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Why are septic tanks more likely to break down in the winter?

Updated: Apr 2

As the weather gets colder in the Winter months, it’s important to give your septic tank a bit of extra TLC. The changing climate can have a significant impact on the performance of your septic tank, and increase the risk of external damage. 

  1. Freezing temperatures

One of the biggest issues facing the functionality of a septic tank in Winter is the declining temperature. This is due to the risk of the tank and connecting pipes becoming frozen, which inhibits the flow of wastewater in and out of the tank. Subsequently, frozen temperatures can cause significant blockages. 

Another factor to consider is the quality of the surrounding soil. When the soil becomes frozen, it makes it difficult for the treated water to percolate, which may saturate the area. In addition, as water begins to thaw, it can create a waterlogged area around the septic tank, which may cause flooding. 

  1. Reduced bacterial activity 

When temperatures reach freezing point in Winter, the bacteria inside the septic tank is greatly affected. Bacterial activity slows down in colder temperatures, which means that the breakdown of effluent is less efficient. When the waste water is not sufficiently processed, the system can get blocked and overloaded. This could cause damage to the system, and involve costly repairs. 

  1. Snow and ice impact 

When snow and soil is compacted, it can cause issues for your septic tank. Excessive pressure on the tank may lead to freezing components, cracked pipes and prevent water from draining properly. Parking heavy vehicles on top of the area where the septic tank is installed will increase snow compaction and risk of damage. 

So, with the change in weather approaching, how can you protect your septic tank from malfunctioning? 

Having your septic tank regularly serviced will prevent issues arising, as our service engineers can detect any faults or potential hazards during their visit. Having your septic tank emptied regularly will also help to prevent the risk of sludge build-up, and ensure your system is not overloaded. 

To minimise the risk of your system freezing, make sure that the facilities in your home are in consistent use. This means regularly using the shower, taps, toilets and washing machine. This will ensure that the bacteria in the septic tank is kept alive, and is functioning properly. This being said, it is important not to overwork the septic system, particularly if over the festive period, more people are using the facilities than usual. For example, make sure that laundry loads are spaced out to ensure the drainage field is clear before the next use. It is important to retain a balance between regular use to keep the tank functioning, but not over use to cause breakdowns. 

In terms of snow compaction, avoid parking cars or heavy vehicles on top of the area over the septic tank. Make sure any exposed pipework is well insulated to prevent the system from freezing. 

How can we help?

At Cotterill Environmental, we offer a wide range of services including a full service and emptying of septic tanks. For domestic properties, we recommend having your septic tank serviced annually, and at least bi-annually for commercial properties. 

Call 0121 461 4861 today to arrange your service. 

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