Septic Tank Abandonment

Septic tank abandonment is a common service among plumbers and septic pumping companies in the Fresno, CA area. If you have found yourself with a decommissioned septic tank, it will need to go through the process of proper septic tank abandonment.

Septic Tank Abandonment

What is Septic Tank Abandonment?

Septic tank abandonment is when an existing septic tank is no longer needed and will most usually be replaced with either a new septic tank or sewer system connection to city services. Typically, when a septic tank is abandoned it will be filled with sand or concrete to prevent any collapse. Septic tank removal does not commonly happen, though it is not unheard of. Sometimes a septic tank will be removed if new septic tank installation and septic tank replacement is required in the same location. Other times, a homeowner may discover a long-ago improperly abandoned septic tank that must go through proper septic tank abandonment to reduce hazards on the property.

septic tank abandonment
Septic tank being completely emptied before abandonment.

Septic Tank Abandonment Hazards

When a septic tank can no longer be used, it presents a serious safety hazard. If it is “left as-is,” over time it can result in a cave-in or collapse of the system, mudslides, sinkholes as well as methane gas and explosion hazards. When septic tank covers deteriorate or are in an unknown location, it also poses a risk to humans, animals and vehicles which may become trapped in the system. Proper septic tank abandonment (or septic tank decommission) eliminates these hazards.

Septic tank abandonment hazards
When a septic tank can no longer be used, it presents a serious safety hazard.

Proper Septic Tank Abandonment

After all septic tanks have been located on the property, contact your county to determine if any permits are required to properly abandon the septic tank. If you reside in Fresno or Madera Counties, you will need to obtain a permit from the building department. If you have hired a contractor for your septic tank abandonment project, it is likely they will be able to pull permits on your behalf. You will want to make sure the cost of permits is in your estimate and will not be an added cost at the end of the project.

There cannot be any contents remaining in the septic tank prior to abandonment. A licensed plumbing septic contractor will remove and dispose of any remaining liquid waste. It is likely your contractor will arrange for the final septic tank pumping.

Finally, the septic tank can be crushed and buried or removed completely. If your septic tank is made out of plastic or fiberglass, it can be removed and properly disposed of.

If your septic tank is made out of concrete, it likely will remain where it resides. It may also be backfilled with sand, concrete or other approved material to provide structural stability and eliminate any sinking or falling hazards. It is important to be sure to install drainage holes before filling or crushing, to allow for proper drainage of rainfall. Finally, the area will be properly graded and staked.

Typically leach fields are left behind as well. Your contractor will need to take precautions to ensure that human contact with the contaminated materials is eliminated. The leach field will need to be covered with uncontaminated soil.

propper septic tank abandonment
To properly abandon a septic tank, in most cases it is filled with sand.

Will the Septic Tank Abandonment need to pass inspection?

If you have pulled permits on the project, yes your septic tank abandonment will need to pass inspection. If you have taken on the project and are doing the work yourself, you can typically find the phone number on the permit to call in for inspection. If you have hired a contractor it is likely they will schedule the inspection. If the inspection fails, the inspector will give you or your contractor reasons the septic abandonment did not pass and will let you know what corrective measures need to be taken.

Septic abandonment inspection
If the inspection fails, the inspector will give you or your contractor reasons the septic abandonment did not pass and will let you know what corrective measures need to be taken.

How much does it cost to abandon a septic tank?

Septic tank abandonment is usually part of a larger project than just abandoning the septic tank. Usually, you will also pay for other services at the same time as abandoning the septic tank like doing a sewer tie in or completely replacing the septic system or tank only. These projects range in the thousands of dollars. If you have found a septic tank on your property that has not been properly decommissioned, you can expect to pay up to $5,000 to complete the abandonment plus the cost of permits.

Septic tank abandonment ready fo rfill sand
Septic tank abandonment - ready to be loaded with fill sand in Fresno, CA

How do you abandon a cesspool?

Cesspools are an outdated type of septic system. It combines both the septic tank and septage treatment in one unit. Cesspools are basic and simple and have been around since the Renaissance as they are typically a hole in the ground in which septic is contained and filtered out. If you have a cesspool on your property, chances of cesspool failure are high and you will want to consider hooking up to your city sewer line if the option is available to you, or installing a newer septic tank system.

Cesspool abandonment is very similar to the process of abandoning a septic tank. The lid will be removed and after a visual inspection of the condition of the cesspool, the sludge will need to be pumped out by a septic pumping company.

After the contents of the cesspool are emptied, the remaining space will be backfilled with sand or gravel. The cesspool is then covered with dirt and properly graded. It is important to fill the cesspool as to avoid sinkholes and injury.

hot to abandon a cesspool
Fill sand being used to abandon a septic tank.