Winter is Coming – Maintenance Tips to Help Prepare for Cold Weather Impacts on Onsite Wastewater Systems

The next couple months are the perfect time to begin fall maintenance on onsite wastewater systems to ensure they function well over the cold winter months.  Maintenance is the key to the sustainability and longevity of septic systems.  Some simple activities can ensure your customer’s systems are functioning as intended.

Here are some recommended maintenance tips:

  • Winter winds can often remove insulating snow cover from the treatment field area. If the septic system is located in an open area, unprotected by the wind, you might want to discuss installing a snow fence with your customer.  If a snow fence is placed around the soil treatment area, you could further insulate the area with a layer of mulch or straw and the snow fence would protect it from blowing away as well as trapping snow within the fence boundary.
  • A running toilet or tap can cause a slow trickle into the septic tank. Any water slowly trickling into the tank or treatment field is at risk of freezing.  Fixtures that are not functioning properly or are leaking should be replaced.
  • Don’t add antifreeze or other additives to the system.
  • Homeowners who go on vacation for long periods over the winter months may come back to find a frozen system. Advise your customers that if they are going to be gone for more than a couple of days, have whoever is watching the house run some water through the system.  For extended absences over the cold months, consider having the tank pumped.
  • Advise your customers to keep all vehicles (including ATV’s and snowmobiles) and high-traffic people or animal activities off the soil treatment area. This should be done all year, but is especially critical in winter months.
  • Make sure all risers, monitoring ports and manways have tight covers. Insulating lids is helpful. Unsecured lids are a danger to children.
  • If any seeping or ponding is evident should be investigated immediately.