Commercial Septic Tank Pumping: Maintenance for Businesses

Commercial septic tank pumping is essential to keep your commercial property’s wastewater system functioning properly. Neglecting this critical maintenance task can lead to costly repairs, unpleasant odors, and potential health hazards.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about commercial septic tank pumping, from its frequency to what factors impact the cost.

Key Takeaways

  • Commercial septic tanks typically need pumping every 2-5 years
  • Frequency depends on tank size, number of people using the system, and waste volume
  • Warning signs that you need pumping are odors, slow drains, and pooling water
  • Costs range from $200-$600 on average but can be higher for large or difficult to access tanks
  • Preventative maintenance and proper waste disposal practices can help extend time between pumpings

Understanding Commercial Septic Systems

A worker operating a pumping truck in a residential area,

Commercial septic systems are similar to residential ones in how they function. Wastewater flows from the building into the tank where solids settle to the bottom forming a sludge layer. Oils and grease float to the top creating a scum layer. The liquid effluent in between flows out to the drainfield where it percolates into the soil.

The key differences with commercial septic systems are that they are typically larger and experience heavier usage than residential tanks. Businesses like restaurants, hotels, event venues, and office buildings have multiple restrooms and may also have commercial kitchens generating FOG (fats, oils, and grease) waste. All of this means the system handles a much higher waste load.

Determining Pumping Frequency

commercial septic tank pumping

So how often should a commercial septic tank be pumped? The general rule of thumb is every 3-5 years. However, this is just a ballpark and the actual frequency will depend on several factors:

  • Tank size – Larger tanks can go longer between pumpings than smaller ones. A 1,500 gallon tank used by 50 people might need annual pumping while a 10,000 gallon tank could last 5 years.
  • Number of people using the system – More users means faster waste accumulation. An office with 30 employees will need less frequent pumping than a busy restaurant serving hundreds of customers daily.
  • Type and volume of waste – What’s going into the system matters. Businesses like restaurants, convenience stores, and salons may need more frequent pumping due to higher FOG loading.

To determine the optimal pumping schedule for your commercial property, it’s best to have the system evaluated by a professional. Many septic companies offer inspection services where they measure the sludge and scum levels to assess if pumping is needed. This takes the guesswork out and can save you from pumping too often or waiting too long.

Here are some data-driven facts and stats about commercial septic tank pumping:

  • Number of Commercial Septic Systems: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are approximately 1.5 million commercial septic systems in the United States (Source).
  • Cost of Commercial Septic Tank Pumping: The average cost of commercial septic tank pumping ranges from $300 to $2,000, depending on the size and complexity of the system (Source).
  • Frequency of Commercial Septic Tank Pumping: Commercial septic tanks should be pumped every 1 to 3 years, depending on the size of the business and the amount of wastewater generated (Source).
  • Benefits of Regular Commercial Septic Tank Pumping: Regular pumping helps prevent system failures, reduces the need for costly repairs, and ensures the system operates efficiently (Source).

Warning Signs Pumping is Needed

In addition to sticking to a regular maintenance schedule, be on the lookout for warning signs that the tank needs pumping ASAP:

  • Foul odors – If you’re noticing sewage smells inside the building or around the tank and drainfield, that’s a major red flag that the tank is overly full.
  • Slow drains or frequent clogs – Are your toilets, sinks, and floor drains slow to empty or clogging more often than usual? This can happen when the septic tank is at or near capacity.
  • Standing water – Puddles or patches of lush vegetation over the drainfield can point to a tank that’s leaking or overflowing due to being too full.
  • Sewage backup – The worst case scenario is sewage backing up into the building through the drains. This is a sure sign the tank needs immediate pumping and possibly other repairs.

If you notice any of these warning signs, call a septic professional right away. Waiting will only make the problem worse and could result in a messy and expensive disaster.

Commercial Septic Tank Pumping Process

A worker in a blue uniform operating a service truck with a powerful vacuum hose, servicing a residential area

When it’s time to have the septic tank pumped, the process is pretty straightforward but requires specialized equipment. The technician will arrive with a pumper truck that has a large tank and powerful vacuum hose and pump.

