Millers Sanitary Service logo

Kutztown: 610-683-3061

Hamburg: 610-562-3484

Serving Lehigh County, Berks County and the Surrounding Communities

Family owned and operated for over 50 years

Miller Sanitary Service Skunk 1
Septic manhole

1. How does a septic system work?

A septic system consists of a tank and an absorption area, also known as a drain field or a drainage field.


The septic tank is an underground concrete or fiberglass container that holds wastewater from your home. These tanks vary in size. The average home has a 1,000-gallon tank. For homes that have a sand mound as the absorption area, the tank may be as large as 1,250 or 1,500 gallons.


Bacteria in the tank break down wastewater into 3 parts: water, sludge, and scum. The water, also known as effluent, flows from the tank into the distribution box and then into the absorption area.


What has to be pumped out from your tank is the sludge, also known as solids, the heaviest component that settles on the bottom of your tank, and scum (grease, fats, and paper products), the lightest component that floats on top.


2. How do I know if my system is not functioning properly?

You may actually smell the sewage odor in your house, in your drinking water or on your property in the area around your tank.


There may be a wet spot on the ground near your system or sewage backing up into your house or appearing in your yard. Your pumping station may run continuously or not at all, the alarm light may be on, or your alarm may be ringing.


3. What can I do to keep my system functioning properly?

The average homeowner needs to have their system emptied and cleaned every 3 to 5 years depending on the tank and the size of the household.


Be careful what you put into your system! Harsh chemicals, including chlorine, bleach, septic system additives, grease, oil, gasoline and antifreeze, paints and varnishes, and solvents can prevent the necessary bacterial action from occurring and can possibly clog or damage your system.


Do not build any structures or plant trees or shrubs over your tank or absorption area. The weight of buildings can crush your pipes and roots from trees or shrubs can clog or even destroy the pipes.


4. I know people who have never had their systems emptied and cleaned.

Why should I bother?

If a system is not emptied and cleaned often enough, the absorption area may be damaged. A tank usually has enough space for approximately 3 years of safe accumulation of sludge. If you do not have your tank pumped out, this sludge will continue to accumulate, and solids can escape into the absorption area and clog the system.


5. What other important information do I need to know?

Learn where your lid or manhole is located. Try not to bury your lid more than 1 or 2 inches because you will need to have it dug open before your tank can be emptied or cleaned. If your contractor plans to bury your lid more than 6 inches, they should put a riser on the tank to raise the lid.


6. What is a cesspool?

A cesspool is almost like a conventional septic system.


A conventional septic system has a tank and an absorption area, also known as a drain field or a drainage field. The water, also known as effluent, flows out of the septic tank and into the distribution box, which allows even distribution over the absorption area.


The water exits the distribution box through pipes in the absorption area. If you have a cesspool, the water flows out of a pipe in the cesspool directly into the ground. The sludge and scum left behind in the cesspool need to be pumped out every 3 to 5 years, depending on the size of the tank and the size of the household.


7. I still have a question. How can I get an answer?

Email our professionals and let us help answer your question.

When you choose Millers Sanitary Service of Kutztown, PA for your septic tank, holding tank or grease trap cleaning needs, you can be at ease knowing that you'll get nothing less than exceptional work. As a family-owned and operated business, we take pride in our work. Browse through our frequently asked questions!

Your dependable source for septic tank cleaning services

Get FREE estimates and competitive prices for our cleaning work. Call us at


Take a look at frequently asked septic cleaning-related questions

Ask our skunk