Saving Septic Vol.3

For a change of pace, this edition’s Saving Septic will not discuss harmful products in your septic system, but instead will focus on what we can do to keep our onsite systems running smoothly over the holidays and through the long, cold winter.

Vol.3: Winter Wonderland for Wastewater – Advice for Your Clients

Nobody wants to have to call their friendly neighbourhood onsite professional on Christmas morning or when it’s -30 degrees outside, but many people who don’t understand the pitfalls of improper septic system operation will have to do just that this winter. To help avoid those inconvenient hassles, your association has compiled some advice for members to share with their clients to help prevent some of the issues that winter and the holidays can cause with their system.

  • Never drive over the components of the septic system. Doing so in winter is more hazardous than at other times of the year. System components are more susceptible to cracking due to increased brittleness from freezing. This is especially true of the components within your treatment field or mound which may not be buried very deep. This is critically important for new systems as the disturbed ground may not have had time to settle.
  • Do not compact the snow on top of the onsite system. The air space between snowflakes is what provides the insulating factor of snow. Compacting snow removes that space, allowing the cold air direct access to the components. In areas with extremely cold temperatures, but little snow, covering the system with hay, mulch, or leaves will help to insulate it.
  • Consider insulating the septic tank lid. Most onsite suppliers sell polystyrene insulation that can be installed inside tank lids.
  • If homeowners will be away from home for extended periods, have someone come to the residence and run the washing machine or dishwasher periodically to add heat to the system and prevent internal freezing.
  • Make sure to repair any dripping or leaking fixtures. Small volumes of water running consistently can create a film of ice over the interior surface of the pipes, which can block drainage over time.

Remind clients that in addition to the above tips on how to prevent system freezing, they should also consider the number of people using their system over the holidays. Hosting holiday events can wreak havoc on a septic system, if excess usage isn’t controlled. Guests should be informed that continuously running dishwashers and washing machines can overload the septic system. If company is expected for extended periods of time, homeowners should consider contacting their service provider to determine whether or not resetting timers and dose settings is necessary.