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Take Steps Now to Protect Your Septic System from Freezing

Contact:   Donna O’Connor, Public Health and Human Services  (218)  725-5243






     St. Louis County Public Health & Human Services offers tips on protecting your septic system from freezing.


     Low snowfall amounts can mean potential danger for your septic system.  In recent years, we have had sub-zero weather arriving before major snowfall.  Last winter we did not get significant snowfall until March.


     Common reasons septic systems freeze include:  a lack of snow cover during cold weather, cold air entering the system, compacted soil, compacted snow on top of the system, and irregular use of the system.


Recommended Precautions to take now:


·             Add a layer of mulch (8-12 inches of hay or straw) over the pipes, tank and soil treatment area.  The key is to keep the mulch loose to form air pockets which act as insulation; 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.


·              Don’t leave water running to prevent freezing.  A slow trickle could freeze, while a steady stream could overload the system with water.


·              If you plan to be gone for more than a day or two, have someone visit and use hot water regularly. 


·              Re-route 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) off the septic system.


·              Make sure all risers, inspection pipes and manholes have tight covers. Adding insulation is a good idea.  Check for any cracks in the covers now.


·              Consider installing a septic tank heater.


·              Keep an eye on your system.  If your system freezes or if you note seeping or ponding of sewage, contact a licensed ISTS pumper or installer, or call St. Louis County Public Health for more information at 1-800-450-9777.



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