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Routine maintenance and pumping of the septic tank is the most important thing you can do to extend the life span of your system. Failure to do so could lead to sewage backing-up into the house, spilling onto the ground surface, and having to spend thousands of dollars on a costly repair. While routine maintenance will not prevent the eventual failure of the absorption field, it can prolong the life span of the field, allowing you to achieve the greatest return from your investment.

Depending upon when your septic tank was installed, you may have either a single compartment or a two (2) compartment tank. There is not much difference between the tanks … the two compartment simply has a partition approximately two thirds (2/3) to three quarters (3/4) through to prevent larger suspended solids from exiting the tank and entering the absorption field. Additionally, as the larger suspended solids remain on the inlet side of the partition, an effluent filter is placed on the outlet side to trap even more of the suspended solids as the effluent exits the septic tank. This filter is not recommended on single compartment septic tanks as frequent cleaning of the filter is needed adding a tremendous financial burden to the owner.

Cross-section of a two-compartment septic tank

Cross-section of a single compartment septic tank

The bacteria in your conventional anaerobic septic tank will only break down up to forty percent (40%) of the solids introduced. The other sixty percent (60%) will continue to build to the point that it could cause sewage to back-up into the building or push out into the absorption field. Either could cause a significant inconvenience and/or financial burden which could be avoided with proper maintenance via routine pumping of the septic tank.

Additional Maintenance References

DHR Homeowner's Guide to On-Site Sewage Management System
Specifically page five (5) for a recommended pumping frequency based upon the capacity of the septic tank and the number of occupants.

Septic Tank Maintenance Brochure 

The Georgia Department of Human Resources does not mandate that risers be on the septic tank unless there is twelve inches (12") or more soil cover over the tank. If this is the case, a DHR approved riser should be installed to bring the opening to the ground surface, or at least to within twelve inches (12") of to the ground surface. Additionally, you may wish to have risers installed on each end of the septic tank simply to facilitate septage removal and to minimize the disturbance of your yard and landscaping. Please note that any riser your contractor installs must be approved for use in Georgia by DHR prior to installation. These risers are designed to meet specific loading requirements and are at least fifteen inches (15") in diameter. Four inch (4") or six inch (6") PVC is not an acceptable riser. Lastly, to prevent unintended access to children, the lid must either be at least sixty-five pounds (65 lbs.) in weight and cannot be removed by horizontal sliding, or secured in a manner that would require simple tools such as a screwdriver or wrench to remove.

Examples of Risers

Example of a properly installed DHR approved Riser (jpg)

This is NOT a DHR approved Riser (jpg)
This is NOT a DHR approved Riser (jpg)


As previously noted, filters are required for all two (2) compartment septic tanks, but are not recommended for single compartment tanks. As part of the routine service and maintenance, the filter should be cleaned when the septic tank is being pumped. The process is fairly simple. The filter is removed, usually sprayed with water from a garden hose until all debris has been removed, then re-inserted into the outlet "T."

Examples of Filters

Example 1 (jpg)
Example 2 (jpg)
Example 3 (jpg)
Example 4 (jpg)

Clayton County Board of Health
Office of Environmental Health Services

1 Crown Center 1895 Phoenix Blvd, Suite 350 College Park, GA 30349
Phone: (678) 610-7469   Fax: (770) 603-4874