We lived in this house for 7 years and it suddenly occured to both of us that we hadn't had the septic tank checked or drained in that time.
I went to the internet and did some research about how often to have your septic tank emptied and the overwhelming time frame was 2 years. OH MY. Suddenly this became a BIG priority.
Who to call? How long before they could come out? What do I need to do before the visit? How much will it cost?
Back in the old days (LOL) you had to pick up the Phone Book "Yellow" Pages and start dialing. But now the internet makes it easier (and more difficult at the same time) to find businesses AND (possibly) see reviews of those businesses. I always take reviews with a bit of scepticism... is the reviewer a friend of the business owner? is the reviewer just really cranky? There are no restrictions/rules about writing reviews... could even be someone who just likes to mess about and submit false reviews.
At least I was able to find a couple businesses in my area. I decided to let my "gut" tell me that I wanted to hire one of them after calling them on the phone.
I made a couple of calls and the last one I felt really good about: Chapman Septic. Turns out that all the rain we've been having is a big problem when it comes to septic clean out. (What a surprise.) We chatted about what that means and the nice man answered my questions and had a great (dry) sense of humor. He gave me some pricing and left me with some questions of his to be answered. (FYI: all puns ARE intentional, even the bad ones.)
I did not know how big our septic tank is and could not find the answer in paperwork that I kept from the purchase of the house.
It turns out that the size of your septic tank, the material it is made of, the volume of waste (including water) that you put into it daily and the location of the septic field and tank are variables to consider instead of accepting a blanket statement that septic tanks need emptying every two years.
Our situation is this: concrete constructed tank, 2200 gallon capacity, 2 foot square opening with concrete cover. We are truly blessed and VERY lucky.
Once it hadn't rained for two days in a row, I contacted Chapman Septic again and they were able to schedule a clean out for the following day around noon. They don't dig down to the tank, we (meaning the hubby, LOL) have to do that ourselves. It is common for the responsibility of digging to fall on the homeowner; although some companies will do that for an additional fee. The hubby did the digging in stages, some that night and the rest the following morning.
Thankfully, it did not rain overnight and David arrived ahead of schedule (which worked out fine on our end). He told me that the tank was filled to capacity and it is likely that it either had never been cleaned out or at least not for a very long time. I did find info in our paperwork from the purchase of the house that the septic tank had been "inspected" four (4) years before our purchase but an inspection is not the same as a clean out. So we can safely assume it had been more than 11 years since the last clean out.
Still, the clean out was not eventful (meaning it went smoothly). We are careful to NOT put anything into our toilets but human waste, toilet paper (septic safe) and water. I was using a microbe supplement every three (3) months as well.
David left a couple of inches of sludge and then packed up his equipment. We chatted as the tubing drained and he told us that due to the size of our septic tank, we should figure on another clean out in five (5) years. He recommended installing a "riser". This is a tube-like thing that replaces the concrete cap and sticks up above the ground so that you don't have to dig to clean the tank. You would still have to dig to inspect the tank. We decided we would like to inspect the tank each time we clean, so opted not to put on a riser. If we were having to clean it more than every five (5) years, we would have put it in.
He also told me that unless I put that microbe supplement in every month, it's not worth doing at all. This is because the water is treated with chlorine and while there are microbes in the human waste that it moves along the plumbing and into the tank, the chemical pretty much overwhelms and kills the microbes. By using the supplement monthly, it can help to break down the solid waste better, but anything longer than that and the chemicals are in higher concentration than even the supplement can overcome. Another GREAT reason to STOP using potable water for waste disposal!!
I would LOVE to use a gray water system (potable water that resulting from drains in the kitchen and sinks/showers) stored in a cistern to be used strictly for flushing toilets. This is a tricky situation for plumbers who are nervous about it and permit issuers. But someday....
Now the hubby has to replace the dirt on top of the tank. He is doing this again in stages. It rained after his first session, so he had to wait for it dry out to do more. Then it rained again after a couple more of feet of dirt in the hole. Heavy sigh. At least the rain helps pack the dirt in fully (silver lining). Hopefully, it will dry out for a few days so he can get it all back. Cross your fingers and toes for us, will you?