Septic Tank Location
How to determine current septic tank location
If considering having your septic tank pumped, you must first determine septic tank location. If you don't already have an idea of where it is, you will need to find where the pipe exits the home. Once this is located, you simply take a sharpened stick or metal rod (depending on how tough your soil is) and, taking care not to damage the pipe, follow it to the entrance of the tank. Since the pipe will likely be pvc and the tank concrete, you will feel the difference in materials.
Preferred septic tank location
Septic tank location is typically close to the house when practical. There are situations which require the placement of a pump tank located near the house which transports sewage to a septic tank location at either a higher elevation, or possibly on the other side of an obstruction, such as a pond or swampy area. However, for most situations, the septic tank location is relatively close to the house, with the septic or field line beyond it, gradually sloping about 1 inch for every 8 to 10 feet of line. This number varies with type of soil and location. With too little slope, the effluent will not be dispersed evenly. Too much slope and the effluent will flow too quickly, not being filtered efficiently, resulting in overloading the very end of the field.
See also septic tank pumping for more info.
Most newer septic tanks are approximately 1000 gal with two manholes, or cleaning ports, one at the entrance and one at the exit. Since the tank is typically divided into two sections, this allows the operator to pump out both, while providing access to clean the entrance and exit ports as well. This a good place to remind you that, when contracting with the truck pump operator, ensure that he/she knows that you require the entrance and exit ports be cleaned out. This may seem obvious, but some operators just show up, put the hose in the tank, pump out what the hose can reach, and leave. There's a little more to it than that. The operator should be spraying water for cleaning the tank intermittently as he pumps in order to ensure all debris is removed leaving walls and ports free of material that could cause future obstruction.
So, once you find the entrance to the septic tank, the entrance access port will be on that end. This is where you start digging. If the home was built prior to 1980, it is likely it will have one of the older type tanks which simply contain three rectangular concrete slabs laying cross ways on top, each having metal handles on opposite ends. In this case, the entire top of the septic tank will have to be uncovered, ensuring to completely uncover all sides to allow slabs to be removed, or slid on top of each other for access. If you dig down directly from the end of the tank, and do not find a round access hole, it is likely an older tank. At this point, it is highly recommended that you contract someone with a backhoe. Also, ask the contractor about the possibility of adding septic risers, to provide future access to tank without digging.
If your home is relatively new, and you happen to find a round access port, simply uncover it well enough to ensure no dirt will fall into tank during clean out. The outlet of the tank should be facing the septic field, so if you want to pump out that end as well, take about two steps toward that end of tank and dig to find the outlet access port. Of course, common sense dictates that, when using a shovel, care should be taken not to damage what's below the ground. Some access ports have hard plastic covers, and if you go beyond the end of the tank, you could possibly hit the outlet pcv piping.
If septic tank location is easily accessible, pumping charge should be nominal
Finally, provided access to the septic tank, pumpers typically charge no less than $200 and no more than $500 for this service, of course, depending on your area of the country. Also, the total volume pumped should be noted, and of course, the date. This allows for an estimate to be made on when the entire operation should take place again. For a normal size family, paying attention to proper septic tank location and usage, 3 to 5 years between pumping should be sufficient.