Emergency Order for Frozen Septic Systems in Minn.

Updated: 03/16/2013 4:20 PM KSTP.com By: Stephen Tellier

Septic systems have frozen solid across the state, forcing the governor to issue an emergency executive order. He acted to prevent thousands of Minnesotans from having to deal with backed up septic systems.

Even with that order, septic services are scrambling to keep up with the problem.
 
On the back of their trucks are the words, "You think YOUR job sucks?" Lately, Ende Septic Service in Rogers has been doing a lot of... sucking.
 
"It's been seven days a week, 14 to 16 hours a day. We've just been running around everywhere we can," said Tristan Ende, who works for Ende Septic Service.
 
Ende's business is backed up trying to prevent septic backups, during the worst winter for such issues in six years.
 
Here's how it happened: During most winters, early snowfall insulates the ground, and the pipes beneath it, from bitterly cold air. But this winter, frigid temperatures moved in before significant snowfall, leaving the ground exposed. That allowed frost to hit earlier, and reach deeper, 3 to 4 feet underground in some places -- right where many septic systems sit.
 
"And that just caused pipes sitting full of water to freeze up solid," Ende said.
 
And once that happens, you are in some deep -- trouble. Someone has to come and empty your septic tank.
 
"So you can keep taking a shower and doing the laundry," Ende said.
 
And flushing the toilet.
 
Every year, on March 15th, seasonal restrictions kick in, preventing heavy trucks from using city and side streets, which are more susceptible to damage during the springtime thaw. The restrictions would have sidelined septic trucks, slapping them with heavy fines, just for using the roads to get to their customers.
 
So the governor stepped in to prevent that from happening.
 
Most frozen septic systems are in areas that didn't get a lot of snow early in the season, like the north metro.
 
Once your septic system is frozen, there's not much you can do about it. In some cases, crews can send hot water through your pipes to thaw them out. But it's much easier to prevent freezing in the first place. Next fall, try to cover the ground above your system with leaves or straw. And try not to walk or sled on the snow above your system early in the season.