Sketch of a common sewage grinder pump used in a modern basement Septic & Sewage Pumps
Buy, Install & Repair Guide for Sewage Pumps, Septic Pumps, Effluent Pumps & Sump Pumps

  • SEPTIC & SEWAGE PUMPS - CONTENTS: Septic tank pumps, septic grinder pumps, septic effluent pumps - Septic Pump Alarm & Septic Alarm demo video; Definitions of types of septic system pumps; Warning of items that will clog septic pumps and grinder pumps & Warning about trip and fall and health hazards of exposed sewage ejector pumps
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about buying, installing, and repairing sewage ejector pumps and pump controls and about sewage and sump pump safety

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This article explains the differences between Septic System Pumps and Sump Pumps , Sewage Ejector Pumps, Septic Grinder Pumps, Sewage Pumping Stations, & Septic Pump Alarms. Advice is given for septic tank effluent or sewage pump selection and use. Septic pumps used for pumping air in aeration systems and septic pumps used to move effluent in a drip dispersion system are discussed under the appropriate septic system type which are outlined at SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN ALTERNATIVES.

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What are Septic Pumps, Sewage Grinders, Sewage Effluent Pumps, & Sump Pumps

Our septic tank alarm video at right demonstrates the operation of a septic tank pump system alarm. More videos on septic system maintenance are at SEPTIC VIDEOS.

Septic alarms indicate when the septic tank pump is not operating. Repair is needed promptly.

Citation of this article by reference to this website and brief quotation for the sole purpose of review are permitted. Citation of this article by reference to this website and brief quotation for the sole purpose of review are permitted. Use of this information at other websites, in books or pamphlets for sale is reserved to the author. Technical review by industry experts has been performed and comments from readers are welcomed. Contributors are listed at the end of each article.

Readers have asked the difference between a sump pump, simplex and duplex sump pumps, a septic effluent pump, a sewage grinder pump, and an effluent pump. This article explains the various types of pumps and their purchase, installation, inspection, and maintenance.

Other videos: VIDEO GUIDES at

Here we use "sewage pump" and "septic pump" as synonyms. Both classes of pumps handle blackwater or sewage. It is their destination that is different.

Duplex sump pump installationA sewage pump, speaking strictly, is pumping blackwater (toilet waste) to a public sewer line.

A septic pump, strictly speaking, is pumping blackwater (toilet waste) to a private septic tank and drainfield system.

But people use these terms loosely, and even among manufacturers it is important to ask, or read the manufacturer's description of what a particular pump model is intended to handle.

In addition, even among sewage pumps and grinder pumps that are intended to either pass solids or grind solids up and pump them, the vulnerability of different pump models to damage, clogging, or motor burn-up from debris that people may flush down drains and toilets varies - a problem we discuss further at SEWAGE PUMP CLOG DAMAGE.

What is a Sump Pump?

Definition of Sump pumps, which we discuss on this page, are designed to remove unwanted water, such as surface or ground water that leak into a building. Sump pumps only have to pump water, never solids.

A sump pump is normally installed in a pit at the low end of a basement or crawl space floor.

In a bad building water entry situation water runs across the basement/crawl space floor into the sump pit where it is pumped away (after already wetting the building and inviting a mold contamination problem). This condition pertains when water is entering a building through foundation walls, often because the roof drainage or surface runoff are directed right against the building foundation itself.

Keeping gutters and leaders working and correcting outside drainage errors are critical in keeping water out of a building. Doesn't it make more sense to prevent water from coming into a building than to let it in and then pump it out?

In a good situation, openings in the sides and bottom of the sump pit, or an under-floor drainage system direct subsurface water into the sump pit before the ground water level rises enough to send water into the building.

Over several years of operation, and partly by pumping a little soil silt as it operates, a sump pump may actually improve the flow of under-floor water into the sump pit, thus reducing building water entry.

