Septic Tank Deterioration: Three Tips for Pumpers

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Research is underway to provide answers to the problem of septic tank deterioration, and in the meantime there are three steps any septic professional can do now to catch, minimize, or maybe even solve the issue. These suggestions come from Dave Gustafson, an engineer with the Water Resource Center at the University of Minnesota Extension. 

When he sees signs of deterioration around the top of the baffle, he begins with a look at the inlet pipe. Is it pointed up where it enters the tank? That means it has settled and hydrogen sulfide gas cannot flow out of the tank to the home’s vent system.

Next, run a camera along the line from house to tank to see whether there are any obvious problems. If the tank has a pump, splashing of septage may be aiding deterioration because that stirs the water and promotes the release of hydrogen sulfide. Think about extending the pipe to the base of the tank to minimize splashing. Although gravity-fed tanks don’t generate much splash, some contractors Gustafson knows install a T fitting on the end of the inlet pipe and drop the end of the pipe well into the water to minimize splash. 

Last, check the maintenance schedule and see how much solids and scum are present. If it is more than 25 to 33 percent of the operating depth, the tank should be serviced more often to reduce the number of gas-producing bacteria.

If all of this checks out, it’s probably time to call in an engineer for a deeper investigation of water chemistry and other possibilities.

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