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SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SEPTIC CARE INSTRUCTIONS
SEPTIC D-BOX INSPECTION
SEPTIC DRAINFIELD FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
SEPTIC DYE TEST PROCEDURE
SEPTIC FAILURE SIGNS
SEPTIC INSPECTION & TEST GUIDE
SEPTIC LIFE EXPECTANCY
SEPTIC SUPPLIES & PARTS
SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN ALTERNATIVES
SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN BASICS
SEPTIC SYSTEMS, HOME BUYERS GUIDE to
SEPTIC SYSTEM SAFETY WARNINGS
SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS
SEWAGE & SEPTIC CONTAMINANTS
SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWAGE BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWAGE CONTAMINATION in buildings
SEWAGE CONTAMINANTS in FRUIT / VEGETABLES
SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS
SEWAGE LEVELS in SEPTIC TANKS
SEWAGE NITROGEN CONTAMINANTS
SEWAGE PATHOGENS in SEPTIC SLUDGE
SEWER GAS ODORS
SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
SINKHOLES, WARNING SIGNS
SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors
SOAKAWAY BED FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
TOILETS, DON'T FLUSH LIST
TRAPS on PLUMBING FIXTURES
TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS, SEPTIC
VIDEO GUIDES: Septic Videos
WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WASHING MACHINES & SEPTIC SYSTEMS
WASTEWATER TREATMENT BASICS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This document explains how to avoid septic system backups when heavy use of the system is anticipated and for homes connected to a municipal sewer we discuss how to prevent sewer or storm drain backups into a building during rain or heavy flooding.
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Why Does the Septic System Back Up During a Party?
Indeed it seems to be just the luck that we are living happily along not giving the septic tank a thought until we have a bunch of guests over for Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, or a graduation party. Why is it that at events we often see the septic system backing up?
The explanation is that a septic system that backs up during a party was already in trouble, but our usage was modest enough that we just weren't noticing it. The surge of waste water entering the septic tank cannot flow into a flooded drainfield so sewage may back up into the home, usually at the lowest plumbing fixture. Sometimes it's not the wastewater surge but someone flushing something down a toilet that blocks a drain - that's a problem that can be cleared by a plumber using a plumbing snake or drain router. But often the problem is in the septic field itself.
Here are some simple tips for avoiding a septic backup during times of surges in use such as during a party
How Much Wastewater Will Be Produced by 60 Visitors During a Party?
In the email example above where our writer assumed there would be up to 70 people visiting the home over a 6 our period, if every visitor uses the bathroom and at each use flushes a toilet twice, that'll be 120 x 4gals = 480 gallons which will be less than the septic tank can hold.
So if otherwise conserve water, we have a typical home septic tank of 1000 gallons or larger, and if we start our festival with the tank nearly empty, we're sure to protect the drainfield from flooding during the event.
If the septic system is already in good working order you should be ok.
If your drains are already backing up, especially during a time of heavy use such as with guests in the home, see SEPTIC BACKUP REPAIR.
If toilets are overflowing or not flushing, see TOILET OVERFLOW EMERGENCY.
Please see our full article on this topic, found at SEWER BACKUP PREVENTION
Question on basement sewer line backup:
I had a sewer backup into my home again yesterday at a basement toilet. Our main line has a sewer back-up flap [a wastewater check valve or backwater valve]. ... Is there such a thing as a soft plastic or other material filled that would take the shape of the toilet and prevent water coming back up as overflow. Like I did with a ball of cloths, and a brick wrapped in plastic. It did the trick in an emergency, but it's not practical. - Anonymous by request.
The advantage of installing a main sewer line backup prevention valve is that this device will avoid having to plug multiple drains in the home, and the valve, basically a big check valve, is always in place - you don't have to do a thing to get it to work.
If you are having drains backup, including at the toilet, then either your main sewer line check valve is not working, or your backup is occurring (as you suspect) because water or wastewater is draining into your in-house building drain/waste/vent system before or ahead of the main sewer drain check valve. While you could install another check valve at or near the basement toilet waste line, it makes more sense to install just one such valve to protect the entire building and to make sure that one is working properly.
Stuffing a rag or any other temporary "block" into a toilet or other drains is not the best approach to this problem. Not only can it be unsanitary and a health risk in some cases, but also, who is going to stuff drains when flood conditions occur and no one is at home?
Install a Main Sewer Line Check Valve or Make Sure Installed Valves are Working
First you may want to have your main waste line backup check valve inspected -if the sewer line is backing up from the street into your home, your main sewer sewer backup valve (waste backwater valve) or a flood guard valve is not working.
Here is a Check Valve Maintenance Guide from the City of Ann Arbor, MI.
Don't Route Roof or Surface Drainage into the Sewer Piping System
Second, you should disconnect your roof drainage from the sewer piping system entirely, routing it to a nearby storm drain, or to the ground surface (at least 12 feet away from the building and to a location that drains away from the building to avoid basement flooding).
If connecting roof runoff drains to the sewer system is actually permitted in your neighborhood, try changing the drain connection to one that is downstream from your main sewer line trap and check valve.
By the way, in some communities it is illegal to rout roof runoff into the sewer piping. Doing so significantly increases the wastewater volume load on the municipal sewer treatment system so severely that during a storm the sewage treatment plant simply overflows, dumping raw sewage into nearby rivers or waterways.
Please see our full article on this topic, found at SEWER BACKUP PREVENTION
Also see the special sewer line backup check valves discussed at BACKUP PREVENTION, SEWER LINE. If your drains are already backing up, especially during a time of heavy use such as with guests in the home, see SEPTIC BACKUP REPAIR.
See BLOCKED DRAIN REPAIR METHODS to try clearing your blocked drain before going to more drastic measures. If you have had sewage back up and spill out of toilets into the building, cleanup is needed and you may face bacterial hazards.
In this article series we explain the causes of sewer or septic backups into buildings, the health hazards, testing, and cleanup of sewage backups, and the cure or prevention of future sewage or septic backup problems.
If your building has had a septic or sewage system backup into the structure see SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO and also see SEWAGE BACKUP PREVENTION. At SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP we discuss how to test for bacterial or other pathogens in a building - tests that may be useful after a sewage spill cleanup in order to assure that the building is acceptably clean.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
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