What is a Septic Pump, Sewage Pump, or Grinder Pump? Definitions of the Types of Septic Pumps & Grinder Pumps

Typical home sewage grinder pump

Septic pumps, sewage pumps, or sewage ejector pumps, which we discuss in detail beginning at SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS, are designed to remove sewage from a building where plumbing fixtures and their drains are lower than the building sewer line and/or septic tank.

Septic pumps have to move solids, either by being able to pass large solid objects through the pump without clogging, or by grinding the solids into fine debris.

Municipal lift stations, duplex sewage pumps, septic alarms, grinder pumps, submersible pumps, are discussed in more detail in this article.

A sewage pump may be designed to either pass solids up to a certain size, or it may be a sewage grinder pump designed to macerate solid waste so that it can be pumped through a sewer line, perhaps a smaller diameter "force main" sewer line to a public sewer or septic tank.

Sewage grinder/ejector pumps are available in various horsepower models, typically from .5 to 1hp for residential applications, and are sold to operate at various voltages including 110-120V, 220-240V, 440-480V, and even 600V models using either single phase (most common) and three-phase motors.

Typically the piping connection from the ejector pump to the building sewer line is 2" and incorporates a check valve (the white valve shown in the front-right pipe in our photo at left).

Sewage ejector pump installation and maintenance are discussed in detail at SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS

What is a Septic Effluent Pump?

Septic effluent pumps are used to move clarified septic effluent out of a pumping chamber to a drainfield. Septic effluent pumps do not have to move solids, but are built to standards of durability and duty cycle more demanding than a typical sump pump used to remove ground water from a building.

Typical examples of applications where septic effluent pumps are used include raised bed, mound, or sand-bed filtration septic systems in which the absorption bed is located higher than the septic tank. In these installations septic effluent is pumped from a final chamber in the septic tank or from a second effluent chamber up to the absorption system.

Watch out: Pump manufacturers may show that the same pump models can serve as a sump pump, effluent pump, and de-watering pump. But that is not universally the case - in other words, there are some sump pumps that work just fine as effluent pumps, but other sump pump models (such as low-cost sump pumps using a vertical float and rod switch and intended for indoor de-watering in basements) may not be suitable for septic effluent pumping and may not be designed to be used in a septic effluent tank or drywell.

In a pinch we've seen people use SUMP PUMPS for septic tank effluent pumping but that is not a durable nor a recommended solution.

Be Sure to Select the Proper Septic or Sump Pump Type

Sewage pump (C) Daniel Friedman


The distinction among sewage pumps or septic pump types is important when installing or repairing a septic system that uses pumps since choosing the wrong pump can mean a short operating life for the pump, an unreliable septic system, and unnecessary expense.

In addition to explaining these different septic pump types, in this article we also describe a community sewage pumping station and septic pump alarms as well as the inspection and installation details for this equipment.

Beware, there may be some confusion, depending on with whom you speak, because people don't always use just the right terms for construction or septic system parts - and the right sewage pump term, or right septic handling product versus the wrong one can be an important distinction.

Sewage Pumps Clogging Failures

Details about cause and prevention of sewage pump clogging and damage are at Sewage Pump Clog Damage. Excerpts are below. Also see WHAT CAN GO INTO TOILETS & DRAINS?.

Watch out for the following conditions that cause clogging and even burnup of various types of sewage pumps, grinder pumps, ejector pumps, and septic pumps:

