Can i clean out my septic tank myself?

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  #1  
Old 03-20-16, 10:25 PM
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Can i clean out my septic tank myself?

Tank has 3.5 feet of material in it... looks like roughly a 4x3 square structure.

The top scum layer is like a foot thick, and it's almost physically impossible to break through it in some spots (its like a big heavy quilt). In the spots i was able to break through, i go down to the bottom of the tank and never feel a sludge layer.

It seems to me that the scum layer is blocking the inlet and pretty much preventing anything from getting to the bottom. The bottom 'feels' pretty much liquid under the scum layer.

I'm not afraid of sticking my arms down into the tank and pulling the scum layer out, if it would save me $400.

A. Is it feasible to just pull the scum layer out by hand?

B. If so, is there somewhere i can dispose of it? Like put it in big contractor trash bags or something and take it to the city dump or somewhere that would accept it?

I know this is probably an odd question, but it seems like it wouldnt be that difficult of a job. I bet i could have all of the scum layer out, and in trashbags, in about 30 minutes (unless im underestimating how difficult it would be). Disposing of it would be the trickier part, so thats why im wondering if there is a facility that would accept it, or if there is another way to dispose of it.
 

Last edited by tiresharkdbb; 03-21-16 at 12:13 AM.
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  #2  
Old 03-21-16, 04:11 AM
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I doubt a landfill will accept raw sewerage. The scum layer is probably intertwined with a root system, so it may not come out all that easily. I've had that problem and having it professionally pumped is far worth the money. Pulling the root system out took two people with hoes and forks nearly an hour. There are certain things that CAN be DIY, but in all fairness aren't.
 
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Old 03-21-16, 04:17 AM
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There are a lot of things a poor boy will do to save a buck but this ain't one of them!! and as Larry said disposal would be a real issue.
 
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Old 03-21-16, 04:41 AM
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I think you've let it go too far.

As a Real Estate Broker, the only people I've seen pump their own tanks have been Lake Front Cottages on Islands or where there is no access by road. The Owners will periodically suck up 8" or 10" of only the sludge layer with a Trash Pump and a 2" Hose to fill 2 or 3 50 gallon barrels that could be pulled behind a boat back to the main shore for proper disposal. They'd leave the bulk of the effluent (mostly water anyway) behind.

I've never seen a scum layer of more than a couple inches; why would so many solids continue to float ? Something's not functioning right.

I once dealt with a seasonal property where the 750 gallon steel tank had been allowed to get so full you could walk across the dry contents in the center . . . . the Tank had to be destroyed in order to remove the contents.

As others have implied . . . . this idea is probably false economy.
 
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Old 03-21-16, 04:46 AM
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Thinking more about it - septic systems and disposal of it's contents is regulated by your local health dept and I doubt it would be legal for you to diy the cleaning without their approval.
 
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Old 03-21-16, 05:31 AM
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A landfill may take it but they will have to have a special dumping sludge pond of sorts to take it.

I worked for Waste Management for 11 years. Back during the 90's WM was in the Port-O-Potty business. We had one of the most "wide range" of product/permit landfills in the area. We had other landfills from Dallas & Houston bringing us stuff that they were not permitted to put in their landfills. But, the potty waste had to go to a special facility about 20 miles away that had a waste pond of some sort that had a way to make the sewer safe.

Anyone here that deals with plumbing & sewer systems can tell you that a sewer back up out on the ground has to be dealt with & large spills require hazmat clean up. If you try to clean this septic tank yourself, you're probably gonna find yourself in a bad situation. Putting it in trash bags aint going to be acceptable most likely. Finding a place to dump that could prove to be a chore in itself. I dont know if you need to have some sort of permit to clean out a septic tank & or dump the sewage or not. However, I dont think this is a job that the average person should attempt.
 
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Old 03-21-16, 07:06 AM
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Just going by the size of the tank it sounds like that's the distribution box not the septic tank.
Only time I've seen a septic tank that small was at a summer camp that was DIY dig at least 50 years ago.
 
