A home septic system is a critical part of daily life, even though we can’t see it. When something goes wrong with it, some very expensive and unpleasant problems are ahead.
While most septic systems operate without any intervention beyond routine maintenance, problems can emerge in certain situations. Tanks that have gone too long without being pumped can allow solids to overflow into the discharge pipe, or to back up into the house. Vehicles or construction equipment can be driven across the tank, causing it to collapse.
When one of these issues emerges, immediate action is essential. Be prepared to take these steps if you ever have a septic tank emergency.
1. Call a Contractor
Septic tanks are expensive, dangerous, and incredibly messy. There is very little a homeowner can do to make repairs, so your first step should be to call your contractor or, if you rent the home, have the property owner call a contractor. Either way, have someone sent out right away to start emptying the tank.
2. Stop Outflow
At this point, you should make sure that everyone in the home stops using all water. The more you run down the drains, the more trouble you’ll have from it backing up into the house or discharging into the yard. It’s very easy to forget this, so you may want to turn off the water to the entire house so that no one accidentally makes things worse.
3. Isolate the Area
If the tank has collapsed, it is very dangerous. Do something to block off the area so that people and pets cannot get close to it. At a minimum, rope it off. Ideally, you should put up a substantial barrier that cannot be crossed by kids or animals. Not only could they fall into the open tank, the dirt could collapse under them and cause injury or death.
4. Protect the Home
Once safety has been addressed and the problem has been stabilized, you should begin checking the home for any contents that are in danger of being damaged by backed-up drains. Start with the lowest floor and move valuables and fragile items away from commodes, showers, tubs, and floor drains.
5. Cover Legalities
Sometimes tanks simply collapse, especially very old ones. That’s no one’s fault. However, if your tank has caved in because someone mistakenly dug into it or drove on it, they could be responsible for the cost of repairs. Get contact information for the operator and the insurer.
A septic tank problem can be a destructive emergency. Plan ahead so that you know what to do if this unfortunate situation ever impacts you.