Don't Flush These Items Down the Toilet - They Clog or Burn Up the Grinder Pump

  • Abrasive debris such as sand
  • Cat litter, kitty litter, or other fine gravel or clay products (such as aquarium bottom gravel - don't clean your fish tank by dumping the gravel, sea shells, or other solid waste into a toilet)
  • Caustic chemicals
  • Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and should not be flushed into the septic system. And the filters on cigarette butts can clog and destroy septic pumps.
  • Clay such as modeling clay or children's play-doh® modeling compound can enter and clog sewage grinder pumps
  • Cloth strips or scraps, rag fragments
  • Clothes dryer sheets used as fabric softener or to make your dry clothes "smell nicer" - the quantity of chemical in these sheets is unlikely to be sufficient to damage the septic tank bacteria, but the synthetic fabric from which dryer sheets are made will not break down in the septic tank. These items not only add to the solid waste in the septic tank, a dryer sheet might clog the septic tank inlet at the baffle.
  • Coffee grounds - can enter and clog sewage pumps
  • Condoms won't clog a pipe but like some other debris, because they are of modest size and are quite flexible, but condoms are (usually) not bio degradable. So we listed condoms, or other latex products such as latex gloves above as "never flush".

    A condom in the septic tank will probably join other debris in the tank's floating scum layer, and will be removed at the next tank pump-out. Of course, if the septic tank outlet tee baffles are missing, the condom will join other floating debris on its way out to clog the drainfield, so ask your septic pumper to check the condition of the septic tank baffles when the septic tank is next pumped.

    BUT if your system uses a septic pump or grinder pump or sewage ejector pump, this material can clog the pump impeller and cause expensive pump damage or motor burnout.
  • Cotton swabs (Q-tips®) have been known to clog a drain or two - not biodegradable, though trivial in volume. BUT if your system uses a septic pump or grinder pump or sewage ejector pump, this material can clog the pump impeller and cause expensive pump damage or motor burnout.
  • Dental floss - is not biodegradable, though trivial in volume, dental floss can enter and clog grinder pump and effluent pump mechanisms
  • Degreasing solvents
  • Diapers and similar items which are not biodegradable will simply clog a septic system and are very likely to clog building drains
  • Disposable wipes - such as baby wipes or personal hygiene wipes, even products described as "biodegradable" or "OK for use in septic systems" may NOT be OK: if your system uses a septic pump or grinder pump or sewage ejector pump, this material can clog the pump impeller and cause expensive pump damage or motor burnout.
  • Explosive or flammable materials
  • Glass or glass fragments
  • Grease waste, cooking fat, lard, etc.
  • Hair waste such as hair clippings
  • Latex condoms, gloves, or similar products - we discuss condoms in septic systems further in the next section of this article.
  • Oils such as lubricating oils
  • Metal shavings, scraps, debris
  • Mud, silt, sand
  • Paper towels and facial tissues (Kleenex™) do not break down easily and should not be flushed into the septic system. Toilet paper breaks down quickly and should not be a problem in an ordinary septic tank system.
  • Panty liners should never be flushed down a building drain
  • Plastic bags or other plastic scrap or trash of any kind should never be flushed down a building drain, nor any other plastic scraps, fragments, or objects
  • Sanitary napkins should never be flushed down a building drain
  • Sticks, even toothpicks and cotton swabs can enter and clog sewage pump impeller assemblies
  • String or cord - like dental floss above, can clog or bind grinder pump or sewage pump impeller assemblies leading to pump burnout.
  • Tampons should not be flushed down a building drain
  • Wipes such as baby wipes or clean-up or makeup removing wipes
  • Any other solid, semi-solid objects that do not dissolve readily in water

See TOILETS, DON'T FLUSH LIST for a more extensive list of "don't flush" materials, and also see WHAT CAN GO INTO TOILETS & DRAINS? for complete details.

Sewage or Septic Pump Safety Warnings

Reader Question: dog and daughter fell into sump pit; dog died.

Sump pit accident (C) D Friedman / T.C. I recently moved in a house with this nasty hole in the basement.the first night my dog fell in and my daughter fell in the get the dog.2 hrs later the poor dog died but my daughter in ok.what can be put over this sump pump hole firmly so this does not happen again? I am devastated for my dog but what if it was my 3yr landlord was uncaring can you help! - T.C.

