Frequently Asked Questions
With our experience and response to all types of sewer and grease back ups and overflow emergencies, we have acquired quite the gallery of photos which show how equipped we are to handle your call. Below are some pictures of emergency service calls that we have received. If you are in property management, a restaurant owner or manager, or anyone else that is responsible for overseeing the cleaning of your grease trap or interceptor, do not fall prey to these expensive clean up and emergency situations. Call us to schedule a free estimate for our preventative maintenance services.
Below, we responded to a call from an apartment complex that was unable to use at least 50 parking stalls due to a large amount of rainfall in a short amount of time. All the water retention basins were full and overflowing and were not able to handle anymore rainfall. Green Arrow Environmental responded and worked for over eight hours hauling off all the standing water in the parking lot so the tenants could resume using their parking spots.
RAIN WATER REMOVAL
GREASE TRAP BACK UP
SEPTIC TANK BACK UP
With most of these emergencies, the cause of the urgent request for service was mainly due to lack of maintenance. With that being said, most emergencies are preventable had the grease trap been pumped more regularly, the septic tank cleaned more frequently or a drain or sewer line been cleaned and maintained. It’s the common case of – Out of sight out of mind.
We have also been on emergency service calls where not only was the cost to do a grease clean up costly for the client when we handed them our invoice for our services, but other passersby had driven through an overflow of a grease trap and came back to the owner of the establishment and requested reimbursement for having to wash their car and shampoo their carpets because the grease got all over the place. Thankfully we have not run into an issue where anyone got injured.
In the picture above, the pressure under the lids caused the lids to be lifted up (the above picture had the lids manually removed) but it came up just enough for the maintenance crew to recognize they had a serious problem and an overflow that began into the parking lot. Don’t get stuck in this situation. Call us at 480-304-5611 to set up a regularly schedule service.
This is a picture of a small grease trap inside the kitchen area by the three compartment sink. Some of them are installed below ground (like the one above) or above ground. Either way, these types of grease traps have a small capacity of about 30-50 gallons and are very temperamental. That translates into more attention to service (at least monthly) and maintenance because it does not require much to have this type of grease trap overflow and cause a hazard to employees walking around in the kitchen.
This is an old drain line caked with grease! This establishment had multiple problems, month after month with back ups of their grease trap and sewer line into the kitchen. Their plumber continued to come out and snake out the line but it only pushed the clog and grease further down the line. the build up continued and the owner finally decided to change out all the old cast iron piping and have it replaced with plastic pipes. This is what was discovered when one of the sections of piping was removed. A regular scheduled cleaning with hydrojetting could have opened the pipes back to the original diameter and saved the owner thousands of dollars from doing a line replacement.
The septic tank, if up to code will be located at least 10 feet away from the house or building. Once the waste water enters the septic tank, the natural enzymes & bacteria inside our bodies are released when we use the bathroom and will help break down the septage matter inside the tank. There are three (3) layers inside a septic tank; 1) sludge, which is heavier than water (food – garbage disposal matter and other heavy material) which sits on the bottom as decayed, odor causing matter, 2) clear water or clarified waste water – well, it’s not always clear, but you do not want the floating matter in the water to go further downstream to the disposal area where it will causing clogging and back ups, 3) scum layer, which is anything lighter than water and floats to the top. This could be grease, plastics, toilet paper, wipes and other matter. Pumping the septic tank is the only proper and efficient way to completely remove the sludge and scum layers from a septic tank. I have seen more cases where the sludge layer has been so deep that it has taken hours to properly clean the inside of the tank only to find out that the sludge had caused accelerated deterioration of the septic tank. The bad news in a case like this is the tank would need to be replaced immediately to prevent exfiltration or leakage out of the tank into the ground outside the tank. Clean up of this level could result in bioremediating the soil and possibly hefty fines from the County. This is why it is so important to pump out your septic tank every 3 to 5 years.
As the septic tank begins to fill up with all of this “stuff – well, doo doo” and undergo its natural separation process, the tank becomes “full.” That is, it has a static liquid level or water line which it maintains in order to function properly. A normal water line or liquid level is just below the the sewer line (inlet pipe) coming into the tank and the sewer line (outlet pipe) going out of the tank to the drainage or disposal area (see picture below). As waste water enters the tank, the liquid level rises slightly and pushes the effluent out to the disposal area. If the level is higher or lower than this there may be a serious issue! If it is too high, there could be a clog, the sludge is too deep and blocking the outlet line to the disposal area, there could be an effluent filter that needs to be cleaned, etc. If the level is lower than this, it could mean the tank has been compromised and leaking into the subsurface causing contamination. Either way, your system requires immediate attention.
