Start septic system out on the right foot for spring

The long winter wait is over, and there are a number of things home and cabin owners can do to prepare their septic systems for spring. Here are some tips:...

The long winter wait is over, and there are a number of things home and cabin owners can do to prepare their septic systems for spring. Here are some tips:

Watch the snow melt where it pools and runs. If its going over your drainfield or tank, channel it away. Your system does not need added stress from the surface.

When the ground is thawed and snow is gone, rake the mulch off the system. Wait for the ground to be firm so you dont cause soil compaction.

As the ground thaws, watch the drainfield area for surfacing. Look for areas that stay wet, water standing on the surface and grass greening up earlier than other areas. These symptoms can indicate a problem in the drainfield or the piping to the system. It could be a sign of freezing that didnt appear during the winter months.

Take a walk around your system. How close are the trees? Remember, hardwoods such as oaks and maples have a root system that extends as far out underground as the canopy of the tree does above. Are there water-seeking trees such as willows nearby? Their roots will extend out searching for available water, and can quickly invade your drainfield area.


What about gophers and other underground pests? Look for any runways or access holes near your system. Use methods to remove them if theyre prevalent.

When doing your spring cleaning, keep an eye on how many chemical products you use. Limit the amounts and use more elbow grease. Antibacterial and bleach cleansers do not do a better job than more natural products. Read the product labels; anything listing chlorine includes bleach. For many jobs such as dusting or wiping walls down, plain water is just as effective. Dont wash all the bedding and curtains on one day spread it out as you do the normal laundry. Have a goal of no more than one load of laundry per day.

Nows the time to repair damage from freezing last winter; look for a licensed installer.

If there was freezing, consider adding insulation to the tank or to piping. Look for signs of compaction, especially over the piping areas; repair if needed. Look for other repairs needed to prevent freezing next winter. Talk to a licensed septic installer.

Remind everyone to stay off the drainfield or mound area. Foot or vehicle traffic can cause compaction. Lawn mowers are fine, but nothing else should travel over the area.

The University of Minnesota Extension Service offers educational programs and information for homeowners on septic systems, as part of the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program (OSTP). Check our website, , for additional information for homeowners on care and maintenance of septic systems.

(Valerie Prax is a regional educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, Mora)

What To Read Next
Get Local