As a rule, tanks should be checked for solids buildup every year and pumped every three to five years, more often if you have a garbage disposal which can increase solids buildup by 50%. In practice, however, how often solids should be removed depends on the lifestyle of the family using the system and the size of the tank. If you wait until wastewater begins to back up into your home, solids have already started over-flowing from the septic tank and into your absorption field. This can cause some very expensive damage to the soil absorption system. When choosing a company to remove solids from your tank, ask if they thoroughly clean the tank and remove all solids. It is not very useful to just pump the liquids without removing the solids. To effectively clean the tank, the removed liquids should be flushed back into the tank to thoroughly agitate and remove settled solids. In addition, the baffles on the tank should be checked to make sure they are functional and the tank’s effluent filter (if installed) should be cleaned. A riser installed on your septic tank makes solids removal easier, and septic tank maintenance companies may charge less if the tank is easy to access. If your tank has an effluent filter installed, it can be inspected and cleaned through the riser. A properly functioning tank effluent filter protects the soil absorption field much more effectively than a baffle. If your tank does not currently have one, consider installing one the next time you have your tank cleaned. Note: a septic permit is required for any alteration or repair to the system. If you have questions about what is required, contact the Department of Health.