Residential Questions

Septic systems last an average of 20 years. A properly constructed and maintained system can last longer. A system that is not maintained can fail in 2 years or less. Regular maintenance protects the investment and avoids replacement costs. Maintenance also protects the health of your family, the community and the environment. Replacing a failing septic system can cost from $3,000 to $35,000 compared to the $350 and up (depending on your area) that it costs to have the system inspected and pumped out every few years. When systems fail, inadequately treated household wastewater is released into the environment. This can contaminate nearby wells, ground water, and drinking water sources. Any contact with untreated human waste can pose significant health risks. Septic system maintenance is simple:

  • Every 3 years have us vacuum the solids from the tank.
    Water conservation is very important.
    Knowing what not to flush is important. Do not use the septic system for disposal of anything that can easily be put into the trash. This only adds to the solids built up that will eventually need to be pumped out.
    Avoid grinding up food scraps, coffee grounds, and disposing of grease and cooking oils down the drains.
  • Use toilet paper that is biodegradable and approved for use in septic systems by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).
  • Don’t plant trees within 6 feet of the system, their roots can clog the pipes.
  • Don’t allow anyone to drive over or park on the septic system.
  • Don’t fence livestock over the septic system.
  • Don’t dig in or cover the drain field with concrete or asphalt. Grass should be the only cover.
  • Don’t pour harmful chemicals or cleansers into the system. Paints, varnishes, thinners, waste oils, photographic solutions, and pesticides can destroy the biological action in the system and pollute the environment.
  • Don’t attempt to repair the septic system without contacting Waters Vacuum Truck Service. We will obtain the required Health Department permits and make necessary repairs.
  • Use appropriate caution when inspecting the septic system as toxic gases can be released.

  • Home owners should be alert to the following warning signs of a failing septic system:
  • Test results of well water show the presence of bacteria.
  • The ground in the area is wet or soggy.
  • Grass grows greener or faster in the area.
  • Sewage odors in the house or yard.
  • Plumbing backups into the house.
  • Slowly draining sinks and toilets.
  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing.
  • If one or more of these warning signs exist, the home owner should contact Waters Vacuum Truck Service to have the system inspected and pumped.

County health departments issue permits and inspect systems as they are installed. If you have questions about your tank location contact your local Environmental Health Department to see if they have a plot plan on file for your property. Additionally, Waters Vacuum Truck Service maintains a record of most tank locations for septic tanks we have serviced in the past. If you cannot find your septic tank based on the County map, please call Waters to see if we have your tank location on file.

Water in city water systems is tested monthly or in some very small towns quarterly. The State Health Department recommends yearly tests for bacteria level in private wells. Nitrate levels should not change quickly enough to warrant yearly testing and should be checked every other or every third year. It is wise to keep a file of all old tests for reference.

By far the biggest health concern is bacteria. Bacteria which inhabit the human gut are called coliform bacteria. The water lab filters the sample and then imprints the filter on agar and grows out bacteria colonies in the growth chamber. You must have a ZERO test for coliform bacteria to be sure your water quality is acceptable. Nitrate is less of a problem and tests should be below 10 milligrams per liter (mgl) or parts per million (ppm). Some people have hard water and conduct a hardness test. Iron and manganese are the most common mineral problems.

Any local Well company should have them available for purchase.  Our customers have always spoken highly of Bruce MacKay Pump and Well Service in particular.

It is possible the case has developed a leak. It is also possible that you had some well repair work done and the repair worker never shock chlorinated the well after the repair. This is standard and if it was not done call them back. We have information on shock chlorination if you desire to do it yourself.

Excavation Questions

We recommend that you first inspect the site with a private septic systems consultant. Waters Vacuum Truck Service can perform this service. Waters Vacuum Truck Service is familiar with various codes and requirements. We can give you at least a rough idea whether or not your plans are feasible. When you are ready to proceed, we can help you apply for a site review and percolation tests.

Yes, you may obtain a septic system construction permit prior to the issuance of a building permit. However, the septic system permit will not become valid until the building permit is issued.

Sometimes records are available through other sources, such as prior owners or the Building Inspection Division. We can locate your septic system and advise you of the options available.

