Protecting a Septic System During and After a Flood

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When a home or the area surrounding it floods, the septic system is at risk of becoming waterlogged. This could be from a leak in the lid, rising groundwater that enters into the system, or an over-saturated drainfield that can't properly drain. A flooded septic system may lead to sewage backing up into the home and cause serious problems for the homeowner. 

Septic tanks may not always experience damage just because there is flooding, but any existing leaks in the system will allow floodwater, silt, and debris to enter the system. This presents a big problem since the extra dirt and debris can cause clogging. Extra water entering the septic system can also cause the floating solids to rise up and plug the pipes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has information on what to do after a flood to ensure your septic system is protected. Below we have summarized this information with a list of dos & don'ts:

Septic System Flooding Dos & Dont's

Do! Don't!
Conserve water as much as possible Don't drink well water until it is tested
Cut back on showers, laundry, running the dishwasher, and flushing the toilet Don't compact the soil over the drainfield by driving heavy machinery over the area
Clean affected areas within the home with a solution of 1/2 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water if there are backups Don't use the system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house
Have the system professionally inspected and serviced if there is suspected damage Don't attempt to clean or repair the septic tank yourself
Ensure the manhole cover is secure and inspection ports have not been blocked or damaged Don't open the septic system for pumping while high groundwater conditions remain
Pump both the tank and the lift station as soon as possible after the flood subsides Don't dig into the tank or drainfield area while the soil is still wet
Examine all electrical connections before restoring electricity to the area Don't clean up floodwater by dumping it into the sink or toilet


This video provides some additional tips for how to avoid septic tank flooding and what to do if your system does flood:


Following these tips will help septic system homeowners to be prepared in the event of a flood and protect the septic system from further damages. If you need more specific advice or assistance with your septic system, contact your local health department for a list of septic system contractors in your area.

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