A septic tank's concrete lid needs to be removed to empty out sludge every few years before the sludge backs up into your house or overflows in the yard. For safety reasons, the lid is purposely heavy and awkward to remove. Not only does the lid protect the tank from erosion and damage, it also keeps children and others from easily accessing the sewage and suffering harm. To save time and money, locate the tank, dig up the earth around it and expose the heavy lid before the septic tank service person arrives, suggests the Seattle-King County Public Health Department.

Dig on an angle to maintain the sides of the hole.

Step 1

Locate the septic tank lid and use the shovel to dig down on an angle so the sides of the hole won't crumble into the open tank. On average, the top of a septic tank is a foot below the surface, but this depth could vary greatly. If your home was built before 1975, there may be a two-compartment tank to uncover.

Step 2

Dig a generous amount of space around the tank--approximately an extra 18 inches--for easier lifting and handling of the lid.

Step 3

Pile the dirt on the far side of the hole, opposite the side accessed by the pumper truck.

Step 4

Pry the seams of the lid open with the pry bar. The lid may be in more than one piece.

Step 5

Employ an assistant to help you hoist the lid to the surface. Lay it out of the way of the pumper truck and septic worker.

Step 6

Stake the immediate area and ribbon it off with caution tape for safety purposes, if the hole will sit unsupervised for any length of time.