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Why do I need to pump my septic tank early?

Have you been told that your tank is building up sludge faster than expected?

You may have received an inspection showing solids in your pump tank or high sludge or scum levels in your trash tank and you’re wondering why.  But, first, what is ‘normal’ and what raises a red flag?  If any of the following occur, we will recommend septic pumping:

  • Trash Tank: sludge>18″, scum>12″ or scum+sludge>24″
  • ATU Tank: sludge>3″, scum: if present
  • Pump Tank: sludge: if present, scum: if present
NuWater aerobic septic tank showing the chambers and the breakdown of scum, effluent and sludge in the trash tank

We will quiz you on a few things that are known to cause higher than normal sludge and scum levels but, ultimately, this can be a difficult question to answer.  

First, the normal suspects we may ask about:

  • water softeners or ice makers
  • tank additives
  • harsh household cleaners
  • powdered detergent usage
  • certain toilet papers
  • garbage disposal
  • high usage (large families or a lot of visitors)

If you answer “no” to all of the above, it gets much harder to diagnose.  Other causes such as:

  • home businesses or hobbies (daycare, bakery, brewery, canning, etc)
  • household medications or illnesses (cancer, TB, long-term antibiotics, etc)
  • household dietary habits (excessive dairy, coffee, or fats)
  • tank pH out of neutral range

As you can see, the causes can vary greatly, and we will attempt to help you identify the problem, but we don’t monitor everything that goes into the tank on a daily basis.  Anything that add solids to the tank or has a pH outside 6.5-7.5 could be a suspect. (I know, that’s a pretty big list.)

It could even be something that occurred prior to you moving in – we’ve seen contractors wash grout down the sink!  

Depending on the severity of the issue, we could recommend getting the tank pumped or closely monitoring the tank during future inspections for additional buildup.

We know it can be worrying when the technician notes a problem but isn’t able to identify the cause.  If the recommendation is to pump the tank, it’s just that, a recommendation.  No one is forcing you to.  If it’s a new system, you have a 2 year warranty that will cover the pump if it fails (unless we have identified something you are doing to damage it and discussed it with you).  You may choose to wait & watch and that’s OK!  Often times our recommendation is looking past your 2 year warranty to ensure longer reliability of your tank components.  Your technician is just there to identify issues before they become a problem.  If you have additional questions, feel free to call our office at (405) 373-1540.

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