Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
It seems that cold temperatures have moved in for the season and it doesn't sound like much snow is in the immediate future. Cold temperatures and no snow can mean trouble to a septic system.
A snow blanket will insulate a septic system to prevent it from freezing. Some areas in Stearns County have 6-8 inches of frost in the ground already. Individual sewage treatment systems may be put under a lot of stress if these weather conditions continue. The combination of cold temperatures and the lack of snow cover can lead to some freezing problems with individual sewage treatment systems.
Hopefully snow will come soon to insulate septic systems. But if not, here are some things that can be done to help prevent freezing.
* Stop mowing the grass over the drainfield in early fall. Let it grow stronger to trap more snow.
* Add a layer of mulch (8-12 inches) over the pipes, tank and soil treatment area to provide insulation. A mulch of loose hay or straw works well, as do leaves. The key is to keep it loose to form air pockets, which act as the insulators. This is particularly important if your system is new, and vegetative cover has not been well established.
* Use normal amounts of water; the warmer the better. Spread out your laundry schedule to one warm/hot load per day, year round.
* Don't leave water running all the time to prevent freezing. A slow trickle could freeze, while a steady stream could overload the system with water.
* Don't add antifreeze to the system.
* If you plan to be gone for more than a day or two, plan accordingly. Have someone visit and use water regularly. If you are going to be gone for an extended period (weeks or months), pumping the tank before leaving may be the best option.
* Reroute the drip water from your furnace. This slow drip can freeze in the pipes. Route this clean water into the sump or a bucket.
* Fix any leaky plumbing. The small trickles of water going into the system can freeze as thin ice layers within pipes, and eventually close them.
* Keep all vehicles (including ATV's and snowmobiles) and high-traffic people activities off the system, all year.
* Make sure all risers, inspection pipes and manholes have tight covers. Adding insulation is a good idea. Check for any cracks in the covers in the fall.
* Keep an eye on your system. If any seeping or ponding occurs, contact an onsite professional.
For more information, see the University of Minnesota Extension onsite sewage program website at http://septic.umn.edu, e-mail
, or call (888) 241-4528, or contact Stearns County Environmental Services at (320) 656-3613 or (800) 450-0852.