Trash and Treasure: Septic Tank Finds

Precious metals end up in the sewer system. What kind of things, precious or otherwise, have you found in septic tanks?
Trash and Treasure: Septic Tank Finds

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A recently published study by researchers at Arizona State University estimates that every year a city of 1 million people will have $13 million worth of metals, including gold and silver, accumulate in biosolids after sewer treatment.

Precious and not so precious items go down the drain continually. In homes with onsite systems those items are ending up in the septic tank, only to be found when the tank is pumped. Shaylin King shared a story with us at last year’s Pumper & Cleaner Expo about his little brother tagging along while the family business pumped a septic tank. The boy found a working Timex watch in the tank. He washed it and wore the watch for three years before it finally died.

This one falls under "Treasure":

"A customer called and said they were starting to have some issues but wondered if when we pumped the tank there would be any possible way to look for a ring. I explained to him that we could try but it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. He wasn’t even sure if that is where the ring was, he just knew his wife had lost it about a year ago while she was sick with the flu. He hired us to pump the tank and have us at least try to find the ring. We do have our own disposal facility so I knew we could spend a little extra time screening the waste to look for the ring. After pumping the tank the guys ran it through an extra screen but did not find the ring. So when our driver was done dumping the truck he opened the rear open door and sure enough, the ring was sitting there. The driver delivered the ring to the customer that afternoon and needless to say, she was absolutely thrilled. This is actually the second ring we have been able to find and return to the customer. In 49 years of pumping tanks we have found a lot of things, but it is always nice to be able to find something and know who it belongs to and return it."   -Submitted by Carol Frank at Tim Frank Septic Cleaning Co.

"I sent my husband, Jeff, to the rural home of a fellow local artist. In this loving home filled with sprouting young boys, one in particular faced his inherent life challenges with unique creativity, garnered from Mom, no doubt. The backing up septic system was a sure indication that the missing matchbox cars and trucks had surely traveled the Waterline Highway south seeking the Tank Park. After considerable digging the elusive tank lid saw sunlight. Steeled for the yuck factor, Jeff gently slid back the concrete vault lid to jump back with surprise at what reached up from the depths toward him. Yes, reached up with a frightful encrusted, dripping, smelly hand seeking air and sunlight to be freed from the black death of a septic tank. More hands bobbed like duckies in a ghoulish pond. It seems these enterprising young fellows discovered a way to turn the unappealing chore of cleaning the toilet into an exciting adventure and plumbing experiment. Hypothesis: If I blow-up Mom's latex gloves, then flush them down the toilet, will they end up in the septic tank?" -Submitted by Bobby Litttle Bear at POTCO

So we’re asking the rest of you: What’s the most precious, or maybe just most unique, item you’ve found in a septic tank? Comment below or send an email to with your story.


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