What to Do If Your Septic System Fails
Why septic systems fail
Most septic systems fail because of inappropriate design or poor maintenance. Some soil-based systems (those with a drain field) are installed at sites with inadequate or inappropriate soils, excessive slopes, or high ground water tables. These conditions can cause hydraulic failures and contamination of nearby water sources.
Failure to perform routine maintenance, such as pumping the septic tank generally at least every three to five years, can cause solids in the tank to migrate into the drain field and clog the system.
Whom to contact if you have problems with your septic system
Contact a local septic system service provider, your local health department, or onsite wastewater treatment regulatory agency. Find the telephone number for your local health department online or in your local phone directory.
- National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association's Septic Locator
- National Association of Wastewater Technicians
What to do if your home floods
If sewage from your plumbing fixtures or onsite system backs up into your home, avoid contact with the sewage as it may contain harmful pathogens. Contact your local health department or regulatory agency for guidance. Cleanup personnel should wear protective clothing (e.g., long rubber gloves, face splash shields).
After cleanup is complete, thoroughly wash all equipment, tools, and clothing used during cleaning as well as the flooded area. Disinfect all items or areas exposed with a mixture of 90 percent water and 10 percent household bleach. The area should be dried out thoroughly and not used until it has been completely dry for at least 24 hours.
- visit EPA's website Septic Systems - What to Do after the Flood
- see Septic Systems - What to Do after the Flood Questions and Answers
If you have a private drinking water well, see what to do with your well after a flood.
Whom to contact for information on septic systems
The National Environmental Services Center has a technical assistance hotline that can be accessed toll free at (304) 293-4191.