Do conserve water – laundry, showers & dishwasher
Do use only “septic safe” toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc.
Do repair leaking faucets and toilets immediately
Do use low volume flush toilets and water conserving shower heads
Do limit your automatic water softener regeneration cycle frequency
Do limit the use of your garbage disposal – put it in the garbage
Do direct gutter downspouts away from your system
Do grade your yard so surface runoff is directed away from your system
Do minimize waste – Only toilet paper and poop should be flushed down the toilet
Do tell contractors you are on a septic system
Do pump and inspect septic your tank more often than not
Don’t overload the system with high volumes of water
Don’t put anything down the drain that could be disposed of some other way (i.e., in the trash can)
Don’t drive over the drainage area, building over it or compacting the soil in any way
Don’t wait for the system to back up or have problems – care and maintain the system to avoid paying for costly repairs
Do not enter a septic tank without proper ventilation – call a professional – that would be us!
Do not flush the following items into your septic system: bleaches, caustic cleaners, coffee grounds, disposable diapers, baby wipes or any other type of wipe, sanitary napkins, cigarette butts, fats, grease and oils, disinfectants, photographic chemicals, pills and unused medication, dental floss, Q-tips, kitty litter, tampons (plastic tips should be thrown in the garbage), condoms, paper towels, pesticides, other chemical wastes, paints, varnishes, waste oils, poisons, thinners, medicinal needles, plastic bags & more
If by chance the above items do enter your septic tank, it is a very, very, very, very, very good idea to have it pumped and removed so that it does not damage the enzymes or bacteria inside of your tank.
Maintaining proper care for your septic system is vital to the life expectancy of the tank and drainage area. The better you care for and have your tank and drainage area (when needed) cleaned out or pumped, the longer the system will last and the less issues you will have. With the advanced systems that we have nowadays, some repairs can be several thousand dollars!
To properly clean out the septic tank, it must be located or found as mentioned above. There are a couple of methods that are used to find septic tanks. Each varies in additional price or cost to the homeowner depending on the equipment or labor involved. In some cases, the septic permit documentation will have a plot map (but not always) of the house and the location of the septic tank. In every plot that I have experienced or seen, it is only as good as the person who drew it! That being said, sometimes they are not very reliable. Other methods for locating the septic tank will be with the use of electronic/radio detection equipment. The technician will use the sewer clean outs or the plumbing vent on the roof and send a cable with a tip that will emit a radio signal back to a wand or locator. This is a very accurate method and in some cases more costly but well worth the money (typical cost can be around $200). Other methods can be with the use of soil or water probes. These are metal-like, typically with a metal T-handle and are pushed into the ground until hitting the top of the septic tank which is concrete (most cases – can also be fiberglass or polyethylene). The water probe is simply hooked to the hose bib and sprays high pressure water into the ground until the top of the tank is found. Either method is effective but one may encounter the same or higher cost than electronically locating the tank which is more accurate and doesn’t take as much time. The cost to the homeowner is typically done by the hour (one hour minimums) rather than flat rate. Hourly costs could range from $75-$125 per hour. In most cases the tank can take an hour or less to find. I have been called out to jobs where the homeowner has paid for the probing job and ended up with over 900 holes in their yard before the tank was found! It looked like a mix between a battle field and a rodent issue.
When digging or excavating to get access to the septic tank there are several things you are looking for. Either you will run into a riser before you get to the top of the tank or you will be digging until you get to the top of the tank, which generally will be concrete. If it were my house, I would always use the biggest access to clean the tank. There is better mobility to swing the hose and clean the inside of the tank and get all of the sludge removed. However, if you do have the risers that come up to the surface, you have every incentive to clean more frequently. There is no guess-work or investigation to be done as described above. The access is already there – get it cleaned! If you let it go too long between cleanings it is more difficult to do a better cleaning through the risers especially if you are using a 3 inch hose in a 4-6 inch riser. You get the idea.
If you end up digging down until you get to the top of the tank, what you are looking for depends on the age of the tank and year it was installed. Newer tanks have two large 24 inch round access holes (don’t say that too fast) and there are two (2) chambers inside the tank. Older tanks may have access towards the front (inlet side) of the tank or towards the middle. The lid or access to the tank may be as small as 4 x 4 square inches, 12 x 12 square inches or have an end that slides off (these are back busters)! While you are digging around you may run into some rusty rod iron hooks. Don’t get too excited. Some of these were used to hook chains and hoist the septic tank into its place, while others may be a handle to remove a lid. If you run into one of these hooks, broaden your dig and look for what would appear to be lines in the concrete or the outline of the lid you need to remove for us to clean the inside of the septic tank.
