Bidets, Vacation Rentals Pumping and the Cost of Pumping

A cold, wet March is a good time to sit back and ponder a variety of issues impacting the septic service industry

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This month we explore three very different topics in the mish-mosh of news that I like to call the Editor’s Mailbag. I collect an extensive file of news and notes about the wastewater industry and every now and then dump a few topics on Pumper readers to gather your thoughts. As always, I invite you to share your views by shooting me an email at

Are your customers installing bidets?

The bidet is a standard feature in homes in many parts of the world, from Europe to Asia to South America. In those places, it’s typically a standalone addition or replacement for the toilet. It has a water spray component that allows the user to cleanse rather than wipe with toilet paper.

Recently I’ve heard of acquaintances in the U.S. adding a bidet to their homes, typically through a specialty toilet seat incorporating a spray nozzle tapping into the household water supply. It seems like once they try it, they become disciples of the technology, imploring their friends to give it a try. It’s kind of a strange conversation on a very private subject, but OK.

This got me wondering about the impact of a bidet on our septic systems. A recent article posted on the news website, “Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Bidets,” quoted a bidet company that reported users could reduce usage of toilet paper by 80% by employing a bidet. The expert also argued that septic tank owners could expect to need less frequent pumping. Have you had any experience pumping at a home that uses bidets? If so, what are you finding in your service calls?

On one hand, it seems less toilet paper would reduce sludge volume over time and help keep the tank inlet clear of clogs, especially when the homeowner uses a paper that doesn’t break down well. The water jet feature may also curtail the use of nasty wipes that cause so many problems during service calls.

On the other hand, the bidet might result in more water usage and alter the effective gpd rating of the septic system. Like doing too many loads of laundry at one time, free-flowing bidets could have a negative impact on dosing the drainfield, potentially overloading with effluent or, worse, sending solids out to the field.

Have you seen abuse of systems used for AirBNB?

Popular tourist haven Santa Fe, New Mexico, is considering greater regulation and new fees to curb issues related to the growing trend of homeowner vacation rentals through websites like AirBNB and VRBO. One of the reasons for these rules is a concern of over-taxing septic systems when large groups rent private homes.

We’ve addressed this topic a few times in Pumper, as septic service companies are seeing more emergency calls involving rental properties not really equipped to handle added flow from all these visitors. This could become a big and expensive problem for septic system owners who may require added maintenance, repair or even system replacement when septic systems are abused. The vacation rental income looks attractive — unless it’s offset by a Sunday pumping call or a costly drainfield replacement.

According to a story in the Santa Fe New Mexican, a proposed ordinance would enact fees of $375 up front and $300 a year thereafter to cover impacts to local infrastructure, including the municipal sewer systems. It would also limit the number of people who can use the vacation rentals, set quiet hours and restrict water usage and parking. A limit would limit numbers of guests per bedroom for homes with decentralized wastewater systems.

There are supporters and opposition to what was referred to as a “lodgers tax.”

The story quoted resident Adam Johnson as saying the vacation rentals “cause unpredictable outcomes. It’s important to establish regulations for these kinds of businesses, which is what they are, so neighbors are not adversely affected by them.”

This issue is coming home to roost at popular vacation destinations across North America. How can pumpers be a proactive part of the solution? By sharing their expertise and offering specialty service to the owners of these properties.

For example, reach out to your local town or county government and offer to explain the impact of overuse of septic systems. Be out front and talk to homeowners, AirBNB businesses, Realtors and the like to improve consumer education about septic system care.

Maybe you can tailor a septic maintenance program aimed at the owners of one or multiple units that are rented to visitors for many weeks of the year. For example, you could offer a program of quarterly inspections, outlet filter service and checks of the tank condition to head off more costly problems like flushed wipes or fats, oils and grease created by visitors who don’t know how to care for a septic system. These frequent wastewater checks could be cheap insurance against the types of problems you encounter from misuse.

Do you live in an area where vacation rentals are taking off and you have seen the type of problems the folks in Santa Fe are concerned about?

Vila reports on typical cost of septic pumping

You may remember Bob Vila as the architect who hosted the PBS series This Old House for many years. He continues to share home improvement advice at his website,, where he recently posted an article looking at what homeowners pay for septic tank pumping. He also gave basic advice on care and maintenance of septic systems.

Vila quoted research from home improvement sites Angi and HomeAdvisor that determined the current range of costs for pumping a septic tank nationally is $287 to $555, with the average cost at $409. Of course there are a lot of variables dictating the septic service cost; Vila points to tank size, tank usage, pumping frequency and geographic location as main factors.

For example, Vila reported that pumping a 600-gallon tank could cost as little as $175, while a large, 2,000-gallon tank might draw a $600 invoice. The difference in cost is translated both to dumping fees and the labor time it takes for the service call.

And just as obvious to pumpers, the habits of septic tank users plays a role in cost of service over the long haul. Vila said that homeowners who may overwhelm systems with long showers, lots of laundry and those who put a lot of food down a garbage disposal may have to pump more frequently than those who try to conserve water usage and avoid the garbage disposal.

Vila also said homeowners can expect to see more expenses in areas where the cost of living is generally higher, for example nearer to metro areas compared to more rural areas.

Aside from a cost analysis, Vila promoted regular pumping and inspections to ensure septic systems provide reliable service for many years.

“Regular inspections are the first wall of protection when it comes to septic system maintenance and will help prevent issues down the line,” the story concluded. “By scheduling regular septic pumping services, (homeowners) can stay ahead of any potential (and likely expensive) issues.”


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