Rain and your Septic System
Septic tank problems after heavy rain are a common complaint. Very heavy rains can flood the soil surrounding the septic tank. The problem arises when the water level rises above the drain field trench. When this happens, the drain field quickly becomes saturated. Once the drain field is completely saturated, household water no longer has a place to drain. This leads to a backup, and ultimately the waste water will flow to the area of least resistance. This may mean that the waste water flows back into your basement or wherever else it can go. This situation also leads to large volumes of untreated wastewater flowing into the groundwater and local streams, which may cause serious environmental problems.
Keep your system pumped and in good shape before flooding occurs to help minimize septic issues after rains. During storms, minimize your usage of water to keep the load on your septic tank as low as possible. If you notice that the drainfield is completely covered with water, do not use your septic system at all. Be careful around this standing water, as it may contain untreated sewage. If you begin to notice that drains are not draining quickly, toilets flush slowly or make strange sounds, or water is backing up into your basement, your septic system is under significant stress.
You can also design your house in such a way as to minimize runoff water and keep the soil from getting saturated. Make sure all gutters drain away from the septic tank, and keep rain gutters clear of debris. Plant only grass above the system. In addition, make sure that all electrical components are water-proofed. This can protect your system from damage during rainfall and prevent any electrical shocks.
Image: Flickr - Below Ground Septic Tank
Finally, make sure to keep your system in good condition. This means regularly pumping your septic tank. Most tanks need to be pumped every 3 to 5 years. The more people who live in your house, and the smaller your tank is, the more frequently it will need to be pumped.