Septic tank advice from Philadelphia plumber

Joseph L. Linderman started his career as a home builder. But as the home-building market slowed in the late-1980s, he discovered a new calling working as a septic tank serviceman before starting his own company, Great Valley Septic Services, Inc., in 2001.

"A family friend worked for a septic company and spoke very highly of it, so it was more like I was joining the company than the industry itself," Linderman says. "But I felt at home with the people and the environment, so I've been in the industry ever since."

How often should a septic tank be cleaned and how long does it take?

"There's more to septic system maintenance than just cleaning. We always advise our clients whether or not a septic system is cleaned or pumped, it should be inspected every one to three years, depending on the number of people in the home. It takes about 45 minutes to clean an average tank."

What kinds of safety precautions do you take when cleaning a septic system?

"Most of the safety precautions we take come from an environmental aspect. We make sure what we're pumping is indeed household wastewater and not cleaning compounds or chemicals. The biggest precaution we take is with disposal, which always takes place at a state-approved sewage disposal location. We vacuum-clean the tank's contents onto the trucks and transport it to a wastewater treatment location."

What can a homeowner do between cleanings to take care of the septic system and keep it in top condition?

"The biggest thing is to use the septic system cautiously. Don't use it as a garbage disposal. Keep in mind that whatever you put down the drain stays on your property and has to be processed through the system."

What's the strangest thing you've ever found when cleaning a septic tank?

"The strangest thing we've found was an antique cowboy-era pistol. The property's drainage was so good that the pistol was in plain sight [in the tank] and in good condition. The year before we cleaned the tank someone had died at the property, so we alerted the authorities when we found the gun. It turned out the person died of natural causes and his wife was just ridding herself of some of his things using the septic system. It wasn't such a good place to get rid of it after all."

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