Septic Tank Care During Power Outages

With the severe storms we've been having and more on the way, power outages are a concern for homeowners with wells and certain onsite sewage systems. In the instance of power outages, you need to become "water wise" as pump systems are dependent on electricity to move liquid sewage from the septic tank out into a drain field.

If you continue to use water by taking long showers, doing laundry and running water excessively, the septic tank will continue to fill. Since the power is out though, the sewage water that is filling the septic tank is not getting pumped out and this could potentially cause the septic tank to become too full and this raw sewage could back up into your home. Big problem!

There are several ways to be "water wise" during a power outage. First and foremost, if your home is dependent on well water, it is important to keep sufficient potable water on hand for drinking and cooking. Toilets can be flushed by pouring a bucketful of water directly into the toilet bowl and holding down the flush handle. Take very quick showers, do not do laundry, and do not keep water running while you brush your teeth.

Most onsite sewage systems with a pump should have 100-200 gallons storage capacity above the high level alarm. Exceeding this storage capacity could cause the pump chamber to overflow, spilling raw sewage on the ground. Again, use water sparingly.

If your septic system has a pump, what you do next depends if the pump is "on demand" or if it has a "timer." The most common kind of pump systems is an "on demand" system. This means that the pump cycle begins whenever the waste water volume reaches a certain level in the septic tank and the liquid sewage is automatically pumped out into a drain field.

When there is a power outage however, the sewage is not being pumped out and the tank will collect the waste water and will only release it upon the power being restored. One problem that can arise with this is that once the power is turned back on and the sewage is released all at once, the drain field may become too full and cause problems. In the case of a prolonged power outage there is a way to prevent this.

While the power is out, turn the circuit to the pump off. When the power is finally restored, turn the pump on for 2 minutes and then off again for 4-6 hours. Repeat this process until the tank is empty. During the 2 minutes that it is on, you are letting the sewage out in controlled increments so as to not inundate the drain field all at once.

The other pump system is much simpler. Timer controlled pumps regulates the number of times the pump drains into a drain field over a 24 hour period. Once power is restored the timer system will eventually get itself back on track but by continuing to conserve water, you can help your timer system get back on track.

Power outages are problematic enough. Between figuring out ways to keep warm, keep food fresh and not go crazy with boredom from no internet or T.V. the last thing you need is a problem with your septic system. Luckily, there are ways to prevent septic system disasters in cases of prolonged black outs. By conserving water and using these suggestions, you can worry about one less thing while you wait for your power to be restored!

For help with your septic system, contact FRANC Environmental at 215.443.0650.

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