Septic Tank Advice please !

02/23/2011 - 13:14

We have a small septic tank 2m4 which now needs emptying.  We anticipated around 150 Euro for the job but today have been told expect 150 Euro for the emptying, but another 350/400 for the disposal into the 'system' wherever that is. Does anyone have any experience?



That seems a lot. Why does your septic tank need emptying? It should soak away. We had a sesspit (no soak away) in the UK and used to pay about €80 every 4 months to get it emptied. Sorry, I don't know the price here but it seems extortionate.

Septic tanks do accumulate a sediment composed of stuff that the microbes working in the tank can't convert to water or gas. The rate at which this indigestible sludge builds up varies depending on several factors, but it will happen sooner or later in any septic tank that's being used. It appears that our "septic tank" was constructed by someone local at some point using very basic techniques. As far as I can tell, it did not have a soakaway of any sort, but the liquids just disperse into the ground via porous brick walls. After we'd been in the house for around three years without having it pumped, it started to overflow. This lovely event was likely due to the damp weather of late 2009 making the ground so saturated that the tank was not able to drain away. My solution was to dig trenches to make a soakaway and then knock a hole in the side of the tank to make a connection to the new soakaway. More than a year on, that solution seems to me working well. The trees growing near the trench I dug are also doing very well! Poking a stick into the tank suggests that there's a considerable amount of semi-solid muck on the bottom. We've discussed this with locals and been told that we can probably expect to pay something along the lines of the prices you quote, Babyeddiedog, if we want to have it done correctly. The cost of pumping and transporting is much less than the fee charged to dump the sludge in the local sewage treatment plant. The alternative that has been suggested is that we just buy a robust submersible pump and disperse the contents of the tank over some of our land. Our situation is such that this would be possible without any of our neighbours being bothered in any way. Since it sounds like something that has considerable comic potential, I'm inclined to take the DIY approach. Al

They are clearly talking sh+t! Trying to pull a fast one. We have one that would serve a family of eight, it has a run-off system so we only need to empty it every two years. The first time we did it we paid a 'Espurgo' (professional tank emptier) and it cost €100, second time €150 because he found a blocked pipe and stayed longer than normal. Had it done again last month and paid a local farmer €50 he took it to the communal sewer and didn't have to pay anything. So if you know 'people' localy try to get friendly with a farmer (you may have to bake a cake or something but it's well worth it!) Alternatively I would find another Espurgo because there is no way you should pay what you have been asked.

Well thanks Allan, if nothing else its made us laugh! We thought the S**t had hit the fan, but no, it was just you with your submersible pump and a sprinkler system attached !!!!!!!! Our tank has been in for four years and we have just found out its 'semi-legal' we're only missing a geologists survey and something from the Provincial council, but if we pay 500 euro it'll be ok...that was from the commune who gave permission in the first place.  Nothing changes...ahhhhhh. Knowing what we know now, just like you your tank, ours was never correctly installed in the first place.  I suppose that if you divide 500 Euros by 4 years it works out just over 100 per year, so maybe what Penny was paying at £240 per annum is cheap.  And just to put the tin hat on it our microwave has just blown up crying  

The cost for emptying seems about right - thats about what the local farmer charges - he then takes it over the road and sprays it over his fields [Cheese from the cows is great - no lumpy bits at all!!!] The best thing is to be careful what you send down the pipes to the cesspool/pit.

  • Make sure you use cesspit friendly cleaners around the house - the pit relies on bacteria 'eating the solids etc, and they are easily killed off by things like bleach etc
  • Feed the pit regularly with a sachet of food like that from 'WC Net' - it boost bacterial action, and its just flushed down the loo every so often - most supermarkets sell it.
    • An Italian friend of mine takes the lid off his 'pit' every 2 weeks and sprinkles the sachet directly on the top of the 'gunge' - he hasn't had to have his emptied for over 15 year
  • Don't forget that dishwasher and washing machine powders can kill off bacteria in the pit - so be careful what you use

Good Luck

I'm with Alan on this one, spray your sewage sludge on the land.-Excellent for the tomatoes.- (A proper septic tank with a soakaway as Penny said)   shouldn't need to be emptied very often, Have you actually measured the depth of the sludge with a dip stick? I fitted an Imhoff system myself recently (well we hired a small digger to dig the hole to be fair)   but I did the rest and I'm not expecting to have to empty it very often at all, maybe every five years. Our second tank ,( yes we are a two septic tank family ) has not been emptied since we bought the hoose. I'll wait until the poo starts backing up into the loo before I take the plunge, so to speak! PS Apologies for the spacing, just had a wee malt...