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Old 03-21-16, 08:38 AM
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Scum is the remains of grease, thus it floats. A scum layer a foot thick means that the septic tank needs pumping,.

If the scum layer gets too thick then it will extend down to near the outlet pipe level and some will go out to the leach field causing severe degradation of the latter.

Noxious gases, some odorless, are present in a septic tank and can asphyxiate an inexperienced person trying to clean out the tank himself.

To assure a complete job, the septic tank should be pumped out completely. Some contractors do a less perfect job by leaving some of the liquid behind which makes it a lot harder to see that almost all of the sludge has been removed.

The inlet and outlet pipes and any applicable baffles need to be inspected periodically and the best time is after the tank is pumped. A DIYer is likely to forget or omit that.
 
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Old 03-21-16, 10:21 AM
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Bite the bullet and spend the $400 and have a reputable sewer sucker do the work. Landfills won't accept liquid waste and the was will be hauled to a water water treatment plants. Permits required are costly as well as all the insurance the septic service is required to have. If you remove the material and haul it without a permit, the fines are way more than the $400.
 
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Old 03-21-16, 12:34 PM
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Thanks for the input everyone. Well, after reading some talk about multiple sections in a septic system, i went out to dig some more to see if i had it all... and they were right, what i was looking at was just one small section. Here is a photo of the entire thing (at least i think it's pretty much the whole thing) exposed... i had only uncovered the section where the hole is, and thought that was all of it.




Now that i realize how much is there, i will probably just call the septic company. I still feel like i could physically remove all of it, but that much material is way too much to deal with. I might could deal with it if it was just that small section, but i'm not going to tackle the whole thing.

I replaced the entire drain field myself last year, and i've replace 99% of the piping under the house leading into it... so after i get it pumped, im hoping it will be good to go for many years.

BTW, here is a short video of me poking the scum layer so you can get an idea of how thick it is. In the spot where the shadow is, i couldn't even break through... and where it broke through in the rest of it is because of me probing it yesterday.

This is a rental house and it hasn't been pumped out in 'i think' 10 years (it's my parents, and i started helping my mom with the maintenance on it about 3 years ago when my dad passed)... so lots of baby wipes im sure, and possibly even roots as well.

I was expecting to see more than one lid, and separation between the sides... but sticking my stick in there and probing around it feels like its just a big box with an inlet and outlet in it. I imagine the mass is interfering with the outlet, because it looks like its actually blocking it from this angle. I'll find out more about the internal structure when it's empty.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqOZ...ature=youtu.be


Thanks again for all the good input.
 
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Old 03-21-16, 12:41 PM
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watched the video - all I can say is wow
With a septic system you should never dispose of wipes and such down the drain! Not good to have a garbage disposal hooked up to it either. Mostly because of how hard it is to get a pumper truck to come up my driveway [most are intimidated by it] my tank went 25 yrs before it was pumped but the solids weren't anything like that but I do try to limit what goes down the drain and my washing machine doesn't empty into the tank.
 
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Old 03-21-16, 01:08 PM
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With a septic system you should never dispose of wipes and such down the drain!
Yeah, now that i'm taking care of it im going to start having 'the talk' with the renters concerning baby wipes haha. I already had to tell this guy twice to stop flushing cigarette butts down it, because i found a bunch when it backed up (along with a qtip, 3 candy wrappers, a girls hair rubber band, and a bunch of paper towels, haha. but not really haha for me when i was cleaning it up .)

Paper towels arent as bad as baby wipes, but those baby wipes are really not good, because i measured on my pole and it is almost a foot before i break through the mass into the liquid below.

I should try to talk them into buying one of those $30 bidets that are getting popular now a days. I bought one and installed it on my toilet, and it makes a huuuge difference in how much paper goes down the tube.
 
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Old 03-21-16, 01:14 PM
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It's next to impossible to get renters to care for your septic system like you would so it's best to just plan on regular pumpings.
 
  #14  
Old 03-25-16, 09:19 PM
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Had someone come out and pump it. Before they got there i took a shovel and broke up the mass and pulled a few basketball sized clumps of thin roots/debris out. $350 for about 10 minutes of work, good day for him i guess.

