Counteracting the Fake News of Septic System Maintenance

A YouTuber’s ignorant rant could provide a devastating setback to the wastewater industry and people who rely on septic systems.

Do you ever wonder how the myth that septic tanks never need pumping gets propagated and remains alive no matter how hard wastewater educators and leaders in our industry try to kill it? Well, you can thank folks like George Tallabas for spreading ignorant misinformation that continues to threaten clean well-water supplies, leads to costly septic system failure for homeowners and ultimately makes your job as pumpers more difficult. 

Who is Tallabas, and what is he saying about septic system care? He is a real estate agent in Southwest Idaho who recently shared a brief manifesto on YouTube, advising homeowners that they never need to pump their septic tanks, that pumping septic tanks is — in fact — detrimental to their continued operation. 

Yes, we all know the pumping naysayers are out there. Doubtless you’ve heard many a customer at an emergency call saying someone — Uncle Bob or the neighbor down the street — told them they should never have their septic tank serviced. But these stories usually involve one person talking stupid over the fence to another person. The difference here is that Tallabas decided to share his uneducated views with everyone on the World Wide Web with the video titled Don’t Pump Those Septic Tanks.


How did I hear about the real estate agent’s rant? A Pumper reader brought the video to my attention and wondered what I thought about it and what we should do as a community to counteract the message. 

In his video, Tallabas says that while he was on the local planning and zoning board about 25 years ago, an “expert” from Minnesota addressed the board, sharing what he knew to be true about septic system maintenance.

“He said … if a septic tank is put in correctly, the drainfield and everything is working correctly, and it’s put in the right depth and everything, you should never, ever uncover that septic tank again. When you put in a septic tank and start using it, a certain amount of bacteria develops in there and allows all the solids and liquids to separate, and it works perfectly. … When you start disrupting that every two to three years (by pumping), you’re going to have more problems than you asked for.”

Tallabas goes on to explain he has never pumped his own septic tanks, and his parents before him never pumped theirs. And this goes back to when he was born in 1956. 

“When I bought the house where I live now in 2008, and the bank I bought it from asked if I wanted them to pump the septic tank, I said ‘no.’ I’ve never had a problem. I have Christmas every year at my house, and I always feed between 15 and 20 people every year and I’ve never had a problem.”

Tallabas did raise a caveat in the video. That was that users shouldn’t put bacon grease or other inappropriate things down the drain, or they may be inviting problems. “If we just take care of those tanks the way they were put in, we should never have a problem.”


He concluded the video saying, “So I’m not telling you not to pump your septic tank and then have a problem, and then come after me. I’m just telling you that I don’t believe in it.”

In the comment section below the video, a few pumpers tried to argue with Tallabas, but he would have none of it. 

“This is bad advice. Don’t follow it,” wrote one. “Honestly, his argument is similar to saying smoking and drinking are no problem because my 100-year-old aunt drank like a fish and smoked like a chimney and never went to a doctor. … So you know, stay away from the doctor, too.”

Another chimed in, “I’m not a real estate agent, so I don’t tell people how to buy and sell houses. With that said, listen to him. … That way there will be more costly repair work for guys like myself to be able to have. I’ve been doing this for 35 years. … Don’t complain to me when it backs up and you are hit with a costly repair that could have been avoided.”

“I have spoken the truth in this video,” was Tallabas’ response. And, unfortunately, many viewers responded saying this was correct. Never pump your septic tank.


I had a few questions for Tallabas. Who was this so-called expert who said septic tanks never needed to be pumped? How can you be so sure of yourself based on your limited experience as a septic system user? Knowing your opinion is refuted by literally every wastewater professional, would you change your mind?

So I reached out to Tallabas. First of all, I must say he was pleasant and congenial when I spoke to him on the phone. But I also must say I was surprised how cocksure he was of his opinions about septic tanks when he clearly has no justification for that confidence.

Who was the expert from Minnesota that helped create the foundation for his expertise in decentralized wastewater? “I’ve had 3,700 closed transactions and I couldn’t even tell you who I talked to yesterday,” said the man with 41 years’ experience selling houses. The speaker was in the field of planning and zoning and not a wastewater expert, apparently. 

Tallabas takes great stock in his own experiences with septic systems. He has never paid to have a septic tank pumped and that’s because he knows how to take care of it properly, he explained. Aside from the video, he talks to his neighbors whenever he sees a vacuum truck pull up to their houses. He asks them why they are having the tank pumped, and they say they are following the local health department’s recommendation to have periodic service. He shares what the “expert” told him many years ago.

I explained to Tallabas that his opinion runs counter to every university wastewater educator I’ve talked to, every pumping professional I know and every state and county department of environmental health department in the land. Would that make you think twice about your message in the video or change your point of view on septic system maintenance, I asked?

“I understand it all. Like I said in the video, you don’t have to believe what I’ve told you,” he said. 


I told Tallabas that I disagreed with him and that the pumper community would think he was reckless for sharing his opinion when it is clearly wrong, and he can’t even name the “expert” source who told him tanks never need to be pumped. I tried to explain how sludge and FOG layer buildup is inevitable, requiring tanks to be pumped. I told him that my state and many others require periodic pumping to protect the septic systems and precious groundwater from contamination. He said he has been told all of this and it doesn’t change his mind.

One argument from the pumper who responded to the video rang true to me. That was saying he wouldn’t presume to tell Tallabas how to sell real estate, and Tallabas shouldn’t tell pumpers and septic system users how to handle wastewater! This is a reasonable approach, but one that clearly Tallabas doesn’t understand. 

If he wanted to study the issue, Tallabas would find overwhelming evidence that his statements are false and harmful both to the environment and to septic system users. But he would rather sputter out incoherently about something he knows nothing about. Unfortunately, the world is populated by many people with that lack of judgment. All we can do in response is speak up to inform and educate the public about the need for septic system maintenance.

Keep fighting the good fight for the benefit of septic system users and the industry that cares about its customers and the environment.  


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