i think its good to be aware despite it most probably being unlikely but i do know its happened to a few people that sewrage..human or otherwise being used on land or being allowed to seep into it is illegal here in Italy.. so an existing old fashioned cesspit can carry  on under the law doing whatever it did in the past but once you make a change to it in anyway it then becomes illegal because any intervention has to be according to law... which means no land contamination allowed..  throwing untreated human waste on to the land used to be safe.. people did not take antibiotics,, or whatever else was available..  other much more nasty things are now in our bodies .. so all human waste has to be treated and all people that remove waste without accounting for it are acting without the law.. and the fines are costs vary because the cost of treating varies.. anyway the forestale are the ambient police.. and if they find any problems it will cost a lot more essentially.. and really important is that Italy is a country that relies a lot on sourcing water fromn various local springs and wells...  to provide our water.. should it become contaminated.. they check these wells every month or so then should you be the cause or part of it..then you are pretty well likely to not have enough money to avoid prison.. certainly keep your house..  the forestale drive around our village at least once a week..  a sort of normal patrol that you think of as them out for a restful drive.. however these people are just drivng around looking for signs of people doing things wrong..protecting us .. and if you read newpapers here ..of the local type or watch local news there is not often a day that goes past without someone being caught.. in general farmers ..or rural properties where levels of contamination in river water or local springs has led forestale police to a source.... and thence a prosecution...

The septic tank normally an Imhoff digests the rest products from your house and it is correct that you must be wary of what you dispose of down the drain. Technically you need to divide the waters into three separate runs, white, grey and black. Black being for the crap and white rain water and grey everything else. The grey water should pass through a grease trap as fat harms the breakdown process of the Imhoff. You should never need to empty your septic tank unless it gets blocked, wrong type of crap down the drains or undersized. After the Imhoff the rules stipulate that you should have an infiltration system which then allows the water to disperse to the ground. This is made up of different types of shingle and gravel sizes. Eventually this will become useless over time and another trench would need to be dug for the next ten years or so. However this method needs a geological report submitted by a geologist to examine the characteristics of the ground soil for absorbing this - otherwise you just have a bog or peat lands... An alternative is a filter which absorbs to 99% all the pathogens leaving the Imhoff and needs to be emptied every year with a certificate of disposal by a approved contractor.  Naturally the rules are applied differently from commune to commune, region to region and province to province... as is normal in Italy. But you should never!!! use the contents on your vegetable patch without the risk of contracting some mysterious disease following the eating of your own pathogens!!! It is quite dangerous and illegal!! I hope this helps

What lotan says is [I think] all very correct, and is particularly relevant to relatively recent installations However, in the hamlet where my place is there are only about 25 houses/flats and a permanent population of 20 or so - the rest are Milanese and Torinese using their holiday homes at weekends.  With the exception of one recent 'conversion' of an old building into about 8 holiday flats, most of the places are at least 50 years old, and many 100+ yrs old.  All the village is on septic tanks [of various designs and vintages - mine, which I share with 2 other properties is about 50 yrs old], and these tanks discharge [overflow] into the street drainage which goes into the stream. which flows into a significant Lake The farmer, who seems to empty all the tanks in the area, does his spraying onto the fields about 3 or 4 times a year.  Now, I'm not an expert, but it seems to me that an overflow into the drains/stream is much worse than spreading the waste onto the land - and nobody in the village has their tank emptied until the overflow has occurred. Many of us harp on about stopping being Brits and getting in to the way of life of the locals - so if my farmer wants to 'muck spread' waste on his fields, then who am I to stop him - its the way its always been done.  He risks prosecution of course - but that risk is very low in this community - its one of the joys of living in the countryside in a close knit community, miles from the police etc

If they are spraying it on a field to grow feed/grass for animals, thats quite different to putting it on a veg patch for human consumption. We have a farm and have been told by USL that we cannot put animal waste (even after being composted) on our produce unless we have a biologica certificate. So would think human waste would be a definate no no.

I hope Alan, if you are miles from Police I hope you are close to a Hospital, spreading 'Night Soil' on the land has been a risky pastime for centuries, and with our modern 'Cleanliness' and anti biotics we are now more susceptible to the effects of Pathogens than ever, as lotan says. Eaters Beware, I would not fancy any of your tomatoes....

Well, the man from the waste disposal has been with his quote....are you sitting down?  610 Euro !!!! Needless to say he's gone away again. Previous posters are correct, the installation process needs a soakaway field, but we have no doubts that ours hasn't, as nothing else has been done by the book.  We also visited the commune yesterday who advised that our tank wasn't illegal but it wasn't legal either as the Goeolgist report and the permission from the province were needed.  But for a fee of 500 Euro we could get that...sound familiar? So now we're looking into alternatives, and having travelled in Nepal where they plant potaotes underneath the drop toilets we may even consider that. 

