Scott County health official warns against releasing septic tank contents into floodwaters

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Concerns about septic system pollution are being voiced by residents who experienced flooding recently in their neighborhoods.

Barry Cook, administrator with the Scott County Health Department, said several people have asked about the use of septic systems during flooding and after the floodwaters recede. Cook said a flooded septic system normally will not function properly and when the homeowner continues to use the water and toilets in their home, sewage will back up into the home.

Cook said some people reported neighbors had removed the caps and covers of their septic tanks allowing their sewage to flow out into the floodwaters.

"While this procedure will allow the homeowner to continue to use the system, it will also cause sewage contamination of the floodwater," Cook said. "This sewage will affect not only their yard but also the yards of their neighbors and thus the concern. Untreated sewage can carry infectious bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxic chemicals."

In flood situations Cook said malfunctioning septic systems should not be used until the soil has dried out enough to allow proper operation. "It is never an acceptable practice to allow sewage to escape the system and contaminate the yard and/or floodwater," he said.

After the soil has dried, Cook recommends that homeowners have their septic system evaluated and, if necessary, the system should be pumped by a licensed septic tank professional. Proper maintenance of a septic system will make it last longer, he said.

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