Oh and for the people who cautioned me about it being hazardous to your health... not only did these guys not have any goggles or face masks or anything, but they weren't even wearing gloves haha. One guy wasn't even wearing boots... just what looked like his regular sneakers.

Anyway, they were in and out real quick and didn't really check things out very well i thought (in fact, i dont think they even bent down to look into the tank). After they left, i looked in the tank and there was about 3-4 inches of sludge left... is that normal? I didnt know if they were supposed to suck every last drop out, or leave a few inches behind. Anyway, i leaned down in there with a light and could see big sections of sludge that were piled up along the walls in several spots. I have a 20 ft. homemade hoe that i use to clean culverts out with, and i used it to break all the clumps up. Called them about 5 minutes after they left and had them come back and pump some more out. Of course he told me that they are supposed to leave 5 or 6 inches of sludge for bacteria growth (and maybe they are, i dont know), but i still asked him to come back to suck out all the clumps i broke up.

To his credit, he didnt really give me a hard time... after all, i did all of the hard work on the job... uncovering the access, breaking up and removing roots, and scraping down the walls... even with the trip back it was an easy $350 for him and his partner. He did ham it up a little, going 'see im hittin rocks' 'see that i got a big rock blocking the pipe' and i was thinking 'geez man just move your pipe back where its deeper' but i didnt say anything cause i didnt want to get too picky haha. I had my hoe down there scraping stuff towards the middle while he was pumping it though. Anyway, he didn't suck all of it out, but got it down to about 2 inches and if nothing else, it made me feel better about dropping the cash on it.

Now that it's empty i can see the interior of the tank. There are no chambers, it's just a big box. The inlet has no baffle, it's just a straight pipe into the tank... although, there is a very large 90 degree fitting laying on the bottom of the tank... i thought maybe that was the inlet baffle that broke off or something... otherwise i dont know where it came from. The outlet has about a 1 foot baffle on it... looks like its just a cast iron 90 degree bend that extends down a little bit. If the inlet is supposed to have a baffle, i guess it's too bad because it looks like there is no way to access it unless you are down in the tank.

Anyway, that's the conclusion of my septic tank ordeal.
 
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Old 03-25-16, 11:00 PM
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I suppose tank components have changed over the years, but I don't have an inlet baffle (T), but the outlet has one and a filter....
Don't suppose you have an outlet filter?
Mine is a dual chamber 1000g plastic job.
 
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Old 03-26-16, 04:29 AM
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I didnt know if they were supposed to suck every last drop out, or leave a few inches behind
The guy that cleaned my tank last year sucked out most of what was there, in fact he used my water hose to rinse the sides/bottom and sucked out that water too. A packet of yeast will jump start the bacteria process.

They didn't make as much as you think. Included in that price was disposal/licensing fees and it's not cheap to own/operate the truck along with all the other overhead associated with having a business.
 
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Old 03-26-16, 07:19 AM
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Originally Posted by tiresharkdbb
". . . Anyway, that's the conclusion of my septic tank ordeal . . ."
Let's hope that's the case.

I forget if you ever told us what the original symptoms were with your tank . . . . I just hope none of that excessive scum layer's contents made its way out into your leach field to clog that up for you. Time will tell, as the tank re-fills.
 
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Old 03-26-16, 09:03 AM
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$350 because they didn't have to locate it and dig the thing up. $500 easy with that activity included. One thing to help in the future is to put a riser over the opening and do away with the existing cover. You can build up the riser as high as needed. That way all you do is remove 8 stainless screws and they have access to pump it with no fuss.

This is mine on a dual chamber at my rental cabin.

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  #19  
Old 03-26-16, 10:28 AM
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They didn't make as much as you think. Included in that price was disposal/licensing fees and it's not cheap to own/operate the truck along with all the other overhead associated with having a business.
Yeah i know there are expenses, i was just saying that whatever profit they make on a septic tank, it cant get much easier than that. Back the truck up, drop the hose in, 10 minutes and gone.
 
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