May 17, 2021

A Septic Tank Maintenance Guide

As every property owner will know, taking care of your home involves a multitude of maintenance responsibilities. Whether it’s repairing fences, updating the decor, or cleaning the gutters there are certain tasks that require your attention throughout the year.

For homeowners with septic tanks, this list of tasks should extend to include the tank. Septic tank maintenance is essential for ensuring the septic tank remains in optimal condition, yet many homeowners neglect the maintenance for fear of it being difficult or hazardous. 

Ironically a malfunctioning septic tank can cause a wealth of environmental issues and pose a risk to health, so it’s well worth maintaining the tank to avoid problems or even incurring fines from the government who place strict regulations on the upkeep.

Thankfully maintaining your septic tank isn’t difficult, so we’ve broken down the necessary maintenance tasks below in a handy guide.
Related Reading: If you’re new to owning a septic tank, find out more about what it is and how it works here.

General Septic Tank Responsibilities

Before getting into the more detailed maintenance, there are a range of general tasks which fall to the responsibility of the homeowner. These include:

  • Ensuring emptying or desludging of the septic tank regularly to prevent causing pollution
  • Immediately repairing any faults or problems by using a waste management service agent
  • Limiting the septic tank system’s maximum discharge to 2000 litres of sewage per day into the ground, or 5000 litres of treated sewage per day into flowing water. A permit will be required if these amounts need to be exceeded
  • Ensuring inspection of the area where the septic tank releases sewage on a monthly basis to identify and prevent any hazardous issues from occurring 
  • Ensuring emptying of the septic tank annually through a registered waste management service agent

Other general things to be aware of include the tank appearing full, and when exactly to schedule the septic tank to be completely emptied and cleaned.

What are the signs that your septic tank is full?

If your septic tank is full, you may notice these 7 signs:

  1. Pooling water
  2. Slow drains
  3. Odours
  4. An overly healthy lawn
  5. Sewer backup
  6. Gurgling Pipes
  7. Trouble Flushing

You can read more about what to do in the event of a full septic tank, and other signs to be aware of in our blog here.

How often should a septic tank be emptied?

The general advice for when to empty a septic tank is between every 3 to 5 years. However the frequency does vary depending on the household and the size of the tank.

Read more about when to empty your septic tank and get an idea of costs here.

Septic tank legal responsibilities

New laws introduced in 2015, which took full effect at the beginning of 2020, mean that changes have recently been made into the governing and regulation of septic tanks which could put property owners at risk of attracting fines if they are non-compliant. 

Under the new law homeowners must regularly maintain their septic tanks, and if they are causing pollution they are upheld as responsible in the eyes of the law. There are also changes regarding:

  • Compliance is no longer the automatic responsibility of the property or land owner where discharge takes place. Instead the responsibility falls to the owner of the land or property where the septic tank is either located or being used.
  • Septic tank owners must maintain and operate the septic system themselves, or have a written agreement with a service provider or other person to take care of the responsibility. Specific guidance must be included as to what maintenance will be required to ensure full compliance.
  • If the property is being sold, sellers must inform potential buyers whether or not the property has a septic tank or small sewage treatment plant and must note its location, maintenance requirements and inform them of any defects
  • Properties which are located in government designated environmentally sensitive areas may require the use of a permit to run their septic tank to protect habitats
  • Septic tanks must not discharge directly into a watercourse. Instead property owners must install small sewage treatment plants which allows the liquid to be clean before it reaches a waterway. This is applicable across new-build properties as well as those with an existing system.

How do you maintain a septic tank?

Thankfully, despite the changing regulation and the emphasised importance of property owners maintaining their septic tank, its maintenance is straightforward.

Follow these general steps to prevent problems arising and to stay in line with current government guidelines:

  • On a monthly basis inspect the area where the septic tank releases sewage.
  • Check for unusual smells or unusual pools of water that have appeared. These could be signs of something in the septic tank malfunctioning, and will require a service agent. 
  • Watch for overflowing sludge or scum on the water if your septic tank flows into water, as this could indicate a problem with the discharge.
  • Abide by the list of requirements necessary which will be listed on the permit issued if your property is in an environmentally sensitive area.
  • Keep your property water efficient by ensuring to only take showers of a necessary length and choosing water efficient appliances. This prevents the system being overloaded with water.
  • Ensure that fats, oils, grease, wet wipes, disposable wipes, sanitary items, coffee grounds, egg shells, cigarette butts, paper towels, paints or antibacterial items with hazardous chemicals are not going down sinks to prevent problems like blockages and overflowing tanks from occurring. 
  • Make sure to get your tank cleaned and pumped every 3-5 years.
  • Before installing a new septic system speak to the Environment Agency to double check whether a permit is required. Also ensure that any new systems meet the British Standard BS EN 12566 requirement and adhere to regional planning regulations.
  • Maintain a detailed record of all work carried out on the septic tank system, including noting down any issues and including copies of any documents which provide evidence of repair works.

The last step you can take is to appoint a qualified waste broker, like us here at D-Tox. On an annual basis we can empty your septic tank and remove up to 4000 gallons of effluent at any time from your site. We can also empty septic tanks and cesspits at domestic and commercial properties. If you’re in need of our services, get in touch with us today for your free quote. 

Related Services

Septic Tank Emptying Service

Further Reading

Signs you septic tank needs emptying

How often should you empty a septic tank

What is a septic tank & how does one work

Christian Heritage

After joining the business at the end of its first year of trading, Christian has been involved in all aspects of the business.
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