Winston Salem septic tank expert discusses cleaning and care
Who we talked to
If you ask 40-year-old Danny Sprinkle how long he's been in the septic business, he'll say 40 years. His grandfather started the business in 1952 and passed it on to Danny's father when he retired. Danny was brought in as a partial owner in 2000 and hasn't looked back since. "It might not be the cleanest thing you can do or the easiest," he says, "but at the end of the day, you feel goodbecause you helped someone."
How often should you get your septic tank cleaned?
"Normally, we recommend every three to five years. It's like changing the oil filter on an automobile - it just needs to be done to keep your system working properly. It normally takes 45 minutes to an hour and costs about $200 to $250, depending on if we have to uncover the tank or not."
What kinds of safety precautions do you take?
"There's nothing very hazardous about the sewage itself. There's really only one communicable disease you have to worry about, and that's hepatitis. We all have hepatitis vaccinations. We normally wear rubber gloves but don't need respirators unless we're recovering a ring or something else from the tank. There isn't really anything you can do about the smell."
What can a homeowner do between cleanings?
"There are a lot of products on the market that are supposed to work wonders. If they worked, I'd be out of business. The best thing to do is to limit what goes through the tank. Avoid putting anything other than waste or toilet paper through the system. Don't dump any grease down the kitchen sink, either."
What's the strangest thing you've ever found?
"We had some customers who had left the lid off of their tank. When we pumped the tank, we saw what appeared to be a rake at the bottom. The homeowners came out, and when the wife saw the mass, she screamed, 'Fluffy!' and ran into the house. Her husband explained their dog had disappeared, and they thought he had just wandered off. If I ever find anything human-looking, I have an evacuation plan. When we clean out the trucks to get the sediment out, we find all kinds of jewelry and coinage. If it can fit down a toilet, we've found it."