"Eaters Beware, I would not fancy any of your tomatoes...." Obviously, the fields are only used for grazing - no crops are grown - so not too worried --------------------- As an aside - Have you ever been to a sewage works, and looked at where they spread their 'clean waste' from the digesters? - the  thing that grows on it is tomatoes - from all the seeds that have been eaten and passed safely through the body and every treatment that is carried out - big juicy squashy tomatoes.  [I wonder what happens to them?] ----------------- The problem with society is that it is too clean - my late father [a country man born and bred, who as a lad earned money picking stones from the fields] used to say "a man should eat a peck of dirt before he dies"  [[a peck is about 2 gallons]  These days everything is sterilised, you even get antibacterial gel pump dispensers that you don't need to touch, in case they have germs on them - surely that's the point of the gel?  Let your kids eat sweets/food that have fallen to the floor, carrots straight from the garden with a bit of soil on them, cheese with rind and mould on it, just scrape the mould off old jam/marmalade and use the rest [don't throw the whole jar away] - then perhaps all these growing number of so called allergies won't affect them.    [rant over]

In the UK when the" working classes " were given a day off they often took a day trip / picnic into the county on the new fangled railway, bless 'em. One contempoary account tells us the views of a local farmer "If all the hordes of visitors could just pick up a stone and have a sh*te us farmers would be much better off" Wise words indeed.

Ah, in those days when (for obvious reasons) using the train loo when it was standing in a station wasn't allowed, at least you never had to get into a carriage stinking of drains! I agree with alanh, we're all to fussy these days, I'm surprised there isn't a campaign to get foxes and badgers into nappies.

Used to be amazing, when I lived in Saudi Arabia, that the "honey wagons" were out in the morning around 6.00 a.m. spraying the shrubs etc. on the central reservations. Plants always looked really good though and healthy ........... pong was bad though as you passed by at that time!!!

Cow shit (how delightful it is to be on a UK forum where 'shit' isn't captured by the naughty word filter!) used to just land on the pasture and feed the grass. These days, because it isn't 'economical' to graze cattle, their shit gets concentrated and becomes a 'disposal' problem - simply because they can't (economically) 'graze'. The world has gone mad, and Imhoff septic tanks (as interpreted by local authorities) are part of this madness. In themselves, a duo chamber septic tank discharging to a local dispersion (and face it, in Italy, you have to struggle to be located on a bit of flat land...) work absolutely fine and do not need to be emptied - I'd say ever. But 'regulations' insist on one of these (actually, in my experience it is worse in England, because they also have a minimum distance from the house which results in the septic tank being far too deep to ensure any un-pumped dispersion on flat clay land). And - because Italy doesn't do communal sewage treatment - as another poster mentioned you need your own personal septic tank to treat your sewage locally: even if you are in a centro storico where your septic tank is an ugly 1m concrete circle in some fantastic pavement. Oh, perlease. Now - getting a bit polemical here - instead of inventing a 'market in energy', why not just let out to the private sector the option of creating a truly efficient drainage system? That is NEEDED. (Rant over!) 

There is a difference between pathogens and bacteria. After sewerage treatment there remains no pathogens in the crap you are applying to the soil. Pathogens have the ability to create complex and life threatening diseases!! Crap in itself is fine and potatoes growing in Nepal on their dry toilets is fine - the urine has soaked away. Crap in itself will compost relatively quickly and after aeration and drying by the sun will kill most pathogens however with the mixture of urine you are really much worse off.  If you extract the urine (not taking the piss) from the crap at source you can get a much simpler and cleaner type of septic tank. The urine on it's own can be diluted and sprayed quite legally on fields and is a premium fertiliser even human urine - it's 100% sterile. But separating toilets are expensive and storage is double - it is the compiling of all waste in one container that creates the problem. We pay about €800/annum for collection and disposal by authorised contractor with a certificate should it be required. Yes it's expensive (who ever said Italy was cheap) but nature, rivers and the ground water will thank you!