[A photo of the sump pit was subsequently provided by the reader - shown at left]

Reply: consult your doctor, inform your landlord in writing, look for other unsafe conditions

A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional information that can help understand just what the hazards are in your home, not just around the sump pit. Your email raises these concerns in my mind:

  1. What kind of "sump" are you talking about? If this was a groundwater ejector pump or typical "sump pump" installation, the hazards may include injury, even drowning, as well as exposure to possible contaminants in groundwater; if you are talking about a sewage ejector pump the hazards of bacterial and other pathogenic infections to your daughter and family are significant; in either case you should consult your family doctor immediately if your daughter was exposed to potential contaminants or sewage.
  2. The inexperience or inattention that causes a building owner to leave a sump pit open, exposing occupants to a trip and fall hazard even if there are no other biological health hazards involved, leads me to suggest that there could be other safety hazards at the property.

While the topic is different, our advice to renters who encounter mold contamination at a property includes the importance of making sure that the building owner and manager know, in writing, of your concerns. Details are at RENTERS & TENANTS GUIDE TO MOLD


  1. Block or rope off access around this hazard; depending on the type of sump pit that was installed, there may be a prefabricated and safe cover that can be installed over the opening. Such covers are sold at building supply stores such as Home Depot and Loews. Normally I'd expect that correction to be the responsibility of the building owner. But your first priority is to prevent another accident.
  2. Inform your landlord of the accident and of this unsafe condition.

Please keep me posted on how things progress, and send along photos of the sump hole if you can. Such added details can help us understand what's happening and often permit some useful further comment. What we both learn may help me help someone else.

Reader Follow-Up:

Hello, these are the pics i have. And i have no idea what kind of pump it me scared for my kids.also little fly nat bugs are coming from it.


Sump pit with cover off - sudsy (C) D FriedmanYour photos show an ordinary sump pump used to remove groundwater from below a basement slab and to carry off water that leaks into the basement, runs across the floor and enters the sump pit.

It also looks as if in most of the photos a sump pit cover was in place - so it would be useful to know if the cover has just been added, or was it left off, or how else did your daughter and pet fall into the pit?

From your photo [see covered sump pup pit photo above] it looks as if the pump and controls are so high in the sump pit that the cover, perhaps a home-made one, includes a large opening in its top through which a child or pet could step.

Also, one of your photos [photo of open sump pit shown at left] shows the sump pit with the cover off - and the water in your photo (it's a bit blurry picture) looks sudsy. If the building dumps a laundry sink or washer into the pit and is then pumping that washer drainage to the ground surface outside, that'd most likely be a health and plumbing code violation.

Finally, it also looks as if the floor is broken up around the sump pit, perhaps to improve water entry into the pit from the floor surface? Is that uneven surface also a trip hazard.

Meanwhile, make sure the sump cover is secure and block off access to this corner to protect your family from trip and fall hazards.

List of Producers of Septic Pumps, Sewage Pumps, Grinder Pumps, Effluent Pumps

CONTACT us to add pumps to this list. No fees or costs are involved. has no financial relationship with any company, product, or service discussed at this website.

  • Crane Pumps and Systems, 420 Third Street, Piqua, Ohio 45356 Phone: (937) 778-8947 and Crane Pumps and Systems, 83 West Drive, Bramton, Ontario, Canada L6T 2J6, Phone: (905) 457-6223 Fax: (937) 773-7157 Fax: (905) 457-2650 See Weinman submersible sewage ejector pump installation and service manual for an example instructions for the Weinman Series WE and 3WE sewage ejector pumps ranging from .5 to 1 hp.
  • Drain & Sewage Ejector Packages,, Tel: 530-891-6428, 24 hour message phone: 530-891-1556, Email: Sewage Ejector pump types, models, float control switches using Little Giant and Zoeller sewage pumps as examples, web search 08/15/11, original source

