4 Septic Tank Problems You Could Face in Cold Weather


If you’re like many of us, you may find the septic system a bit of a mystery. You probably have a vague understanding of how it works, know that it involves a drain field and a tank, and understand that it should be cleaned out every few years. If a clog happens, and wastewater pipe is leaky and backing up, homeowners with septic systems can sometimes not know what to do – and that can be exacerbated during freezing temperatures, and the freezing problems that can come from frozen ground and holding tanks.   

Other than that, you probably don’t think about the septic system much- until there’s a problem. You can prevent many mishaps through regular maintenance, but what about when your problems are caused by the weather?

  • Winter weather can be hard on your septic tank. Here’s why: the low temperatures make it difficult for your septic tank’s bacteria to survive. The septic tank doesn’t just fill up with waste and wait for someone to pump it out; it uses microscopic bacteria to physically digest the waste so that only water and carbon dioxide are left. Whatever waste the bacteria leaves behind settles to the bottom of the tank as sludge, and if there aren’t enough bacteria, the sludge can build up and become a problem. Unfortunately, the bacteria in septic tanks are sensitive to temperature and tend to slow down or even stop when the temperatures plunge below about 50°F. Combine this with the increased load placed on your septic system during the winter months due to house guests and fatty foods, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
  • Septic system freezes can sometimes also be the pipe coming from the home to the septic tank, and not the holding tank itself. The freezing temperatures of wintertime can cause homeowners to consider running antifreeze additives to their septic systems – don’t let the cold temperatures cause you to run antifreeze in your system, it can interfere with the bacteria in your tank, which are needed for effluent disposal.
  • Cold weather can also wreak havoc on your septic system when the frozen water thaws. This sudden flow of thawing water can saturate the drain field, making it impossible for water to drain from the septic system. This causes the water to travel backward, moving through your pipes and into the toilets and drains inside your house. Flooded drain fields can also send untreated sewage into the groundwater and local bodies of water, which can lead to environmental contamination.
  • Prevention is the most effective way to deal with septic tank issues. Even issues caused by cold weather and snow cover can often be avoided with a little bit of proactive septic tank maintenance. Keep up with routine service, having it emptied every few years. Seed your septic tank with bacteria that functions well in cooler temperatures, and make sure you’re allowing the bacteria to thrive, by avoiding cleaners that contain bleach or have antibacterial additive properties. Never park, drive, or use heavy machinery over the drain field. Keep your gutters clean, and point all gutters away from the drain field area, so excess water cannot cause a frozen septic system issue with frozen ground in your leach fields. It is also a good idea to have a riser, as risers allow for easy access to the tank, even if there is a freeze up that causes components of your septic system, such as frozen pipes from the home to the holding tank. Ensure a professional installer is used if you are installing a riser on your septic tank.
  • If a problem occurs, call a professional. If you think your drain field is flooded, try reducing your water usage to relieve pressure from your septic system. Don’t flush the toilet any more than necessary, limit the number of showers, and don’t run the dishwasher or do laundry until the drain field has had a chance to dry out, and of course do not run water, cold or warm water, from your faucets continuously to try and unthaw your tank. It’s not advisable to pump the septic tank when it’s flooded, as that can cause damage. However if you believe there’s a problem with your septic system, it’s important to get advice from an expert as soon as possible.

Facing Septic Problems in Cold Weather? Call A-1 Sewer & Septic!

When it’s time to service your septic system, trust A-1 Sewer & Septic Service Inc. to provide fast, friendly, efficient service at a reasonable cost. Having served the residents of the Kansas City Metro Area since 1968, we are focused on customer service and satisfaction and will work hard to help you solve your problem before more damage is done. Visit our site to learn more, or call us at 913-631-5201 any time of day or night for emergency services or to get a quote.

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