Septic tank expert discusses installation and cost
Who we talked to
Ann Marie Prettyman has been in the septic business with her husband, Don, for 11 years. When people find out what she does for a living, she says they're full of questions and witty remarks.Prettyman says this is the best part of the job. "Being able to help people when they're in need and they know we won't take advantage of them," she says. "That's the most enjoyable part."
How often should you get your septic tank cleaned?
"You should pump your tank every two to three years. Watch for slow draining and gurgling. That's what you should notice before the back up happens in your home."
What kinds of safety precautions do you take when cleaning a septic system?
"The driver should always use gloves, never stand on the septic lid and never get inside a tank unless they have an oxygen mask and someone is there to help. The only thing that works for the smell is adding lime."
How long does an average cleaning take, and what's the process involved?
"An average cleaning takes about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how easy it is to locate and dig up the tank. We start by locating the tank by probing the area until we find it. Then we dig it up. Once we get the lid off we pull the filter out and clean it, then we start to pump the tank. Once we've emptied the tank we can backwash it to get all the sludge from the bottom. Then we put the lid back on, seal it and bury the tank."
What can a homeowner do between cleanings to take care of the septic system?
"All they need to do is watch what they put down the drain. Don't use grease, bleach, or a garbage disposal as if it were a garbage can. And don't do back-to-back loads of laundry."
What's the strangest thing you've ever found when cleaning a septic tank?
"The saddest thing we found was a dog. The strangest thing we found was a frozen chicken from someone's freezer. The customer said they put a frozen chicken from the grocery store in their tank every time they pump it out. They said someone recommended it [not us] and they've done it ever since."