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Outer Banks Septic Challenges: What Homeowners Should Know

A black septic tank halfway buried in dirt outside
Living in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina is a dream come true. The close proximity to the ocean provides ample opportunities for enjoying all that the Atlantic Ocean has to offer, but it can also provide some specific challenges for homeowners. One of the most important of these challenges is ensuring that residential on-site septic systems are designed, installed, and maintained properly.
Here is what you need to know in order to provide efficient sanitary waste disposal while protecting the burgeoning population of humans, animals, birds, and marine life that visit or make their home in the region.  

Flooding Has the Potential to Damage Residential Septic Systems

Hurricanes, tropical storms, storm surges, and periods of excessive rainfall can all result in frequent flooding in the low-lying areas throughout the Outer Banks region. Because of this, residential septic systems can experience issues that affect their ability to process waste safely.
When the soil becomes saturated, the water table rises and waste from the septic system is at risk of contaminating the groundwater in the soil surrounding it with harmful bacteria. While most tanks are not actually damaged by flooding, due to their underground location, they are still at risk of being inundated with silt and debris from the floodwaters or floating to the top of the soil, both of which can cause them to spill bacteria-laden waste.
To help prevent possible damage to the septic tank and lessen the risk of contamination, homeowners should always refrain from using their septic system during periods of flooding. Once the soil water level normalizes, you should also have the tank professionally inspected and then pumped, if needed, to remove excess water and any accumulated silt before resuming usage.
Drain fields, on the other hand, are more likely to be clogged with silt and sand, which can make them inoperable. If this occurs and the perforated lines become filled, you may need to have the drain field replaced.

Reducing Erosion Helps Resist Flooding Damage

While controlling the weather is not an option, homeowners can help their septic system better resist damage from flooding by taking steps to reduce erosion in the area that surrounds it. These steps include:
  • Preventing compaction of the soil by preventing vehicle and foot traffic in the area at any time
  • Preventing erosion by keeping the area seeded with plants that help hold the soil in place, such as grasses and some types of ground cover plants
  • Designing landscaping to help limit the amount of water that pools over the septic system through contouring and elevation
Taking proactive steps to limit erosion and the amount of floodwater that can settle in the area immediately surrounding the septic system is an important step in minimizing damage and returning it to service more quickly.

Avoiding Flood-Related Problems as the Water Recedes

While waiting for flood waters to recede, homeowners should know what they can and cannot do to prevent additional problems. One of the first things that you should do is stop using the system and schedule a professional inspection of the system.
Homeowners should also resist the urge to explore the tank to assess the damage while the soil in the area remains saturated. This is because opening the tank can allow silt to more easily enter the pump chambers where it can be pushed out into the drain field and cause more extensive damage.
Homeowners who are also dealing with flood water removal in the home should also remember not to expel standing water where it will settle over the septic system. Instead, you must use hoses and pipes that will allow flood waters to bypass that area completely.
Hines Septic has helped generations of homeowners in the Outer Banks region inspect and service their residential septic systems. Whether you have a septic system issue related to flooding or need assistance with an inspection, installation, or repair, our licensed, bonded, and insured technicians are ready to assist.

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