Frequently Asked Questions in Pennsylvania


How often should my septic system be serviced?
The correct interval of pumping your septic tank(s) is based off of multiple factors. These factors are family size, system size, age of system and system history. Typically pumping intervals range from 1-5 years. Give us a call and we can recommend how often your septic system should be serviced.
Why should I have my septic tank(s) serviced?
Having your septic system serviced at proper intervals keeps your system healthy and prolongs the life of your system. Regular pumping of septic tanks is similar to changing the oil in your car. It removes sludge and scum build up, materials that can't break down, and old dead bacteria. This helps prevent organic matter from accumulating in your absorption area, while providing a better environment for new, healthy bacteria to grow.

Pictured right is an example of a tank that hasn't been serviced for over fifteen years. The small tank size in combination with it not being serviced has left to a very large amount of solid accumulation in the tank. The large amount of solids caused the absorption area to malfunction, leading to water being trapped in the tank. Due to this, there was sewage backup into the house.
Why do you inspect my system at every service?
Having your system inspected at regular intervals is highly important to your system health.
How do I locate my septic tank?
-If your tank does not have risers to the surface, or some sort of marker, there are a few ways to locate your septic tank. If your tank is buried, look for distributed areas of grass that looks like it has been dug up in the past. There may be a 4" pipe sticking up from the ground that sits over the tank. If you still cannot locate your tank, previously serviced systems will be on file with your township with a drawing available. If none of the above works, our trained technicians can locate and dig open your septic tank.
Should I have a septic system inspection done when buying a home?
-Yes. Before buying a house you should always have the septic system checked, even if the bank doesn't require it. There are many hidden problems that may not emerge until after you move in. Our trained technicians will thoroughly inspect your septic tank and absorption area to make sure it is functioning properly.


What if I am getting a sewer odor, or if sewer is backing up into my house?
-If your are getting backup or a sewage odor in your house you may have an issue with your drain lines or septic system. Give us a call and we can diagnose and correct the issue for you.
wet tank
Why is there wetness or lush green grass around or near my tank lid(s)?
-If you notice wetness or lush green grass around your tank(s) or absorption area you may have an issue. Common problems are a clogged filter, malfunctioning pump or floats. If you notice wetness or green grass on or around your absorption area, you could have a broken pipe or system malfunction. On a pressure dosed system, you could have broken lateral cleanouts, a broken line or system malfuncion. Give us a call and we can assist you in diagnosing the issue.
Pictured right is an example of wetness and lush green grass around a lid of a pump tank. The pump had malfunctioned causing the water level to overflow the tank.

Septic System Do's and Don'ts

  • Always have your septic system serviced at proper intervals. This is based off of how many people occupy the household and can range from two to five years.
  • Always conserve water, fix leaking faucets and fix broken toilets.
  • Always use liquid laundry detergents. Powder laundry detergents can clog up your system
  • Always divert all rainwater and spoutings away from your septic tank and septic absorption area.
  • Always limit the use of garbage disposals.
  • Always have your tank pumped and inspected through the manhole port, never through an inspection port.
  • Never flush tissues, baby wipes, cigarette butts, chemicals, cat litter, feminine products, diapers or medicines down the toilet.
  • Never pour or flush paints, oils, fats or varnishes down your sinks or toilets.
  • Never drive vehicles or heavy equipment across your absorption area or tanks.
  • Never disturb the soil on or in close proximity to your septic system.

How does a septic system work?

To many people a septic system is out of sight and out of mind, therefore many people do not understand how a basic septic system functions.Typical septic systems consist of one or two tanks and an absorption area. Older style systems known as conventional systems have an absorption area known as drain fields or leach fields and typically only have one tank, a distribution box and an area underground where the effluent drains to.The primary tank is where all the wastewater from your household goes first. Good bacteria located in the tank breaks down the solid waste. This waste settles to the bottom and becomes what is known as sludge. A crust forms on the top of the tank that is known as scum. Inside your tank there are baffles. These baffles are very important because they keep solids and sludge from entering your distribution box. The distribution box is a square, rectangular or round tank and varies in sizes. The distribution box is in place to allow equal distribution of effluent into your drain field. Drain fields or leach fields are typically some sort of perforated pipe laid out in a bed of crushed stone. Conventional systems are usually laid out in a square or rectangular pattern and are filled with stone from one end of the absorption area to the other. The stone and pipe are covered by layers of soil. It is very important that the lines of the drain field are level. If they are not, water may run to the end of the drain field and cause lush green vegetation or wet spots and shorten the life of your absorption area.Another form of conventional system is a trench system. They work the same way as a drain field, but instead of a large square or rectangular area of stone, there is stone and gravel between each line of the system. Trench systems typically have longer lines than a drain field to make up for lack of an absorption area. In a conventional system, soil and gravel are used to filter the effluent back into the water table.Most houses today require an alternative system to be installed. There are many alternative systems, but the most common is known as a sand mound. Just like a conventional system, an alternative system has two tanks. The primary tank is usually a two compartment tank which has a divider in the middle that acts as a large baffle which keeps as much sludge and solids in the first half as possible. The second compartment contains mostly effluent and some sludge at the bottom. Effluent travels from the primary tank to what is known as a dosing tank. The dosing tank typically has a pump that is used to pressurize the sand mound.Sand mounds are similar to conventional systems in the way that the effluent is filtered. The mound is made of sand and stone layers on top of the existing soil. The pump in the dosing tank pressurizes inch and a half pipe with holes drilled in it every six feet. The pipe is encased in a layer of stone, and the effluent is filtered through the sand and soil before returning to the water table. These systems will leave a noticeable hump in your yard.Other alternative systems include small flow stream discharge systems, Eco flow systems, irrigation systems, or AB systems. These systems use a combination of chlorine, UV lights, sand filters or peat moss filters to purify the effluent beyond the capabilities of a sand mound or conventional system.
  • Lush vegetation on or around the septic system
  • Wet spots or ponding water on or around the septic system
  • High water level in septic tanks
  • Sewer smell or backup into the house
  • Slow draining toilets or drains and/or gurgling
Having your septic system serviced regularly can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. Other causes of septic system failure are hydraulic overload, improper soil conditions or improper system location. If a system is installed in an area with high water level, bad soil or an area where water poorly drains from, there will most likely be septic system failure.

