Power Outages May Cause Septic System Problems

Press Release from Governor Mike Easley's office:

RALEIGH - Flooding and winds from hurricanes and tropical storms can cause major problems with septic systems in affected counties, and officials with the N.C. Division of Environmental Health urge people to keep this in mind during Tropical Storm Hanna. 

If this happens, affected residents not served by central water and wastewater systems may need to take precautions to prevent possible sewage contamination. Human exposure to wastewater can transmit disease. 

Those who have publicly supplied water service but private wastewater systems should also take precautions. Residents should check to ensure that their systems are not backing up, allowing sewage to surface, or otherwise malfunctioning.

Environmental health officials are alerting residents as part of Gov. Mike Easley's recommendation for citizens to be prepared for Tropical Storm Hanna and Hurricane Ike. If your area is affected by either storm, the division advises people to assess their systems and be prepared to take the following steps:

  • Wastewater systems may not work until floodwaters recede and the water table drops below the septic tank. The system will not function if your yard is flooded and should not be used.
  • Try to reduce the amount of debris such as yard waste, clean-up materials and sediment that may enter the septic tank and plumbing systems during and after the storm.
  • Residents should use extreme water conservation practices until power is restored or if other system problems are suspected. Flush toilets only when necessary, take sponge baths and do not run water while brushing teeth, shaving or cooking.
  • Do NOT continue to use water if sewage backs up into the house or if water or sewage surfacing near the septic system is visible. Raw sewage is a public health problem and can cause disease. Remove and discard household goods such as rugs, wall coverings and dry wall that become contaminated with sewage and cannot be disinfected. Wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves when cleaning up sewage. Contact your local health department before beginning maintenance or repairs

The N.C. Division of Environmental Health will offer more detailed information in the wake of the storm. If you have questions or concerns regarding your onsite wastewater system, please call the agency's hotline at 1-800-9-SEWAGE (800-973-9243).