Health department offers advice on flooded septics

Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Department of Health offers the following guidelines for residents whose septic systems were affected during the recent flooding.

• Should I continue to use my septic system if it is underwater? No. Septic systems that are underwater will not function properly and must not be used.

• What alternatives are there if my septic system is underwater? The best option is to find other housing until the floodwaters recede and it has been confirmed that the septic system is functioning properly. Residents should see the McHenry County Housing Assistance Guide. They also should check with their insurance agent regarding coverage or contact the American Red Cross at 877-597-0747 or 312-729-6278. 

If other housing is not available, or when working at one’s property, it may be possible to use a portable (ie, camper toilet) or chemical toilet temporarily. It is important that the portable toilet be maintained to prevent nuisance conditions and must be emptied into a community sewer system. The use of a portable or chemical toilet is a temporary measure until flooding levels go down and you can return to living in your home again.

• What do I do if I don’t know where all of the components of my septic system are located? Historical permit records will show the type and location of the septic system. Call the McHenry County Department of Health for records after Feb. 1, 2003, or the McHenry County Department of Planning and Development. If records are not available, an Illinois licensed private sewage disposal system installation or pumping contractor may be able to assist in locating the components of the system.

• Are there any other safety hazards I should be aware of with a septic system? Yes. Septic systems typically consist of pre-treatment tanks followed by some type of seepage system. Under flooded conditions, lids to tanks may come loose, exposing an uncovered vault. Aeration units and lift stations contain pumps and electrical components. When flooding occurs, this could create an electrical hazard. Do not walk through floodwaters or use extension cords in flooded areas to provide electricity to these types of units.

• How do I protect my septic system from damage during the cleanup process? Don’t drive a car over the septic system area. Try to avoid any work on or around the disposal field while the soil is still wet. These activities will ruin the soil conductivity.

• What if my septic system isn’t working after the floodwaters go down? Contact an Illinois licensed private sewage disposal system installation contractor to evaluate the system and determine what repairs may be needed.

More information is available at the McHenry County Housing Assistance Guide, http://www.co.mchenry.il.us/departments/planninganddevelopment/Documents/HousingBooklet.pdf. View also the list of licensed pumping contractors, http://www.co.mchenry.il.us/departments/health/pdfDocs/ENV/septic/2013%20Licensed%20Pumping%20Contractors.pdf. 

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