Septic strategies for cold, lack of snow

No snow and low temperatures don’t mix in the Northland. That’s why the St. Louis County Environmental Services Department is issuing a warning about freezing septic systems, especially with low temperatures in the forecast and no snow cover to keep systems warm.
There are several ways to protect a system from freezing, the experts say:

  • Add a layer of mulch (8-12 inches of hay or straw) over the pipes, tank and soil-treatment area. Keep the mulch loose to form air pockets, which act as insulation. This is particularly important if a system is new and vegetative cover has not been well-established.
  • Use normal amounts of water — the warmer the better. Spread out laundry schedules to one warm load per day.
  • Don’t leave water running. A slow trickle could freeze while a steady stream could overload the system.
  • If you will be gone for a week or more, have someone visit and use hot water regularly.
  • Route the drip-water from high-efficiency furnaces. The slow drip can freeze in the pipes. Route this clean water into the footing drain sump or a bucket.
  • Fix any leaky plumbing. Small trickles of water going into the system can freeze as thin ice layers within pipes.
  • Keep weight (vehicles, etc.) off the septic system.
  • Make sure all risers, inspection pipes and manholes have tight covers. Adding insulation is a good idea.
  • Consider installing a septic tank heater.

People who find their system frozen or sewage near their system should contact a pumper or installer. Call the St. Louis County Environmental Services at (800) 450-9278 or go to stlouiscountymn.gov septic for more info.

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