Generally speaking, a recently installed septic system which complies with all current code requirements will be a Class I system. Sometimes, due to site conditions, soil depths, setback problems and other reasons it may not be possible to comply with the code in one or more aspects. We can assist in gaining a resolution from the appropriate code enforcement authority.

That depends on our current workload, staff availability and the complexity of your project. Summer and fall are the busiest times of the year. Once a design is submitted with all fees paid, we try to respond in no more than 30 days.

Perk tests are generally valid for 30 days.

Not necessarily. Due to site conditions, soil depths, setback problems and other reasons it may not be possible to comply with the Code in one or more respects to allow the property to be permitted.

Yes, you will need to replace the septic tank, apply for a permit, and pay the appropriate fee. It must be constructed of approved materials, either concrete or fiberglass. A septic evaluation would be required.

No. It is recommended that the individual buyer have the septic system evaluated by a qualified professional.  Waters Vacuum Truck Service is able to perform a complete inspection including a hydrostatic performance check of the leech field.  Unlike most other companies we will allow all costs to be billed through escrow.

Gray water is untreated household waste water which has not come into contact with toilet waste. Gray water includes used water from bathtubs, showers, bathroom wash basins, and water from clothes washing machines and laundry tubs. It does not include waste water from kitchen sinks, dishwashers or laundry water from soiled diapers.

Where the site conditions do not lend themselves to installing a standard type of system, there are alternatives, such as mound and engineered systems.

Sand/Oil Interceptor

 Sand/Oil Interceptors (or Separators) are in-ground tanks designed to capture dirt, sand, sweepings, and trace amounts of petroleum in wastewater from car washes and vehicle maintenance facilities to keep these substances out of the wastewater system.

 Sand/Oil Interceptors treat wastes by allowing substances lighter than water, such as oil, to float and substances heavier than water, such as sand, to sink. Allowing only the grey water between these two zones to flow to the wastewater system.

If the Sand/Oil Interceptor is not pumped frequently enough, the heavier dirt, sand, sweepings (sludge) and/or the lighter oil will occupy too much space in the Interceptor and be siphoned through the outlet pipe to the wastewater system. Wastes can also back-up into your wastewater service line and cause a blockage and/or odor problems. Additionally, Sand/Oil Interceptors can overflow into nearby tributaries causing environmental concerns.

 Test and have the Sand/Oil Interceptor pumped/cleaned in accordance with local requirements. Monitor waste stream to insure that prohibited wastes are not discharged in the Interceptor (e.g. motor oil, gasoline, other hazardous wastes). Immediately following pumping, make sure the “tee” on the outlet pipe of the Sand/Oil Interceptor is present, that the “tee” is properly secured to the wall, and that no holes are present in the “tee” that might cause it to short circuit. The primary purpose of the “tee” is to trap floating materials from exiting the Interceptor. Sand/Oil Interceptor maintenance records must be kept on site. Regulators or other authorized personnel may ask for these records annually. An accredited laboratory must be used to insure the waste stream is not hazardous. In the event of the waste stream exceeding allowable limits, the test can be re-done or the customer may have a hazardous waste hauler collect at a substantially higher cost. Avoid using any chemicals that have hazardous characteristics.

Use a reliable and trustworthy hauler authorized to pump out Sand/Oil Interceptors such as Waters Vacuum Truck Service. Waters handles the testing, inspection, collection and disposal of Sand/Oil Interceptor type waste and maintains a service schedule based on the customer’s needs/requirements.

 Due to differences in design and construction, Sand/Oil Interceptors may have varying holding capacities. To prohibit wastes from siphoning through the outlet “tee” into the wastewater discharge system, the bottom sludge layer or the floating materials layer shall not occupy a depth beyond eight inches from the bottom of the “tee”. The amount of waste in the Sand/Oil Interceptor can be determined by using a “sludge judge” or long rod. Remember: It costs you more money in the long run to wait until the last minute to have your Sand/Oil Interceptor pumped. Regular, preventive maintenance is always your best bet.

 Try to limit the volume of waste discharged into the Sand/Oil Interceptor. Use dry cleanup methods whenever possible. Consider not having floor drains. Filter solids out of the Sand/Oil interceptor using grates and screens over floor drains. Use reusable absorbent pads that absorb floating oil and grease. Once saturated, squeeze the oil into your used oil drum.