Frequently Asked Questions


Below you will find some common questions asked by homeowners with simple and easy to understand answers. These questions and answers pertain to and are relevant for the most common, anaerobic conventional septic systems.

How Do I Know If I Have A Septic System?

This question is common for residents who relocate to a home on septic after residing for years in areas where city sewer has always been available. Often times it is assumed they are still on a sewer system.

This information would always be available through your local health department, your realtor or the seller’s realtor. If you are already in a home and are wondering whether or not you have a septic system, you can easily call your local health department or a local septic service professional.

Most cities offering sewer service will charge you a fee. However, these fees can be deceiving as they are often disguised and combined with your water bill or utility bill.

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How Does My Septic System Work?

All the water used in your home on a daily basis travels through your plumbing pipes and into your sewer line leading to your septic tank, carrying any solid materials with it. These solid materials include human waste, toilet tissue, grease & food particles as well as the whole list of unfriendly septic items. Once in your septic tank, these materials begin a separation process. The solid waste will begin to build up a scum layer floating on top of the effluent, which is the water in your tank. When healthy, the bacteria residing in your tank will begin to digest the organic material in this scum layer. As this process takes place the residuals created will begin to settle to the bottom of your tank, creating a layer known as sludge. Over time these two layers grow larger and the amount of effluent lessons and becomes much more contaminated with suspended solid particles.

Your tank, when the system is operating properly will always maintain a steady level. For instance, if your septic tank has a capacity of 1000 gallons, the amount of liquid waste in your tank will remain around 1000 gallons.

Each time you introduce water and waste into your tank, for example flushing a commode or doing a load of laundry, the same amount of waste that enters your tank on the inlet side, will in turn exit your tank in the form of effluent on the outlet side. This effluent arrives in your distribution box where it is dispersed evenly throughout several perforated pipes buried beneath the ground and absorbed into the soil. These underground pipes are referred to as your drain field.

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Why Do I Need To Have My Septic Tank Pumped?

When healthy, a septic tank will encounter a build up of solid waste over time, which must be removed. Your solid waste accumulation will be accelerated when your system is unhealthy.

The average daily disposal of human waste and toilet tissue as well as all the other unfriendly septic items will cause an accumulation in your septic tank. This material will begin to create multiple layers. A thick layer of scum on top as well a layer on the bottom known as sludge. There will be liquid between the two layers known as effluent. With poor maintenance this effluent will become overloaded with solid particles, which in turn escape to your drain field, causing damage. The only way to remove this material and maintain a healthy system is to have your septic tank pumped & cleaned on a regular and consistent basis.

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How Often Should I Have My Septic Tank Pumped?

The removal of the solid & suspended solid waste in your tank is a critical step in septic system care & maintenance. Having your tank pumped on a regular and consistent basis will extend the life of your drain field. The more frequently your septic tank is pumped, the less solid waste invades your drain field. Understanding how your septic system operates may not be important to you. However, knowing how often to have your tank pumped and cleaned is crucial.

The industry standard will instruct you to have your septic tank pumped every 3 to 5 years. Generally speaking this is a good rule to live by. However, the proper time frame between pumping’s can vary considerably when you apply the many different variables. The items listed below are some common variables, which may increase or decrease time frames between pumping’s.

  • How many residents live in your home?
  • Do you have a garbage disposal in your home?
  • What is the capacity (in gallons) of your septic tank?
  • Has your septic tank been pumped on a regular and consistent basis in the past?
  • What type & how much toilet tissue does your household consume?
  • How much grease, food waste & other unfriendly septic system products are neglectfully disposed of into your septic tank?

Some states, counties, cities and towns make this decision process very simple. They will instruct you as to how often you must have your septic tank pumped. In an effort to protect the environment Chesterfield County, VA & and some surrounding areas have adopted a mandatory 5-year septic tank pump out program. Counties located within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed fall under much more stringent septic maintenance, repair & installation guidelines than other areas.

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Commonwealth Waste Solutions, LLC applauds the efforts of all those involved with protecting our great state of Virginia and all of its natural resources.

What Are Some Warning Signs Indicating I May Need Service Or Have A Problem?

It is not uncommon for your septic system to let you know when service is required. However, waiting for a warning sign may result in irreversible damage to your drain field. Warning signs usually occur when you are dangerously close to sewage back up in your home.  When sewage backs up into home, the expense of cleaning and replacing damaged floors, carpet, household goods, furniture and walls is far more costly than regular and timely septic service or maintenance.

Suspect signs of septic issues will include some of the following:

  • Foul sewage or methane gas odors emitting from kitchen, bathrooms or laundry room.
  • Foul sewage or methane gas odors in and around your yard, especially in the area of your septic system.
  • Slow flushing or gurgling toilets and drains.
  • The sight of sewage or anything resembling sewage standing  in your bathtubs, showers or drains.

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What Can I Expect When The Tech Arrives?

Each of our trucks and field techs are fully equipped with the proper tools and knowledge to provide you the best service possible.
We locate your septic tank and expose the access lids in order to enter your tank. We remove the waste from your tank including all liquids and solids.  Once the job is complete we properly dispose of your waste at an authorized sewage treatment facility. When applicable, we contact the county to inform them of the service provided.

We keep our trucks clean and leak free in order to prevent stains on your driveway. We carry locator machines to assist our techs with hard to find tanks. We carry over 200’ of hose on each truck in order to access your tank from a far.

We pride ourselves on doing the best job while creating the least amount of mess. Obviously, we must disturb the ground in order to access your septic tank. We do our best to remove your sod and replace it back to original form, disguising the fact we were ever even there. Expect a square approximately 24”x 24” of loose soil after we have completed the job.

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