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What septic tank maintenance is recommended?

Septic system maintenance

Now you know how a septic system works, how do you keep your system running smoothly and effectively throughout the year? And how do you know when it’s time to ‘de-sludge’ your system? There are a few general do’s and don’t you should know, however, it is always recommended that you speak to a licenced plumber about the best maintenance and care for your particular system. The amount of usage a septic system receives may affect the regularity of maintenance and the need for cleaning and pumping, so give them a call!

How do I know when to de-sludge my septic tank?

You should check your septic tank sludge levels at least once a year to ensure that there isn’t an overflow of scum or sludge getting into the disposal trenches. For reference, there should be at least 800mm between the top of the tank outlet junction and the top of the sludge layer, and the sludge layer shouldn’t be any thicker than 300mm. If these measurements don’t correspond with what you are seeing through your outlet inspection opening, you will need to get your septic tank de-sludged by a professional. It can take up to five years or more for your system to produce enough sludge to need removing and, when you get your system de-sludged, ensure there is a healthy sludge and crust mixture left (of at least 300mm for most systems) to ensure the biological process starts again!

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Septic Systems: Things to do

  • Get your septic tank pumped out everything 3-5 years, as this stops sludge from building up and getting into the disposal trenches
  • Get your grease trap pumped out every 3 months
  • Get your grey water pump well cleaned out every 6-12 months
  • Install clean septic tank outlet filters and have them cleaned regularly, as this will stop smaller solids from making their way into the disposal areas
  • If you have a grey water pump well, you will need to move the sprinkler regularly so the disposal area doesn’t become too saturated
  • Use septic-friendly detergents, or brands marked as low in phosphorus and sodium
  • Special enhancing additives are no substitute for cleaning and pumping your system, or for completing general maintenance

Handy tip: if you do have a grey water pump well, regularly pour a cup of lime in a slurry form down waste fixtures (for example, a shower or basin) to try and prevent nasty odours coming from the sprinklers when they are discharging wastewater

Septic Systems: Things not to do

  • Do not irrigate any fruit or vegetable plants with wastewater
  • Do not let wastewater be released on the surface - it must always go to a subsurface area
  • Don’t cover your disposal areas with coverings such as concrete or asphalt - grass is the best option, as it removes unnecessary moisture and prevents erosion from occurring
  • Do not place things like pavers, concrete or buildings over your septic tank, as it makes it very difficult to access (and difficult to maintain!)
  • Ensure roof water, surface water or seepage water does not enter any part of the system
  • Also, unless you have discussed it with Council, do not install a garbage grinder

Of course, if you're in the southeast of Queensland and need to know more about septic systems, get in contact with us.