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Van Goethem Septic Systems Services

Frequently Asked Questions

 

How often do I need to have my septic tank pumped out?

Septic tank pumping frequency will be determined by a number of factors. If your septic system has a multi-compartment 1000 gallon or larger septic tank for a normal residential situation with 6 or fewer occupants in the residence, we suggest having your septic tank pumped once every three years. If your septic system has a single-compartment 1000 gallon or larger septic tank for a normal residential situation with 4 or fewer occupants in the residence, we suggest having your septic tank pumped once every two years. If your septic system has a single compartment septic tank less than 1000 gallons in size or if your residence has more than 4 occupants with a single compartment septic tank, we suggest pumping your septic tank once per year. If you have a garbage disposal in your residence, we suggest pumping your septic tank twice per year.

Why do I have a sewer smell in my home?

A sewer smell in the home is usually attributed to an issue with the plumbing venting in the home or with a drain fixture p-trap. If there is a vent pipe that is cracked or has a leaky joint located in the home, this will allow odor from the septic tank to escape into the home. If the vent pipe, generally located on the roof of the home, is blocked or frosted over in winter, this will not allow the plumbing venting system to work properly. When a toilet is flushed or a sink is drained, the air located in the drainage pipe ahead of the wastewater must be expelled somewhere, usually through the vent pipe. If the vent pipe is blocked, the air will be expelled through the p-trap or drain of another fixture in the home, probably causing a gurgling sound. When this occurs, the water level in the p-trap is lowered somewhat thereby allowing some of the odor from the septic tank to escape into the home through the fixture drain. In some cases, if it is or has been very windy outside, the water that is located in the p-trap of each plumbing drain fixture may be siphoned out of the p-trap and thereby allow the odor from the septic tank to escape into the home through the fixture drain. Simply run some water down the drain of this fixture to refill the p-trap.

Why do I have a sewer smell in my backyard?

Dependant upon the location of the plumbing vent on the roof of your home and the amount of air movement in your backyard, you may occasionally experience a septic odor in your backyard. Wind from a particular direction may draft or ‘pull’ the septic smell out of the plumbing vent located on your roof and deposit it in your backyard. Backyards with many trees or buildings around it tend to have higher occurrences of this septic smell because the air movement in the backyard is generally much less. The only potential remedies for this nuisance is to extend the plumbing vent on the roof of the home or to install a carbon filter on the plumbing vent end.

 

Why should I not use a garbage disposal with my septic system?

Food waste is not handled very well by a septic system. Food waste, especially fats and greases, tend to not settle to the bottom of your septic tank with the heavy sludge or float to the top of your septic tank to become part of the crust. The food waste generally stays in the form of a ‘greasy film’ that will flow through your outlet baffle or effluent filter and into your soil absorption system. Once this ‘greasy film’ flows into your soil absorption system, it forms a barrier between the system and the soils that would normally absorb the wastewater. This will cause your system to start retaining water or ‘ponding’ and will eventually lead to system failure. Use of garbage disposal with a septic system will also cause the crust/scum layer to increase in thickness significantly faster because of the food waste that is entering the septic tank. This will cause the effluent filter in the septic tank to clog much more frequently.

Why should I not empty my water treatment system (water softener) discharge into my septic system?

The discharge from these water treatment units generally has some salt residue with it. As a water treatment unit ages, it will become less efficient and thereby discharge more of the salt residue. The salt residue tends to lower the naturally forming bacteria counts in your septic tank and soil absorption system. If the bacteria count is lowered in your septic tank, the amount of solids or sludge level in your septic tank will increase dramatically and thereby require more frequent septic tank pumping. The other negative aspect of the salt residue in your septic tank is that the effluent (waste water) in your septic tank becomes more like ‘sea water’, because of the salt, and solids tend to become more buoyant. If the solids do not settle to the bottom of the septic tank and they remain suspended in the effluent, the larger solids will become attached to the effluent filter, requiring much more frequent filter cleanings, and the smaller solids will pass through to the soil absorption system and begin to unnecessarily add to the clogging mat that will eventually become impenetrable and lead to system failure. The salt residue also will lower the bacteria count in your soil absorption system. The naturally forming bacteria in your soil absorption system feed on the clogging mat that will form in your soil absorption system. If the number of bacteria is lower than what it could be, the clogging mat will form more quickly, thereby leading to a shorter life span for your soil absorption system.

Where can I empty my water treatment system (water softener) discharge to?

Current codes, in the state of Wisconsin, allow for water treatment discharge to be discharged to your septic system or to the surface of the ground. We strongly suggest that you do not discharge it to your septic system for the reasons listed in the above question. If you do discharge to the surface of the ground, keep in mind that the discharge is not very conducive to landscape plantings or lawn areas.

Why does my effluent filter clog so frequently?

Effluent filters that are located in single-compartment treatment tanks will clog much more frequently than if they are located in the last chamber of a double (multi) compartment treatment tank. Some common reasons for frequent effluent filter clogging are (1) Large volume of water usage in the residence; (2) Large tubs or spas being emptied into the septic tank frequently; (3) Use of a garbage disposal in the residence (See FAQ #5); (4) Water treatment system discharge emptying into the septic tank (See FAQ #6)

 

What is the process for obtaining the sanitary permit necessary to install a septic system?

The first step is to have a soil evaluation done on the site. The soil evaluation will determine what type of septic system can be installed, what size the septic system will be and where the septic system can be located. The next step would be to submit the soil test to various septic system installers so they can create an estimate for the cost of the proposed septic system. Once a septic system installer is then chosen, the septic system would then be designed, typically by the installer. The designed septic system is then submitted to either a state plan approval agent or the local county sanitary regulatory department for approval. After the septic system design is approved, then the sanitary permit can be issued by the local county sanitary regulatory department. The timeframe necessary for this design approval process and the issuance of the sanitary permit can vary from a few days to as long as a month.

Should I be adding any treatment additives into my septic system?

We do not feel there is any advantage to adding any treatment additives to your septic system. A properly operating septic system will naturally generate the bacteria necessary for it to function properly. If the bacteria count is low in your septic tank or soil absorption system, treatment additives will only provide a short term fix for this problem. If something exists in the septic tank or soil absorption system environment that is not conducive to the survival of these naturally forming bacteria, the treatment additive bacteria will not survive or thrive for very long either. Therefore, it is more important to make certain that very little anti-bacterial waste is allowed into the septic system versus adding treatment additives to your septic system.

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