They will locate and open the tank’s access ports or lids. If the system has any filters, those will be removed and cleaned. Then the vacuum hose is lowered into the tank and the pumping begins. The tech will pump out the liquid waste along with the sludge and scum layers.

Some key things to note about the pumping process:

  • Pumping can take anywhere from 20-45 minutes on average but longer for large tanks or ones that haven’t been serviced in a long time.
  • The technician should also inspect the tank and components like baffles and tees while it is empty. Any issues should be documented and discussed with the property owner.
  • Afterward, it’s important to add water back into the tank to prevent it from floating due to hydrostatic pressure in the soil. The tech will usually do this before buttoning everything back up.

Most septic companies schedule pumpings in advance, but some may offer emergency service for an additional fee if the tank is overflowing or backing up. Expect to pay a premium for after-hours or weekend service calls.

Commercial Septic Tank Pumping Costs

a worker in an orange uniform operating a septic tank pumping truck.

The cost of commercial septic tank pumping varies based on a number of factors but typically ranges from $200 to $600 per visit. Some companies charge a flat rate based on tank size while others bill hourly for the time spent on-site.

Factors that can impact the total cost of pumping include:

  • Tank size and type (concrete, steel, fiberglass, etc.)
  • Accessibility of the tank lids
  • Amount and type of waste being removed
  • Disposal fees for waste, which can vary by location
  • Time since last pumping (a tank that is overdue may take longer to pump)
  • Travel time to your location

Some septic companies may offer discounted rates for regularly scheduled maintenance visits. It’s worth asking about any specials or maintenance plans that could help save on costs over time.

Tank SizeAverage Cost
1,000-1,500 gallons$200-$400
1,500-2,000 gallons$300-$500
2,000-3,000 gallons$400-$600
3,000+ gallons$500-$1,000+

*Prices are estimates and may vary by location and provider. Contact local septic companies for specific quotes.

Preventative Maintenance Tips

A worker in a hardhat is using a hose to clean out a septic tank

While regular pumping is a necessary part of septic system maintenance, there are things you can do in between service visits to keep things running smoothly. Implementing these best practices can help reduce strain on the system and even extend the time needed between pumpings:

  • Conserve water – Using water efficiently means less wastewater entering the tank. Fix any leaky toilets or faucets and consider installing low-flow fixtures.
  • Properly dispose of waste – Be mindful of what’s going down the drains. Avoid putting things like cooking grease, coffee grounds, cleaning wipes, and other trash into the plumbing system.
  • Use septic-safe products – Choose toilet paper and cleaning products that are labeled as septic-safe. Harsh chemicals can disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria in the tank.
  • Protect the drainfield – Don’t park vehicles or heavy equipment over the drainfield as this can compact the soil and damage pipes. Also avoid planting trees or shrubs with deep root systems nearby.
  • Keep accurate records – Maintain a detailed record of service visits, repairs, permits, and maintenance tasks for the septic system. This can help track performance over time and will be handy to have if you sell the property.

By following these tips and sticking to a regular pumping schedule, you can keep your commercial septic system in top shape for years to come. Think of septic maintenance as a necessary business expense that can prevent costly emergency repairs and downtime.

Choosing a Septic Service Company For Your Commercial Space

Commercial septic tank pumping

When it comes time to have your commercial septic tank pumped, it’s important to choose a reputable and experienced service provider. Here are some things to look for:

  • Proper licensing and insurance
  • Experience with commercial systems
  • Positive reviews and references
  • Transparent pricing
  • Flexible scheduling and emergency services
  • Additional services like inspections, repairs, and installations

Don’t hesitate to call around and compare options. A good septic company will take the time to understand the needs of your business and develop a customized maintenance plan to keep things flowing.


Septic tank pumping is a dirty job but an essential one for any business or property with an onsite wastewater system. Staying on top of this maintenance task protects the health of your employees, customers, and the environment.

Work with a trusted septic professional to create a pumping schedule tailored to your commercial system and follow best practices to keep things running smoothly in between visits. A little preventative maintenance can go a long way in avoiding septic nightmares down the road.

Schedule an appointment today and we’ll take care of your septic issues! Call us now.