Frozen Septic Systems– Part Two– What To You Do If Your Onsite System Freezes


The very cold temperatures have affected many septic systems in Minnesota, and some customers have asked for more information as to what could cause a septic system to freeze, what to do if it freezes, and where systems might freeze. The University of Minnesota Onsite Sewage Treatment Program has a couple of excellent articles regarding these topics, and we’ll share them throughout this week in a four part series.

Information courtesy of University of Minnesota Onsite Sewage Treatment Program:

What Should You Do If Your Onsite System Freezes

If your septic system is frozen, your first step is to call an onsite professional. Unless the cause of freezing is corrected the system will refreeze next winter. If you have a pump and hear water constantly running in a pump tank (a possible indication of a frozen system) shut off your pump and call an onsite professional. Many pumpers and installers have devices called steamers and high-pressure jetters to try to unfreeze system piping. Other methods used to help fix a freezing problem include adding heat tape and tank heaters. Cameras can be sent down the pipes to determine where the freezing is occurring and if repairs are needed. If the soil treatment system is full of ice, or there is evidence of leaking, there is no need to thaw the lines leading to the treatment area, as it cannot accept liquid until the area is thawed in spring.

If it is not feasible to correct the problem or equipment is not available in your area, the only other option is to use the septic tank(s) in the system as a holding tank until the system thaws naturally. You will need to contact a pumper who will empty out the tanks when they are full on a regular basis .This can be very costly, especially with normal volumes of water use (50 to 75 gallons per person per day). Reduce water use by limiting the number of toilet flushes, taking short showers, using the dishwasher at full capacity, limiting running water to get hot or cold and doing laundry at a laundromat. It is smart to find the cause of the freezing problem so that it can be addressed in the spring, preventing future freeze-ups. Then preventative measures can be added to the system such as adding insulation around the tank and pipes or adding additional cover.

There are many misconceptions about how to deal with a frozen onsite system.

  • Do NOT add antifreeze, salt or a septic system additive into the system.
  • Do NOT pump sewage onto the ground surface.
  • Do NOT start a fire over the system to attempt to thaw it out.
  • Do NOT run water continually to try to unfreeze system.

 

Information courtesy of University of Minnesota Onsite Sewage Treatment Program:

http://www.septic.umn.edu/factsheets/freezingproblems/index.htm