Flooding Potential Raises Fear of Septic Backups

Updated: 04/27/2013 4:19 PM KSTP.com By: Stephen Tellier

If the flood waters begin to rise in rural Minnesota, the state has a message for homeowners: Take precautions now to prevent your septic system from backing up at the worst possible time.

The state pollution control agency issued a bulletin on the issue earlier in the week -- that's how seriously they're taking the issue. The problem is flooding mixed with home septic systems. The combination can make a messy situation much messier.
Caring for pets takes a whole lot of water. That takes septic, and this winter hasn't been a kind one for Corcoran Pet Care Center's system.
"We've had issues where we've had to have the septic system cleaned out a lot more frequently than we normally would," said Ian Drummond, a veterinarian and owner of Corcoran Pet Care Center.
Now, the potential for flooding could make matters worse.
"With the ground being so wet, if we get even a couple inches of rain in the next week or so, that's when the danger is," said Tristan Ende, with Ende Septic Service.
Ende speaks from experience. He's seen what heavy spring rains can do.
"Some people don't realize it's happening, and they start showering, and the next thing you know, you have 200, 300 gallons of septic in your basement carpet," Ende said.
A septic backup is something you do not want. So Ende is telling his clients to take precautions.
"We're asking that any pump alarms are on, working," Ende said.
He said homeowners should also check all caps and covers out in the yard.
"If this is cracked, you hit it during the year with your lawnmower, you definitely want to make sure these are replaced, on tight," Ende said. "Make sure septic covers, the concrete covers in people's back yards, are on nice and tight."
Conserving water can also lower the likelihood of a septic backup.
"Prepare for the worst until we at least kind of see it dry up," Ende said.
Businesses like Corcoran Pet Care Center are just hoping the city will soon step in and build its own septic system.
"We use a lot of water, so it would be nice to have a free running system that didn't have these issues," Drummond said.
The MPCA also recommends that rural residents have a plumber install a backflow preventer, but it may be too late in the season for that to happen. If you are unfortunate enough to have flooding and a corresponding septic backup, stop using the system entirely. You should even shut off the power that runs your septic pump.