  • Float Switches for Pumps,, Sewage Ejector pump types, models, float control switches using Little Giant and Zoeller sewage pumps as examples, web search 08/15/11, original source
  • Flotec 800-365-6832, Flotec produces a wide range of effluent pumps, grinder pumps, sewage pumps, sump pumps
  • Gorman-Rupp, P.O. Box 1217, Mansfield, Ohio 44901-1217, Tel: (419) 755-1011 Fax (419) 755-1263. Gorman produces a very wide range of pumps including septic pumps, sewage pumps, effluent pumps, grinder pumps, submersible shredder pumps, IPT
  • Grundfos Pumps Corporation, 2555 Clovis Ave., Clovis CA 93612, Tel: 800-333-1366, web search 8/9/11, original source
  • Hydromatic Pentair Water, 740 East 9th Street, Ashland, OH 44805, Phone: 1-888-957-8677, Web Site:
  • Little Giant, Tel: 877-869-0200, Email:, Little Giant produces a wide range of pumping equipment including sewage and wastewater pumps
  • Liberty Pumps, Liberty Pumps, 7000 Apple Tree Avenue, Bergen, NY 14416, Tel: 1-800-543-2550 Fax: 1-585-494-1839, Email: Submersible pumps, sewage pumps, effluent pumps, grinder pumps. Submersible sewage pumps include the LE series line ranging from 4/10 hp up to 2 hp. LIberty also provides simplex and duplex pump systems and engineered septic and sewage pump systems.
  • Myers, Myers Applied Wastewater Systems - 1101 Myers Parkway Ashland, OH 44805, Phone: 419-289-1144, Fax: 419-289-6658, or in Canada: Myers, 269 Trillium Drive, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4W5 Tel: 519-748-5470 Fax 519-748-2553Myers produces a wide range of pumps including sump pumps, sewage pumps, effluent pumps
  • Pit-Viper Add-A-JOhn low-profile sewage systems (integrated plastic tank, pump, toilet mounting base)
  • Superior 2805 Fairview Ave. N Roseville, MN 55113, Tel: 800-495-9278Tel: 651-487-0378. Superior produces sewage pumps (float operated submersibles)
  • Tsurumi Pumps, Tsurumi (America), Inc. 1625 Fullerton Court, Glendale Heights, IL 60139, tel: 630-793-0127, fax: 630-793-0146, toll free: 888-TSURUMI (878-7864), info@tsurumiamerica.comTsurumi Pump produces sewer pumps and submersible pumps, categorized as wastewater pumps, sewage pumps, and centrifugal pumps including portable equipment.
  • Wayne , Wayne Pumps, 101 Production Drive, Harrison OH 45030, Tel: 800-237-0987. Wayne produces a range of sewage pumps and water pumps including cast iron submersible pumps
  • Weinman sewer pumps - see Crane above.
  • Zoeller Pump Company, 3649 Cane Run Rd., Louisville, KY 40211, Phone: 1-800-928-7867, 502-778-2731 Fax: 502-774-3624. Technical support and/or quote related emails: Zoeller produces just about every kind of septic, sewage, effluent, grinder, and sump pump. Homeowners who need a sewage pump are asked to contact their local representative or retail sales outlet. Zoeller classes their pumps into these categories:
    • Grinder pumps, such as Zoeller's 810/815 Turnkey Grinder Systems, 800-series Grinder Pumps, Cold-Climate grinder pumps, Simplex prepackaged grinder pump systems, and Simplex and Duplex (two pumps) grinder systems including four outdoor use.
    • Utility, pedestal, & gas engine pumps. These are portable gas-engine powered pumps used typically in construction, service, or emergencies
    • Sewage & Dewatering pumps, such as certain Aqua-Mate Models and Waste-Mate models, and Sewage-Waste 600-series pumps
    • Sump, Effluent, Dewatering pumps, such as Water Ridd'r , Mighty-Mate, Aqua-Mate, Flow-Mate, and High Head Flow-Mate pumps - of certain models - be sure to read the manufacturer's intended use for a pump model before purchasing it



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