the problems to my mind can be easily put to rest as regards old practices when you consider just a few months back someone died of mad cows disease here.. why.. because she had been infected during the main outbreak and as they said at the time they just did not know how long it would take for all the people infected to show signs and die from the disease.. Italy had a very limited problem..and i am not saying that its a high risk just that we have created many more dieases which are very hard to detect or kill off and human waste spread across fileds or even animal waste which used to come from animals who got occaisional medical assistance to kill a disease were the norm.. now they are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics from birth and their waste never sees a field its washed into slurry tanks.. so consider the new dangerous diseases amongts humans and the medicines they take to control them or kill them off.. and wonder if someone visting your house has a problem that has not been detected and then you spread it around your veg patch.. i know unlikely and i do not spend my life worrying about what might or might not happen.. but the truth is that what people said in the old days was a lot of rubbish.. and its there belief that a bit of rubbish did no damage to anyone that led to rivers in the UK or here in Italy becoming vast open waste systems that killed of all life within until someone came to the conclusion that old habits could not continue unless we all agreed that human life needed to end.. so now we have rivers that fish swim in and seas that will maybe slowly recover enough to allow us to fish in again and eat produce from the seas that does not kill us..  so like it or not.. Italy does have very good and strict rules about waste disposal and any new system has to completely fall within those standards.. and any system that ghas to be replced has to then conform.. any old system will gradually have to be replaced.. its how new laws work.. it would be impossible to change them all at one time.. however the day is arriving where all old fashioned cess pits and sewerage tanks will have to go.. our rubbish tax has gone up tremendously and we all complain but we have collections of rubbish now which are seperated.. our water cgharges have gone up because we pay for sewrage waste treatment now within the bill according to consumption.. now i complain much as anyone.. but i also want to be able to go and swim in the sea without catching some disease or eat river trout... or seafood from the adriatic coast..  so the price.. its pretty simple .. and not really that problematic if we want our children to be able to carry on living on this planet.. to me this is a sort of no brainer arguement.. and how old people did things.. well we can thank them for leaving us the cost of starting to clean it all up... for the next generation..

Hi Babbyeddiedog, this is clearly over-prices. We've had our 3m3 tank emptied this year. It had been in use for around 4 years and this is the first time we had it emptied. It cost 180 Euros with no extra charge for getting rid off it. It was a professional comapny, not a local farmer. They even travelled quite a long distance to come to us. You really should just ring a few more companies for a better price. You will also receive a document from them that says how many litres they pumped out (the price is based on that). This is also your certificate that says that the stuff is being processed accurately in a treatment plant, not spread on farmers field, as I'm sure this illegal even in Italy.

Hi Babbyeddiedog, this is clearly over-priced. We've had our 3m3 tank emptied this year. It had been in use for around 4 years and this is the first time we had it emptied. It cost 180 Euros with no extra charge for getting rid off it. It was a professional comapny, not a local farmer. They even travelled quite a long distance to come to us. You really should just ring a few more companies for a better price. You will also receive a document from them that says how many litres they pumped out (the price is based on that). This is also your certificate that says that the stuff is being processed accurately in a treatment plant, not spread on farmers field, as I'm sure this is illegal even in Italy.

Thanks to everyone who has responded, needless to say we are in search of other quotes. What I really hate is when you're made to feel like you're crazy because they're not charging you the full price, they're actually doing you a deal! surprise

The law is as it is in Italy. No point complaining about that here. However... I wonder what actually happens to the waste once it has been pumped out of your septic tank and you've been given a nice certificate saying that you've complied with the law? Just before I moved to Italy, there was a huge kerfuffle in the Scottish village I lived in because a local farmer had agreed to allow treated sewage sludge to be injected into his fields. As far as he was concerned, he was getting paid for his pastures to be fertilised. As far as the local authority and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency were concerned, the disposal did not present any pollution or health hazards. As far as a vociferous group of local concerned citizens were concerned, Glasgow's shit was being dumped on the pristine fields around our picturesque little village and we were all going to die of thyphoid, cholera, MRSA or some other more obscure but equally vile disease. Of course, the sewage treatment authorities only needed to spend money on disposing of the stuff in this way because the release of treated sewerage into rivers and sea had been banned. The other alternative - burning the stuff in coal-fired power stations - was, according to the envirnomental lobby, also a terrible idea because of the deadly levels of heavy metals which would be dispersed across the county in the smoke. Naturally, having condemned every possible means of disposing of the sludge, the envirnomental groups didn't suggest a means by which it could be got rid of. As far as I could see, the unstated implication was that the "greens"  hoped that everyone would simply become more ecologically aware and stop excreting waste. So what happens to the sludge from septic tanks in Italy once it has been processed by a legally sanctioned treatment plant? One thing that's certain is that it doesn't evaporate. Is it burned in one of the oil-fired power stations? Is it dumped out at sea? Does it end up in a huge stockpile somewhere like the Neopolitan rubbish, waiting for the day when an environmentally friendly solution becomes available? Or does it just magically disappear in the way that a lot of hazardous waste has been made to do over the years by companies with strong links to certain renowned southern Italian families? Al

 From Alan's extremely usefull comments If they dump the treated sewage sludge in the sea, then the fish we eat on the coast has been munching away on that quite happily ........... Can we confirm that raw sewage is also not being pumped out by lesser unconfirmed mortals. Think would rather have it sprayed onto a field to decompose, rather than a fish nibbling on a floating lump!!!!