3 Safety Guidelines to Prevent Septic System-related Injuries and Illnesses

Septic systems are often taken for granted due to their widespread use and that they are often out of sight, out of mind. However, septic systems can cause death, injury, and illness for those who are careless and fail to take safety precautions. Below are three specific guidelines for protecting yourself and others who may have access to your property and septic system.

1. Secure Access to the Septic Tank

Drowning is one of the biggest hazards presented by septic systems. Children, as well as some adults, have been known to fall into septic tanks and drown. Exposed and improperly secured openings are a significant danger to unaware individuals.

Septic tanks are buried beneath the ground, but a vertical extension of the tank, known as a riser, extends to the surface, allowing for pumping and maintenance. A riser makes maintenance simpler, but it also can present a dangerous access point if not properly secured.

In many cases, homeowners fail to cover their septic tanks properly and instead use unsecured lids and covers, which can be easily moved by children. Lids should tightly cover the tank opening and secured to prevent displacement by a child. Locking lids are the most secure and require a key or combination to open them.

If small children reside in your home, you may also wish to also install a plastic catcher device that fits just inside the riser beneath the lid. These devices allow visible access to the tank, but they prevent someone from falling into the tank should the lid be removed. Consult with your septic tank installation and service company for information about having a catcher device installed on your tank.

2. Leave Maintenance and Repair to Professionals

Though septic tanks may seem like nothing more than big holding tanks, they actually pose significant dangers to homeowners and other unaware individuals. Septic tanks contain a number of hidden hazards and deadly traps. Unless you have been well-trained, it is unwise to enter a septic tank or attempt any maintenance tasks.

For example, the natural decaying process of biological waste produces flammable methane. Opening the tank and exposing escaping gases to flames could create a devastating, deadly explosion.

Another danger posed by septic tanks is suffocation. The mix of gases inside the tank, which includes the aforementioned methane, also includes hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and other toxic gases. None of these gases are oxygenating and an exposed individual could be quickly overwhelmed and pass out.

As such, never enter a septic tank, even one that is empty or mostly empty, as it can still contain a lethal mix of gases. In addition, avoid leaning over an open septic tank, as the gases rising from the tank may cause you to lose consciousness and fall into the opening.

3. Avoid Biological Hazards

Not surprisingly, septic systems are a biological hazard for those who fail to take precautions. While not every microorganism inside a septic system is harmful to human health, a significant number of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and protozoa reside in and around septic systems.

For example, some of these microorganisms are responsible for hepatitis, shigellosis, dysentery, gastroenteritis, and a variety of diarrhea-causing sicknesses. Staying out of the tank, as indicated above, can keep you safe from being exposed to these microbes.

The septic drain field is also another place where you can be exposed to harmful microorganisms. If functioning correctly, the drain field allows liquid effluent coming from the tank to percolate downward through the soil where it is filtered and sterilized. However, if the drain field fails or becomes waterlogged, effluent can rise to the surface and potentially expose individuals to microorganisms.

That is why you should keep out of a boggy, wet drain field and immediately contact a qualified septic servicer, such as Walters Environmental Services, for help. Do not attempt to fix a drain field problem yourself, though you can reduce water usage to lower water levels and help dry out the drain field.