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Special to the News
Residents who use an onsite sewage disposal system (a septic tank system) may be experiencing performance problems because of rain-soaked conditions.
During heavy rains and floods, the ground can become saturated, preventing proper operation of the system. For example, a septic tank can collapse or float out of position.
Signs that a septic system is not working properly include sinks and toilets that drain slowly, floor drains that overflow and visible sewage outside the home.
If this occurs, the Alabama Department of Public Health, or ADPH, recommends the following:
- Limit water usage when possible.
- Consider staggering periods of prolonged water usage such as bathing and laundering, when possible.
- Consider laundering at commercial establishments, as this will significantly reduce the demand on your own system.
- Inspect disposal areas for depressions where rainwater ponding may occur. Adding soil to these depressions will aid in surface drainage.
- Inspect roof drainage and gutters to ensure that rainwater run-off is diverted away from the disposal area.
- Consider having your septic tank pumped out. This may provide temporary relief and may help with maintenance for long-term system performance. 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.) ADPH recommends having your septic tank pumped out every three to five years to eliminate sludge build-up.
- After weather conditions improve, the system should return to normal functioning. If you continue to experience problems with your system, contact your local health department environmentalist for assistance.
For more information on septic systems after floods, go to www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/septic-systems-what-do-after-flood.