Septic Tank Expert Discusses Safety and Cleaning

Written by Angie's List Staff
Updated June 15, 2021
Septic tank installation
Hiring a qualified contractor is very important when dealing with septic tanks. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

An Exeter, R.I., septic tank expert offers tips to keep your system operating smoothly.

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Who we talked to

Richard Seymour, ownerWaste Away Septic Services56 Black Plain RoadExeter, Rhode Island401-397-7501

Richard Seymour started Waste Away Septic Services 10 years ago. "I just wanted to be my own boss," he says. It's still a one-man operation, and he plans to keep it that way. "Most septic companies are owned by an individual but are run by other people. I think that's what separates me. My intention is to build a business with long-term, satisfied customers - not to keep drivers busy."

How often should you get your septic tank cleaned?

"There's not a hard number for that, because it depends on the number of people in the house and the size of the septic system. A good rule of thumb: two adults, two kids, two years. That's based on a 1,000-gallon tank. There usually aren't signs that it needs to be cleaned. If there are symptoms of a problem, that means it's beyond general cleaning. You don't get symptoms that you need to change the oil in your car, but it's simple maintenance. It's something preventative."

What kinds of safety precautions do you take when cleaning a septic system?

"It's just a matter of wearing the proper gear. Cleanliness is the key. You wear proper clothing, gloves, pants and eye protection. You just try to be as neat as possible with the hose. I don't want to make a mess of someone's yard, and I don't want to wear it. If your job is done correctly, you could go directly to dinner afterward and no one would know you came from work."

What can a homeowner do between cleanings to take care of the septic system?

"The best thing a family can do is to have a filter installed. It traps solids that could go out to the drain field. Honestly, what it comes down to is how it's used on a daily basis. An abused system is one that sees a lot of laundry detergent and a high volume of water. That's detrimental to the septic system."

What's the strangest thing you've ever found when cleaning a septic tank?

"There's always a lot of toys in the tanks. I found a dead animal once, but I don't know what it was because it didn't have any hair. It must have been an opossum or skunk. I've gone in top tanks to get wedding and engagement rings back."

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