Septic Locating – Before a septic maintenance job is begun on the septic system, the first task is to locate the septic tank. A safety warning for anyone trying to achieve this feat is to beware of an old, collapsing septic system. Also, a large property can have multiple systems, tanks, or main drains. So take into consideration the layout, and if the property had any expansion to it.
The location of your septic tank is not a secret. There's going to be a way for you to find it and note its location for future reference, let us first explain how a septic system works.
How does a Septic System work?
In a traditional septic system, all water and wastes carried by that water flows down the home's drain system and through one main sewer pipe to the septic tank. The flow of waste water may be a matter of simple gravity, or it may be enhanced with an electric pump. The septic tank holds the waste material long enough for the solids to settle to the bottom as oil, grease, and liquids — the scum later — float to the top. When the tank reaches capacity, the liquids
lying on top of the scum layer flow onward into a series of porous
pipes to a drain field prepared with gravel and other aggregate that helps disperse the liquid waste. The liquids slowly filter down through the soil as bacterial action breaks down the pathogens. By the time the liquid waste filters down to groundwater supplies, it is virtually sterile.
Meanwhile, the solids in the tank break down under the affect of anaerobic bacteria, creating a sludgy material that collects in the bottom of the tank. If the bacterial action is effective, these solid wastes are greatly reduced in volume as they break down.
#1 Use a Septic Tank Map
First things first – consult a map. Often, using a map is the easiest option. Most counties retain records of the installation of septic tanks at all addresses. These maps should include diagrams showing the exact location of the tank on the property, and dimensions so that you can measure and find the exact spot. Don’t forget that landmarks might change throughout the years depending on when the tank was installed, so if there’s a few more bushes or a tree nearby, don’t count that spot out.
Keep your eyes open as you walk your property and search for any unexplained high or low spots that might indicate a buried tank. For example, you might notice a hill or mound on your property, which is often an indicator that a septic tank is nearby.
Another thing to pay attention to when looking for a septic tank is the grass or other greenery in your yard. Depending on the condition of your septic system, the grass might be more verdant and faster-growing in the area near the tank. Or, if the tank was not buried properly, you might notice a "bald patch," or an area where the grass is having a hard time growing.
Pro Tip: If you just purchased a property, this map should be included with your home inspection paperwork.
If you don't find a map or other documentation explaining where your septic tank is, there are a few places to check to see if you can get access to a map. One is your county health department. County health departments often maintain records of septic systems. You can also check to see if there is a property survey map available from your municipality or county. A survey map might contain the location of a septic tank.
#2 Inspect Your Yard
Septic tanks are installed to be as inconspicuous as possible. After time has passed and the grass has grown, sometimes it’s hard to really see the visual clues that pointed out exactly where your septic tank was installed. But that does not mean there won't still be clues helping to direct you to the location of your septic tank. First things first, you want to rule out places where your septic tank won't be:
We’re sure you know, your septic tank is installed along the sewer line that extends from your home and into the yard. In the basement or crawl space of your home, you should be able to find a four-inch sewer pipe that will lead the way to your septic system. If your basement is finished, the sewer pipe might be hidden away in a closet or another closed off area. Generally speaking, though, you are looking for a four-inch diameter pipe that exits your house through a basement wall.
Note where the pipe leaves your house, and then head outside to find the corresponding area in your yard. Follow the pipe by sticking a thin metal probe (known as a soil probe) into the ground near the sewer line. Probe about every two feet. Most septic tanks are around 10-25 feet away from your home, and cannot be closer than five feet. Once you feel the probe striking flat concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene, you will have located your tank.
What to Do After You Find Your Septic Tank?
Once you’ve located your tank, it’s time to call in the professionals. Trust us, opening up a septic tank is not something just anyone wants to do. Concrete septic tank lids are very heavy and require specific lifting tools to remove. Because of the contents, fumes can be toxic so please heed our warning and do not attempt to open the tank yourself. An open septic tank can be dangerous to anyone walking along your property, and if someone should fall in, it could actually be fatal due to the toxicity.