Septic Maintenance During Flooding

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Septic Maintenance During Flooding

October 8, 2018 Emergency Pumping Septic Maintenance Septic Tank 1
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Septic Maintenance During Flooding and Excess Rain

There are certain times of the year that can be very soggy for Iowa residents. A well maintained septic system and normal rain conditions shouldn’t give a homeowner any issues. On the other hand, a full tank and lots of external groundwater will be slow to drain and potentially cause sewage backup. Keep reading to learn how to proper septic maintenance during flooding and times of excessive rain.

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Do not dig into the tank or drainfield area while the soil is still wet or flooded. Try to avoid any work on or around the disposal field with heavy machinery while the soil is still wet. These activities will ruin the soil conductivity.

Should I pump my tank during flooded or saturated drainfield conditions?

We do not recommend pumping your tank during flooded or saturated drainfield conditions. Worst case scenario, an empty septic tank will rise and damage inlet and outlet pipes. If Mother Nature is flooding your yard with water, sit tight and dramatically reduce water use in your house.

Remember: Whenever the water table is high or your sewage system is threatened by flooding there is a risk that sewage will back up into your home. The only way to prevent this backup is to relieve pressure on the system by using it less.

How Does a Flood Affect Your Septic System?

Although most septic tanks are not damaged by flooding since they are below ground and completely covered, there are other things to consider. Floodwaters from the house that are passed through or pumped through the septic tank will cause higher flows through the system. This may cause solids to transfer from the septic tank to the drainfield and will cause clogging.

Flooding of the septic tank will have lifted the floating crust of fats and grease in the septic tank. Some of this scum may have floated and/or partially plugged the outlet tee. If the septic system backs up into the house check the tank first for outlet blockage

If sewage has backed up into the basement, clean the area and disinfect the floor. Use a chlorine solution of a half cup of chlorine bleach to each gallon of water to disinfect the area thoroughly. Clean up any floodwater in the house without dumping it into the sink or toilet and allow enough time for the water to recede.

Things to remember once floodwaters have receded:

  • Do not open the septic tank for pumping while the soil is still saturated. Mud and silt may enter the tank and end up in the drainfield. Furthermore, pumping out a tank that is in saturated soil may cause it to “pop out” of the ground. (Likewise, recently installed systems may “pop out” of the ground more readily than older systems because the soil has not had enough time to settle and compact.)
  • Only trained specialists should clean or repair septic tanks because tanks may contain dangerous gases.
  • Do not drink well water until it is tested. Contact your local health department.
  • Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house.
  • Saturated soil is especially susceptible to compaction, which can reduce the soil absorption field’s ability to treat wastewater and lead to system failure.
  • Be sure the septic tank’s manhole cover is secure and that inspection ports have not been blocked or damaged.

Preparing Your Septic System for Future Floods

  • Pump the septic system as soon as possible after the flood. Be sure to pump both the tank and lift station. This will remove silt and debris that may have washed into the system.
  • Check the vegetation over your septic tank and soil absorption field. Repair erosion damage and sod or reseed areas as necessary to provide turf grass cover.
  • Aerobic plants, upflow filters, trickling filters, and other media filters have a tendency to clog due to mud and sediment. These systems will need to be washed and raked.
  • Prevent silt from entering septic systems that have pump chambers. When the pump chambers are flooded, silt has a tendency to settle in the chambers and will clog the drainfield if it is not removed. If the soil absorption field is clogged with silt, a new system may have to be installed.
  • Have your septic tank professionally inspected and serviced if you suspect damage. Signs of damage include settling or an inability to accept water.

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One Response

  1. Sarah Packer says:

    My husband and I are new homeowners and we just moved into an area that’s known for flash floods, so I wanted maintenance tips. I didn’t know you shouldn’t pump during a flood because the backup is only prevented when you put less pressure on your system. I’ll have to keep that in mind and find out how many times a year I should have my system pumped, thanks to this post!

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