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Flooding — What to Do

If your land and septic system are ever flooded, follow this advice:

  • Do not use your sinks and toilets if the soil around your home and septic system is saturated and flooded. Your septic system will not work.
  • Plug all drains in the basement and drastically reduce water use until the system has time to recover.
  • If you clean up floodwaters inside your home or basement, do not dump the water in your sink or toilet.
  • Do not open the septic tank or have it pumped it out while the soil is still saturated. Mud and silt may enter the tank and end up in the drainfield. Pumping out a tank that is in saturated soil can even cause it to "pop out" of the ground.
  • Do not dig in the drainfield area while the soil is still wet or flooded. Try to avoid any work on or around the disposal field with heavy machinery while the soil is still wet.
  • In the days following the event, avoid any contact with flooded electrical or mechanical devices in your septic system. Never touch electrical components until they are dry and clean. Examine electrical connections (or have them inspected) for damage before restoring electricity.
  • Make sure the septic tank's manhole cover is secure and that inspection ports have not been blocked or damaged.
  • If you (or your small business) have dumped caustic or toxic chemicals in your septic tank in the past, and your system backs up into your basement or drainfield, be especially careful to protect your eyes, skin and lungs from the fumes. You may need to call your local DHEC Environmental Health office to discuss clean-up.
  • Be aware that flooding of the septic tank lifts the scum layer, and it may have floated and/or partially plugged the outlet tee, causing sewage to back up in the house. Other problems you may notice after flooding are settling of the tank and inability of the tank to accept water. As soon as possible, have your septic tank professionally inspected and serviced.
  • Most septic tanks are not damaged by flooding since they are below ground and completely covered. However, septic tanks and pump chambers can fill with silt and debris, and must be professionally cleaned. If the drainfield is clogged with silt, a new system may have to be installed.
  • If sewage has backed up into the basement, clean the area and disinfect the floor. Use a chlorine solution of a half cup of chlorine bleach to each gallon of water to disinfect the area thoroughly.
  • In the weeks to come, check the vegetation over your septic tank and soil absorption field. Repair erosion damage and sod or reseed the ground as necessary to provide turf grass cover.

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