It’s hard to think of a more unpleasant mental image than a “septic emergency.” But knowing what to actually do in such a situation can help play a key role in the difference between needing your septic system repaired or needing a new one.

A major hindrance to detection of a septic emergency is the location of nearly all of a septic system — underground and out of sight. But the effects of such can be spotted by a watchful, informed and prepared eye.

Here are some signs you have an issue and are on the clock to prevent it from becoming a much bigger one:

Sewage overflow or backup

Sewage — also known as blackwater — might back up into the lowest-level toilets and drains of your structure, or it could overflow around your septic tank. An over-filled tank or clogged pipes leading to the tank could cause that. Either way — make certain you don’t touch or inhale blackwater if you see it.

Slow, gurgling, bubbling or clogged drains

Drains working at full strength should clear away roughly a gallon of water every 30 seconds. If one drain is slower than that, it may be a clog in only that pipe. If drains all over the house are slower or continue to gurgle after your water has drained, that’s a symptom of a much bigger problem, especially when paired with a nasty odor.

Wet or flooded drainfield

This gets to the heart of knowing your septic system well enough to know where your drainfield is. If you don’t, in general, unexpected standing water or wet spots anywhere in your yard is not good news.

If you do know where your drainfield is, and if the ground above it or your septic tank is wetter than the rest of your lawn, your septic system may be flooding. As much effort as homeowners put into making the grass in their lawn look as lush and green as possible, if the grass above the drainfield is unexpectedly so or drastically more so than the rest of your yard, that’s a sign of a flooding septic system. Pooling of water in specific spots above the drainfield may mean a broken pipe. More and wider flooding could be a sign the drainfield has failed altogether.

What to do in a septic emergency
  1. Call a septic system service professional

Call a septic provider to schedule a visit. Time is of the essence in making sure whatever issue your system is undergoing doesn’t continue to deteriorate and additionally damage your property any more than necessary.

  1. Turn off the water

As all the water that goes down the drain or toilet is bound for your septic tank, if your system is having a problem, you can do nothing but exacerbate it by continuing to send more water through it. That means, until you have your system examined by a professional, no washing dishes or clothes. You should even save whatever water you may use from such small things as brushing teeth, washing hands and cooking, collect it and dispose of it outside the home — and not near your septic tank or drainfield.

  1. Disinfect everything

If sewage (blackwater) is involved, whatever it touches must be disinfected thoroughly. Remember where it came from — enough said. Wear protective gear to ensure you don’t touch blackwater and it doesn’t touch you and dispose of anything contaminated in a secure fashion. If you suspect your groundwater is contaminated in a home that uses well water, immediately stop using it and contact the health department to make sure it is safe.

As always — Little’s Septic Service stands at the ready to help you through any issues related to your septic system. Help us help you.