How does a septic system work?

All septic systems have the same goal, which is to break down and filter waste water so it can be reintroduced to the water table without causing contamination. There are several important components that are typically found in a septic system. With these components, all waste and organic matter is able to be broken down, and filtered out, leaving mostly effluent water traveling to the absorption area. There are several different types of septic systems, but the most common are a conventional system, or an elevated sand mound.

Conventional Systems
A conventional system is the most common type for pre-90s systems. There are several different varieties of a conventional system but they all consist of the same components. They all have a primary treatment tank, inlet and outlet baffles, drainage pipes connecting the home to the system and an absorption area.

  • Plumbing
You may not think about your drainage pipes when you picture a septic system, but they are a very important piece to the puzzle. Your drainage pipes move all waste from your appliances such as sinks, toilets and showers, to your septic treatment tank. Problems here can lead to clogged pipes, water leakage, sewer backup or a sewer smell.

  • Primary Treatment Tank
The primary tank is the forefront of wastewater treatment, and is made up of multiple components. The purpose of the primary tank is to allow healthy bacteria to break down organic wastes. There will typically be three layers of waste within a septic tank.

The scum layer floats on the top. This layer is made up of paper, solids, fats and non organic matter. The bacteria breakdown this scum layer causing it to settle and becomes sludge.

The effluent water layer forms in the middle and is mostly liquid with some suspended solids. This is the water that get passed on to the next step of your septic system.

The sludge layer forms on the bottom of the treatment tank, and is the result of the break down of the scum layer. The sludge layer is made up of broken down waste, dead bacteria and other matter. Its highly important that this layer is removed at frequent intervals to prevent excess sludge from exiting the tank, and to create room for new, healthy bacteria to form.
  • Primary Tank Components
The primary tank has a few highly important components that are crucial to your systems health.

The Inlet Baffle is the first component after the plumbing leading to the tank. The inlet baffles purple is to slow down the incoming flow of water, and direct it downwards into the water layer, allowing the solids to gently float back to the top.

The Outlet Baffle is highly important. The outlet baffle is located on the outlet side of the tank and is attached to the drain line leaving the tank. The outlet baffle has multiple purposes, it is in place to stop the scum layer from floating into the outlet line. It also collects effluent from the water layer of the tank, allowing mostly water to be sent on to the next step. Without an outlet baffle, excess solids are being allowed to pass on through the system.

The Manhole access is the main and usually largest port on a septic tank. It is very important that we have access to this in order to properly pump and inspect your tank components.

The Inspection port(s) are smaller accesses to a septic tank. They are typically located over the inlet and/or outlet baffle. They allow access direct to your inlet and outlet line and baffles.

  • Absorption Area
The absorption area, or more commonly known as leech field or drain field is the next step after waste water is pre-treated in the primary tank. The primary goal of the absorption area is to distribute the wastewater evenly into the ground. From there the water is filtered down through the existing soil, cleaning it and making it safe to reenter the water table.

There are several different variences to an absorption are and you may find the following components.
  • Distribution System
All conventional systems have a distribution system. Older systems typically only had one single line made out of terrocotta drain tiles, or even cement pipe.

  • Secondary Tanks and Effluent Pump Tanks
Secondary tanks or compartments are a standard in system installations now. The secondary tank or compartment gives another area for solids to settle out of the effluent water column. They are typically fitted with an inlet and outlet baffle. All systems built after the year 2000 are required to have an effluent filter.

A Effluent Filter is found in the outlet side of the second tank or compartment. The filter is used to catch small floating particles such as seeds, suspended solids, hair, and non organic materials. Effluent Filters need to be cleaned on a regular basis, usually starting at a three month interval and adjust accordingly.

  • Effluent Filter Cleaning and Maintenance

It is highly important that you clean the effluent filter before it is needed. If a filter is left go to long between cleaning cycles, they can become clogged to the point that they let very little water pass through. This causes the water level to rise in your secondary and primary tank, and can cause issues within your house.

If the water level is higher than normal, never remove an effluent filter without having the tank pumped first. Doing so will allow a rush of water to flow out the outlet pipe, taking with it debris that may have fallen off the filter. This can also cause water to stir up excess solids in your pump tank, and then be pumped out to your absorption area.

If conditions are correct, use the following steps to successfully clean your filter.

  1. Carefully remove filter from its housing, the filter should easily slide out.
  2. rinse filter with clean water outside the tank, never rinse the filter off back into the tank.
  3. Carefully reinstall filter back into its housing.