Sarratt Septic

How do I maximize the length of time between pumpouts?

Answer: By checking your tanks scum and sludge levels. That way you can zero in on exactly when to pump your tank.

Here's how you check your tanks scum and sludge levels:

Septic tank scum is made up of oils and fats that accumulate at the top of the tank. Remember 3rd grade science class... oil floats on top of water (it floats on top of poop too!).

Sludge is undigested food which accumulates at the bottom of the tank.

The middle layer of liquid is made up of water, urine and particles that have not yet separated, i.e., they are not heavy enough to sink to the bottom and yet not light enough to float to the top.

The middle layer has the least amount of material that is damaging to the drainfield. This is the layer that flows out into the yard to be treated by the microbes.


To check your tanks scum and sludge levels you have four options:

Option #1) Follow North Carolina's own septic system guidelines to determine if it is time to pump—this is your cheapest solution. You want pages 122-123.

Get the guidelines>


Option #2) Buy a sludge judge or any of the fancy inspection tools you see online. Just search for "sludge sampler" on Amazon.


Option #3) You can hire someone to do it—like me, I offer maintenance services for the undaring. You are welcome to pick my brain when I check the scum and sludge levels and take pictures and video so you can do it yourself in the future. Checking these levels is not difficult and you will get a good workout.


Option #4) You can pay close attention to your pumper the next time you get your tank pumped. And then guess a little.

For this method, have your tank pumped and make a note of the year.

Then, the next time you have the pump truck out listen to what the guy/gal tells you.

Ask them specifically how close the tank was to 1/3 full of sludge and scum.

With that information now calculate if you should have pumped your tank sooner or if you could have waited another year or two.

Sarratt Septic

Ph 828-447-5184