How to Pump Septic Tank Systems

A septic system consists of a septic tank and several hundred feet of field line.

How to Pump Septic Tank Systems

If installed and maintained properly, a septic system can have a lifespan of 40 or more years. If care is taken in your day to day activities, the only maintenance most systems will require is an occasional cleaning/pumping.

Locate your septic tank. There may be an access to the top of the tank visible above the ground. If you have never emptied the tank and there is no access visible, locating the tank can be troublesome. It should be a minimum of ten feet from the foundation and in line with the drain leaving your home. Once the tank is located it is advisable to install a 4-inch PVC pipe to make the next cleaning easier.

Dig down to the tank and locate the access opening in the top of the tank. Once the opening is located clear away enough dirt to avoid any dirt entering the tank when the access is opened. Carefully remove the opening cover. The tank will be filled with water, but there should be no pressure on the cover.

Measure the amount of solid sludge in the bottom of the septic tank. If the sludge occupies 35 percent or more of the tank it needs to be emptied. You are not concerned with how much water is in the tank, only the amount of solid sludge or residue which has gathered in the bottom of the tank.

Insert the pumping hose into the tank, allowing it to reach to the bottom of the tank. The pump will then remove the sludge from the tank and pump it into a holding tank on the truck. This material must be properly disposed of, which is another reason you will need a licensed contractor. The contractor will have means to legally dispose of the waste as to not violate any local, state or federal codes.

Inspect the tank while it is open and empty. Never allow anyone to enter the septic tank; the fumes and lack of oxygen can cause rapid suffocation. You will, however, want to take advantage of this opportunity to inspect the interior of the tank. Make certain the baffles on both the inlet and outlet areas are in good condition. You will also want to make certain no materials have gathered or clumped around these openings. Once your inspection is complete, replace the cover and fill the hole.

Things You Will Need

  • Reliable contractor


  • The average septic tank will need to be emptied every 3 to 5 years.


  • If you allow your tank to overfill with sludge it can cause major damage to field lines and result in costly repairs.

About the Author

Tom Raley is a freelance writer living in central Arkansas. He has been writing for more than 20 years and his short stories and articles have appeared in more than 25 different publications including P.I. Magazine, Pulsar and Writer's Digest.