The lids or access ports to the septic tank are tapered or have a lip on them to prevent the lid from falling inside the tank. From the photos above, you can see a good chisel and hammer is best to remove these lids. CAUTION: Never attempt to open the lid. There could be highly toxic fumes or gases inside the tank. Always call a professional at Green Arrow Environmental Services, Inc. @ 480-304-5611. Besides, it’s not like it is Christmas morning and you just can’t wait to open your present (septic tank). This is a septic tank – your crap lives in there! I think you can wait to have a professional from Green Arrow Environmental Services, Inc. to open and remove the lid properly. Besides, we’re immune to the smell – NOT!
After the professional arrives, the technician will carefully remove the lid and set it to the side. They will usually either agitate the scum layer inside with a water hose, special tool or shovel. This breaks up the scum layer and also allows the technician to assess the frequency of the cleaning based on how much scum and sludge are discovered inside the tank and when it was pumped out last, if at all. In every case, the longer it goes between cleanings, the worse off the inside will be and damage has surely already been done to the drainage area because the clear water area described above has been decreased markedly and particles have entered the drainage area and begun to clog the piping and drainage system. Up to this point, if you have encountered all of the above steps, you have probably taken excellent notes of the location of the septic tank with pictures, drawings or both.
After the cleaning of the inside of the septic tank, we will do a visual inspection of the inside. We check the baffles and piping inside the tank, look for any cracking, roots or other invasive material. Upon completion of work you will receive an invoice for the agreed upon price and any adjustments to the work performed and agreed upon at or before the time of service. We will also note the number of gallons removed from the septic tank for your reference in the future.
As mentioned above, it is extremely important to have your septic tank cleaned out more often than not to avoid or postpone expensive repairs. A good septic cleaning is ALWAYS less expensive than a major repair or a fix for a failing septic system. Call us today to schedule your septic tank cleaning at 480-304-5611.
Grease Traps were designed to prevent the high volume of fats, oils and grease (FOG) at commercial eating establishments from clogging up main sewer lines that flow to waste water treatment facilities (OSWTF). The more volume of fats, oils and grease that enter the treatment plants, the costlier it is for your water district to treat, process and make available reusable, quality drinking water.
The grease trap is designed to slow the flow of the grease and “traps” it inside this contraption to be later pumped out and removed by a licensed and professional liquid waste hauler with the use of a vacuum or pump truck, hence we are often times called pumpers. Each municipality dictates the frequency the grease trap needs to be cleaned or pumped out.
Below are examples of a grease interceptor (left) and a grease trap (right) that were backing up due to infrequent cleanings. These types of grease trap cleanings required costly emergency pricing and a huge inconvenience to the establishment and its patrons. In some cases when a grease trap back up is so bad, it may be necessary to close down the restaurant until proper functionality to the grease trap is restored. In addition, the smell and odor from cleaning the grease trap during busy serving times causes most patrons to leave and not want to return to your establishment.
CAUTION: Pressure washing can be very dangerous and even deadly if not used properly.
For the past three years, Green Arrow Environmental Services, Inc. has helped many commercial and industrial clients with semi annual and annual cleanings of their cooling tower systems. Our services include pressure washing the outside and inside of all the major components including the fill material to remove all hard water build up and debris that gets caught inside these panels. Once everything is pressure washed clean, we utilize our vacuum trucks to pump out and remove all the debris that has been removed and also the sludge build up inside the cooling tower basin. Removing the sludge will provide cleaner cooling water to the system and more efficient flow and cooling results.
BEFORE PRESSURE WASHING
AFTER PRESSURE WASHING
With all the media or fill all pressure washed cleaned and debris removed, most of it ends up on the inside of the cooling tower. Since we own and operate all our own pressure washing equipment and vacuum or pump trucks, we next vacuum out all the heavy sediment and sludge from the inside of the cooling towers. The pictures below illustrate before and after pictures of how clean we can get the cooling towers so your facility can be up and running and cooling the water more efficiently thereby saving on utility costs to run these expensive cooling systems.
AFTER PRESSURE WASHING – BEFORE PUMPING OUT THE CONTENTS
AFTER PRESSURE WASHING – AFTER PUMPING OUT THE CONTENTS
More before and after pictures of the media or fill inside a cooling tower.