private sewage systems
sanitation & clean-up concerns
of a private sewage system can be a hazardous situation
for homeowners. It may lead to a back-up of sewage in the
home, contaminated drinking water and lack of sanitation
until the system is fixed. While you don't have control
over rainfall or flooding in your area, you can prepare
for high water problems & respond appropriately to
flooding or saturated soil conditions persist, a private
sewage system cannot function properly.
treatment systems for wastewater rely on aerobic (with
oxygen) regions to reduce the amounts of chemicals &
living organisms (viruses, bacteria & protozoa). When
the soil is saturated or flooded, those hazardous
materials can enter the groundwater & your drinking
you are prepared when flooding occurs, your family can be
safe & your system should survive. To prepare for a
flood you should:
sure all septic tanks are full of liquid. The
high-water season is not the time to have tanks
pumped; empty tanks are buoyant & may "pop" out of
the ground during flooding.
floor drains, if necessary, to keep sewage from
backing up into the basement. Floodwaters may still
enter the basement through cracks & seams,
use of your private sewage system. Use portable
toilets, if possible, or use any large container with
a tight-fitting lid for a temporary toilet. Line the
container with a plastic bag. After each use, add
chlorine bleach or disinfectant to stop odor &
kill germs. If necessary, bury wastes on high ground
far away from your well.
that a well may become contaminated during a flood.
Therefore, DO NOT DRINK THE WATER. Drink bottled
water, or disinfect water before drinking. Contact
your local health department for disinfection
not bathe or swim in floodwater. It may contain
off power to a sewage lift pump if you have one in the
house or in a pump chamber (mound, in-ground pressure,
not use the sewage system until water in the disposal
field is lower than the water level around the
you suspect damage to your septic tank, have it
professionally inspected & serviced. Signs of
damage include settling or inability to accept water.
Most septic tanks are not damaged by a flood since
they are below ground & completely covered.
However, sometimes septic tanks or pump chambers
become filled with silt & debris & must be
professionally cleaned. If tile lines in the disposal
field are filled with silt, a new system may have to
be installed in new trenches. Because septic tanks may
contain dangerous gases, only trained specialists
should clean or repair them. Wisconsin code requires
licensed plumbers for any repairs.
any items that are damaged by contaminated water &
cannot be steam cleaned or adequately cleaned &
not pump water out of basements too quickly. Exterior
water pressure could collapse the walls.
sewage has backed up into the basement, clean the area
& disinfect the floor w/ a chlorine solution of
one-half cup of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of
the county health department or county Extension
office to obtain a drinking water test kit. (See the
fact sheet "Water Contamination in Private Wells.") Do
not drink the water until it has been tested & is