Information about maintaining your septic system

Your Septic System

On-Site Sewage Management Systems (OSSMS or Septic System) process all of the waste generated by your household.

There are two major components of an OSSMS:
Septic Tank – provides storage for all solids and primary treatment of the sewage.
Absorption Field – provides secondary treatment of the septage effluent by dispersing it underground to filter through the soil.

Maintenance of the tank will prolong the life expectancy of the absorption field. Failure to properly maintain your system may lead to financial hardship and create a health hazard for you, your family and your neighbors.

Steps to Pump Out a Septic Tank
The Contractor should:

  • Obtain a copy of the OSSMS Inspection Report.
  • Use Inspection Report to locate the septic tank.
  • Uncover the inlet and outlet ends of the tank.
  • Remove lids on each end of the tank.
  • Remove complete contents of the septic tank including the liquid, sludge and scum.
  • Check both “T’s” for blockage and damage.  Replace “T” if missing or damaged.
  • If present, remove and clean the filter, tthen reinsert
  • Properly replace lids on both ends of the tank.
  • Replace excavated dirt.
  • Provide written documentation, regarding the condition of the septic tank, including any damage or missing components, to the owner and the local Board of Health.
  • Dispose of the septage at an approved processing facility.


Number of Occupants
Tank size 1 2 3 4 5
1000 12. 0 yr. 5. 9 yr. 3. 7 yr. 2. 6 yr. 2. 0 yr.
1500 19. 0 yr. 9. 1 yr. 5. 9 yr. 4. 2 yr. 3. 3 yr.
More frequent pumping would be needed if garbage grinder is present

Items To Never Put In Your Septic Tank
Due to the problems they may cause, none of the following items should ever be intentionally put into your septic tank:

  • Oil, fat or grease
  • Coffee grounds
  • Paper towels
  • Cigarette butts
  • Anything plastic
  • Medications, especially antibiotics
  • Condoms
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Paint or solvents
  • Industrial cleaners
  • Large amounts of cleaning products
  • Automobile fluids such as:  gas, oil, antifreeze or transmission fluid

Common SurchargesDeKalb County Board of Health cannot regulate business practices regarding the cost of services or ethical conduct.  You are encouraged to research contractors and their services.  Obtain several detailed quotes regarding the pumping charges, and find out if additional surcharges may be added.  Surcharges can be costly.  Listed below are common additional costs.

  • An additional charge may be added for each section of hose needed to reach from the pump truck to the septic tank.
  • An additional charge may be added if the depth of the septic tank is deeper than the contractor’s predetermined depth.  This depth may vary.  Approved risers may be installed to bring access to within twelve inches (12”) of the ground surface to prevent this surcharge in the future.
  • Some contractors may want to knock a hole in the lid of the septic tank and install a small access port to facilitate service of the tank in the future.  Holes should not be broken in the lid of the tank and only approved risers with at least fifteen inch diameter (15”) should be installed to facilitate access to the septic tank.
  • An additional charge may be added to dig-up and open both ends of the septic tank.  Both ends should be opened in order to properly evaluate the structural integrity of the septic tank and both “T’s”, to confirm there are no blockages in either “T” and to ensure that there is complete removal of all septage from the entire septic tank.
  • An additional charge may be added if the septic tank contains more septage than the capacity it is designed to hold.  The tank is designed to maintain a six inch (6”) to eight inch (8”) space from the top of the septage to the top of the septic tank.  The contractor would then have to pay more to dispose of the additional septage at the processing facility.
  • An additional charge may be added to clean the effluent filter, if present.  The contractor simply removes the filter from the “T,” uses a water hose to rinse it off, then returns the filter to the outlet “T.”  The filter should be cleaned when the tank is serviced, but this entire process requires no tools in excess of a garden hose and only takes a few minutes to complete.
  • An additional charge may be added for a new filter.  As described above, the same filter can be cleaned and reused.  A new filter should not be necessary if the original filter is not damaged.
  • Some contractors recommend additives to their clients.  This may be either a one time starter application or a monthly treatment.  There has not been definitive research which proves that any additive benefits a system as a whole.  Please remember, your system consists not only of a tank but also an absorption field. DeKalb County Board of Health does not recommend the use of additives.
  • Some contractors recommend jetting the absorption field.  This forces water, under high pressure, into the field in an effort to break-up the biomat or as a troubleshooting tool.  Since most problems associated with an absorption field are due to saturation, forcing more water into the field is not recommended.  Furthermore, this process can damage older pipes.
  • If the “T” is damaged or missing, a replacement is required.  A new “T” is composed of schedule 40 PVC or an ASTM equivalent.  This should not be a costly or difficult repair.