A septic system transfers liquid and solid household wastes to a holding tank for treatment. A house's sewer line delivers the waste to a septic tank buried nearby. Solid wastes settle to the bottom of the tank where microorganisms digest it. Waste water flows to distribution boxes that release it through drain pipes for dispersal in the drain field. The septic tank should be pumped of accumulated solids as needed. Some plumbing codes require that water from sinks and showers (called greywater) is distributed in a separate system that doesn't require a chemically active tank.
How often should you have your septic tank pumped? It depends on the capacity of the tank and the number of people who live in the house. A household of two with a 1,000-gallon tank may need to have the tank pumped only about every six years. But a household of six with a tank of 2,000 gallons may need to have it pumped about every three years. You can call a septic pumping service for additional guidelines; some will come check the level of your tank once a year and advise you.
If all the drains in the house work sluggishly or don't drain at all, check and clear the main drain.
If you smell sewage around the septic tank or the drain field, or if you see black or gray water oozing up from the drain field, call for professional septic system service.