Colder Weather and Freezing Septic Systems

FARGO, N.D. (January 16, 2012) – Fargo Cass Public Health is reminding residents of rural Cass County to monitor their onsite septic systems for freezing septic lines due to lack of snow cover and extreme cold temperatures.
Snow usually serves as an insulating blanket over the septic tank and drain-field or mound, and helps retain the heat of the sewage and geothermal heat from deep soil layers. Lack of snow allows frost to go deeper into the ground, potentially freezing the system.
Onsite septic systems contain a septic tank and several drain-field lines. Typical septic systems have four main areas where freezing problems may occur:
• The pipe from the house to the septic tank
• The septic tank and, for some systems, a pump lift station
• The pipe from the septic tank to the soil treatment system (often called the drain-field)
• The soil treatment system
A common problem area is the point where the pipe from the house to the septic system exits the basement wall.

According to the University of Minnesota, there are things you can do to prevent systems from freezing:
• Use water; the warmer the better if you feel the system is starting to freeze. The Onsite Sewage Treatment Program is usually an advocate of water conservation, but if freezing is a concern, increasing low use to a normal water use can help the system. This includes spreading out your laundry schedule to possibly doing one warm/hot load per day, using your dishwasher and maybe even taking a hot bath.
• Fix any leaky plumbing fixtures or appliances in your home. This will help prevent freezing problems and help your system work well year round.
• Keep all types of vehicles and high traffic people activities off of the system year round.

However, there are four things that should NEVER be done to unfreeze a 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.
For more information, contact Brady Scribner FCPH Environmental Services at 476-6729.

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