Septic Systems – What to Do After The Flood
Do I pump my septic tank during flooded or saturated drain field conditions? No! At best, pumping the tank is only a temporary solution. Under worst conditions, pumping it out could cause the tank to try to float out of the ground and may damage the inlet and outlet pipes. The best solution is to plug all the drains in the basement and drastically reduce water use in the house.
What if my septic system has been used to dispose wastewater from my business? In addition to raw sewage, small businesses may use their septic system to dispose of wastewater containing chemicals. If your septic system, that receives chemicals, backs up into a basement or lateral field take extra precautions to prevent skin, eye and inhalation contact. The proper clean-up depends on what chemicals are found in the wastewater.
What do I do with my septic system after the flood? Once floodwaters have receded, there are several things homeowners should remember
- Do not drink well water until it is tested. Contact your local health department
- Do not use the sewage system until water in the lateral field is lower than the water level around the house.
- Have your septic tank professionally inspected and serviced if you suspect damage. Sings of damage include settling or an inability to accept water. Most septic tanks are not damaged by flooding since they are below ground and completely covered. However, septic tanks and pump tanks can fill with silt and debris, and must be cleaned. If the lateral field is clogged with silt, a new system may have to be installed.
- Only licensed pumpers should clean or repair septic tanks because tanks may contain dangerous gases.
- 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. Clean up any floodwater, in the house, without dumping it into the sink or toilet and allow enough time for the water to recede.
- 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.
- Pump the septic system as soon as possible after the flood. Be sure to pump both the tank and lift station (if applicable). This will remove silt and debris that may have washed into the system. Do not pump the tank during flooded or saturated lateral field conditions.
- Do not compact the soil over the lateral field by driving or operating equipment in the area. Saturated soil is especially susceptible to compaction, which can reduce the lateral field’s ability to treat wastewater and lead to system failure.
- If applicable, examine all electrical connections for damage before restoring electricity.
- Be sure the septic tank’s manhole cover is secure and that inspection ports have not been blocked or damaged.
- 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.
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.