is an industry-leading domestic and commercial drainage service provider in Cornwall and Devon offering septic tank emptying and tanker services. We also offer drain unblocking, surveys, repair, installation and drain maintenance. We have a 24-hour callout service so if you are ever in need of emergency drain maintenance, Aqua Rod can help. We can provide scheduled septic tank emptying so you can leave it up to us to keep your tank in great condition and there’s no need to worry about your tank overflowing. To find out more, visit our website or call 01209 861099 to speak to one of our friendly advisors.
Published by: David Parkes on: September 7th 2021