Septic Systems and Freezing Weather are they friends?


Many people own homes that have septic systems with them.  However, if you do not properly take care of the system from the connection to the home all the way out to where the tank is located the cost can be astronomical not to mention the hassle it can cause in your family.

Did you know that lack of snow coverage can cause a problem? If there is not enough snow to cover the tank the frost can be driven deep into the ground and cause a freezing issue as well.  A path of any sort whether it be from human, snowmobile, ATV or even livestock moving across the tank or lines may also cause freezing issues.  So to protect yourself from having issues post signs indicating where the lines or tank or located at for all to stay clear of these areas.

Lack of plant cover could also cause a freezing issue for a septic system.  Most companies will recommend allowing vegetation cover to go un-cut after mid-September as it will add some insulation to the system.  The vegetation will also catch additional snow to help insulate the system.

Not a plumber? Higher a professional to come in once a year to check for leaks in the plumbing fixtures or condensation from a furnace or humidifier.  Slow moving water through the discharge line is enough to cause ice to build up and eventually plug the line.  If you find a leak, make sure it goes into a pail that is dumped often may help in avoiding a frozen septic.  You can also look into the use of heat tape or a small condensation pump may be helpful in some situations.

Irregular use of a septic system may cause freezing as well.  Insufficient temperatures may occur in homes where there is long periods of in use such as people who go south for the winters.  Some of this may be avoided with a little planning.  Schedule laundry to be done a load a day and use the warm/hot setting, use your dishwasher daily or even a hot bath can help.   Thinking of leaving the water run all the time? This will cause anther issue of hydraulically overloading the system.  If you own a cabin or hot water use is not an option, then a SSTS professional should be contacted to discuss the best remedy or options to keep your system from freezing. 

Landscape of the pipes also plays a big part of keeping a freezing situation from happening.  If  your pipes do not have the correct slope, which can occur from settling, roots, new vegetation planting or maybe they have just sagged from time-lapse sewage can collect and freeze.  If your system has a pump line, the sewage needs to be able to drain from the drainfield back to the pump tank each time the pump turns off.  Be sure also to check for any broken or damaged inspection pipe caps and maintenance hole covers. 

So this leads us to a couple commonly asked questions:

1.) What if my septic system freezes?

               CALL ON ON-SITE PROFESSIONAL!! There are no if’s ands or but’s about this.  Do not add anything to the septic such as antifreeze, salt     or septic system additives.  You by law can not pump sewage onto the ground surface.  Do NOT start a fire over the system or run water to try to thaw the freeze.

2.) Can I prevent my system from freezing in the first place?

            Yes, there are things that may possibly help.  Try to put extra 8-12 inches of mulch over the pipe lines & tank which will act as extra insulation.  There are many versions of mulch that can be used and any landscape company or professional company should be able to best indicate which type would work best for your personal situation.  BE SURE THIS IS DONE TO A NEW SYSTEM WITH  THAT DOES NOT HAVE ANY VEGETATION ON IT.

The best prevention you can do is to watch for signs that you may be or will soon have issues with your septic system.  Indicators may include, but limited to, seeping or ponding.  If you see anything, contact a professional immediately to discuss the issue & what remedy will work best in your situation.

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