Self-isolation & shelter-in-place policies can stress septic systems
With everyone spending a lot more time at home and trying to keep the Coronavirus at bay, please be aware this can increase the load on your septic system. More food is being prepared at home. Many people are washing more dishes and running the dishwasher and garbage disposal more than usual.
More laundry than usual
Many families are also washing clothes, linens, towels, etc. more often, especially if someone in the home is self-isolating or quarantined. Some people are stripping down and washing their clothes after having been outside, even just for a short walk.
All this extra water usage and food waste going down drains increases the stress on septic systems.
Disinfecting wipes & other toxins
In an effort to prevent the virus from spreading, many families are using higher than normal amounts of disinfectants like bleach in the laundry, and flushing disinfecting wipes down the toilet. These chemicals are toxic to the microbiology and treatment in the septic tank. In high enough concentrations, this will result in poor quality effluent leaving the septic tank, which will accelerate clogging of the leach field.
We all have enough to worry about with the health and economic impacts of the Coronavirus. A septic system backup or leach field failure right now on top of everything else would be disastrous.
Septic owners should be mindful that every septic system has a finite capacity. If your system is stressed or overloaded beyond its capacity, you could end up with a messy, costly failure.
Septic care checklist
So what can you do to reduce the stress on your septic system and prevent overloading it? Following are some recommended strategies that can help reduce the risk. If there something that you think should be added to this list, please tell me in the comments below!
- Never flush personal wipes or disinfecting wipes down the toilet. Dispose of wipes in the solid waste instead.
- Minimize the amount of bleach used in the laundry. Try to keep it to under 1 Cup (250mL) per day if possible.
- Use liquid laundry detergent instead of powder. Powder detergents often don’t dissolve very well, and can travel through the septic tank and clog up the leach field lines.
- Use regular, good old fashioned soap for hand washing. There is no need to use soap containing harsh anti-bacterial agents which are toxic to the microbes in your septic system.
- Reconsider if you need to wash your clothes after every outing for fresh air. If you went for a walk in your neighborhood and didn’t come within 30 feet of another human being and didn’t touch any public surfaces (like crosswalk buttons, ATM machines), then it is highly unlikely that your clothes have become contaminated.
- When you do need to wash your clothes, try to save them up until you have a larger load rather than doing many small washes.
- Take showers instead of having a bath, which uses more water. Set time limits of 5 minutes or less for a shower if possible.
- If you have chemical products in your toilet tank (like those chemical disinfection pucks which turn the water blue), stop using them.
- If your kitchen has a garbage disposal (also known as an “Insinkerator” or in Canada, a “garburator”), try not to use it, as these increase the loading of organic waste to your septic system considerably. Instead, dispose of food waste in your curbside compost, outdoor compost or solid waste.
- Fix leaky plumbing fixtures immediately, especially toilet flappers that can allow hundreds of gallons of extra water to leak into your septic system.
- If you have not had your septic tank pumped in several years, contact a septic service company (they are considered an essential service) and arrange to get it done as soon as possible.
- When your septic service professional is on site for the pumping, ask them to check for signs of overloading or stress on the system including things like:
- higher than normal levels in the septic tank
- back-flow into the tank from the leach field
- signs of past high levels such as debris on top of the inlet or outlet baffles or “Tees” or high water marks or rings on the wall of the tank
- Unusual smells or lack of a healthy looking scum mat (the “crust” which normally is present floating on top)
- evidence of surface water or groundwater infiltrating into the tank.
While there is no guarantee that following the above practices will prevent you from becoming the victim of a septic disaster, they will at least help to reduce your risk.
Want more “Peace of mind for your behind”?
For septic owners who want peace of mind that they are not overloading their septic system and will be warned of a potential problem before it becomes a full blown failure, a SepticSitter system can be retrofit by your septic professional. Contact us for more information.