Septic Tank Pumping FAQs

Q - When is the new ordinance effective?
A - January 1, 2021.

Q - How often am I required to pump my septic tank?
A - You are required, at a minimum, to pump your tank every five years.  Some tanks need more frequent pumping.

Q - Why do I need to pump my tank?
A - Septic tanks provide primary treatment of your wastewater.  Solids settle out in the tank so that the effluent can flow out of the tanks for treatment in the drain field.  While bacteria do a great job breaking up the solids and reducing the volume of solids in the tank, some solids do not break down. If the solids build up in the tank, the wastewater entering the tank does not have sufficient time to settle the solids.  This results in solids leaving the tank and clogging the drain field (expensive to repair), or being discharged directly to ditches, waterways or the ground surface (pollution).  Pumping the tank removes the solids and frees up the space for settling to occur.

Q - If I pumped my tank less than five years ago, do I need to pump it again in 2021 to comply with this ordinance?
A - No.  As an example, if you pumped your tank in May, 2018, you will not have to pump your tank again until May, 2023.

Q - I last pumped my tank 20 years ago.  Do I have to pump my septic tank in 2021 or in 2026 (five years after the effective date of the ordinance)?
A - 2021, when weather and field conditions permit.  Because this is a new regulation, those tank owners who haven’t pumped the tank in more than five years will have a five-month grace period (June 1, 2021) to get the tank pumped.  Do not wait until the last minute.

Q - Do I need to contact the county to let them know that I pumped the tank?
A - No, but please keep the receipt.  The Environmental Health Department has access to the licensed pumpers’ records and can look up an address to see if a tank was pumped.

Q - How much will this cost?
A - A survey of pumpers showed that the cost ranges from $260 - $400.  The higher costs are due to lots of digging to access the tank lids.

Q - Is there a way to avoid digging in the future?
A - You can have a contractor add risers from the tank to the ground surface. In 2009, the Department of Natural Resources began requiring risers for all new tanks.

Q. - If I use tank additives, why do I need to pump the tank?
A. - Scientists who study wastewater treatment recommend you NOT use additives.   Usually using the “facilities” is sufficient to keep your tank bacteria healthy.  Additives actually cause the solids to break down too much, and flow out of the tank, clogging your drain field.  At the cost of about $5/month, you are spending $300 over the course of five years for tank additives. This is about what is costs to pump your tank!

Q - Can I pump my own tank?
A. - Only if you have the proper equipment and a place to dispose of it.   Please contact the Environmental Health Department if you plan to pump your own tank.