Septic Tank Use & Maintenance Tips

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1 Yellowhead County Hamlet of Cadomin Septic Tank Use & Maintenance Tips This guide gives an overview of the responsibilities for property owners in Cadomin. For Seasonal, Permanent & Vacationing Cadomin Residents. Cadomin Property Owners are responsible for the maintenance & winterization of the septic tanks on their property. The sewer system has the potential to freeze in winter if left inactive for periods in excess of 72 hours.

2 This booklet includes: General Care Of Your Septic Tank Frequently Asked Questions Winterization for Seasonal Residents Pumping To Low Pressure Sewer Mains Illustrated Cross Sections of Tanks Questions From Cadomin Residents The Septic Tank Use & Maintenance Tips & FAQ booklet and the Pump & Alarm Manual For Residents can also be found at

3 Maintenance Options For Residents This guide breaks down owners into three types of users and what their responsibilities are for the proper care and maintenance of their septic system. It also covers frequently asked questions and problems that may occur and how to prevent them. Each item in the guide is coded to correspond to the one of the three types of residents listed below. # 1 Permanent Residents who DO NOT LEAVE during the winter.* In case of emergency or any other unplanned leave from the residence, the property owner is responsible to ensure that the septic tank is properly winterized. # 2 Residents who temporarily leave longer than 72 hours during the winter.* This booklet shows how to perform proper winter maintenance and get your system running again when a system is left for longer than 3 days. # 3 Seasonal residents who leave FOR the entire winter.* This booklet shows how to per form proper winterization when properties are left for the entire winter season. *Typically the winter season runs from late fall to early spring, but can be anytime the weather is cold enough to create ground freeze that can affect septic tank operations.

4 This guide shows the owner s responsibilities for the maintenance and proper care for their septic tank system. Property owners are reminded of the importance to refer to their instruction sheets for correct usage in order for all systems to operate properly. Currently the County is working with its engineers and operators, as well as residents, to find all the trouble areas and resolve the problems in the most effective manner. Questions regarding operations or maintenance of the system can answered by reaching Yellowhead County at: (780) or Information on making use of the available hand tools that access the isolation valve can be found by contacting Yellowhead County; or purchases can be made from Albert Wilbert Sales in Edmonton. If there are additional questions or concerns please contact: Don O Quinn, Director of Infrastructure Services Edson Administration Office We understand the frustrations that some residents have regarding this issue and we ask for your patience as we work towards the best solutions to have this system working efficiently and effectively to service the residents of Cadomin. For more information on the use and maintenance of septic tanks go to:

5 # 1 Permanent Residents who DO NOT LEAVE during the winter.* Active, continual use of the system should ensure that there is enough bio-activity to generate enough heat to create a system that is safe from winter freezing. Should you plan on leaving your residence for periods in excess of 72 hours (3 days) See Section 2. In case of an emergency or any other unplanned leave from the residence, the property owner is responsible to ensure that the septic tank is properly winterized. Yellowhead County advises all property owners to familiarize themselves with the proper steps needed to winterize their system should an unexpected leave of absence be necessary. Section #3 lists all the necessary steps for proper winterization.

6 # 2 Residents who temporarily l e av e lo n g e r t h a n 72 hours during the winter. Residents who temporarily leave their Cadomin residence for longer than 72 hours (3 days) need to take the proper steps to winterize their septic system. Section #3 lists all the necessary steps for proper winterization.

7 # 3 WINTERIZATION FOR SEASONAL & Temporaryily absent RESIDENTS PUMPING TO LOW PRESSURE SEWER MAINS. 1. Refer to the illustration on the following page for a typical cross-section of a septic tank. 2. Clean septic tank. (1) S e a s o n a l r e s i d e n t s w h o l e av e F O R t h e entire winter. 3. Place 600 mm (24 inches) of water in the bottom of your septic tank, (both compartments) to insulate the bottom of the tank from frost. De-energize the float alarm system as the level of fluid in the septic tank will raise the float which will send a signal to the control panel. 4. Drain service line (3). This can be accomplished by opening the isolation valve (2) located in the tank. Depending on the elevation of the septic tank with respect to the main, the service line may drain to the sewer main located in the street right-ofway, the septic tank, or both. Make sure the curb stop valve is open before opening the isolation valve to prevent an air lock which can restrict the effluent from draining. 5. For those with a service line with a negative grade back to your septic tank, it is proposed that a small weeping hole be drilled into the piping to allow effluent in the service line to drain back into the tank, thereby keeping the service line dry between pumping cylcles.

8 6. Add RV antifreeze to your service, if desired. The antifreeze will mix with any remaining water in the service and prevent it from freezing. Close the isolation valve in the septic tank to keep the RV antifreeze in your service. RV antifreeze can also be added to the tank to further protect your tank from the effects of frost and freezing. Follow manufacturers recommendations for volume of antifreeze required to achieve the strength desired. 7. De-energize the pump. You do not want the pump turning on while you are away. 8. Contact Yellowhead County at least 24 hours in advance to arrange for the curb stop valve to be shut off. This valve is located near your property line. 9. The septic tank will be ready for use in the spring, although you may need to thaw frozen fluid inside your septic tank. Be sure to contact Yellowhead County at least 24 hours in advance to arrange for the curb stop valve to be re-opened after the winter season is through and before starting the pump for usage of the septic system.

9 Typical Cross-section of a Septic Tank

10 CARE OF YOUR SEPTIC TANK 1. Systems are designed to handle domestic wastewater. Things that do not break down easily (facial tissue, large amounts of vegetable scrapings, coffee grounds, chemicals, paints, oils, sanitary napkins, applicators, condoms, medicines, pesticides, poisons, strong disinfectants, etc.) can damage your pump, clog the service or main and substantially increase the need for cleaning the septic tank. 2. Do not pour grease or cooking oil down the drain (including toilet). Grease and oil is hard to break down. Grease and oils will stay in your septic tank until it is cleaned. 3. Keep your fixtures in good repair to minimize the amount of treated water entering the septic tank and diluting the effluent. Small volumes of water that trickle into the septic tank may cause the gravity sewer line between the home and the septic tank to freeze. Small flows from high efficiency furnaces and humidifiers will also contribute small flows which could cause freezing. 4. Do not allow water from foundation drains, wastewater from iron filters or water conditioning equipment into the septic tank. 5. Have the septic tank checked annually to determine how often the tank needs to be pumped out. Typically tanks are pumped out by a vacuum truck approximately every two years. Check operation of pumps and controls at the same time. 6. Keep vehicles and heavy equipment off of septic tank to avoid damage and limit frost penetration in winter. Compaction of the beneficial snow cover will limit the insulating affect of the snow. 7. Landscape around the manhole access lids in such a manner that the water runs away from the lids. 8. Ensure your curb stop at property line is open while the pump is in operation. Continuous back pressure on your pump due to a pressurized line with no exit can harm your pump. If you are not sure if your curb stop is open, please contact Yellowhead County.

11 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 1. Will I need to have a pump truck empty my tank? Yes. Cleaning of your tank will remove settled solids and accumulated grease and oils. If a septic tank is not cleaned soon enough, suspended solids and organic material will not settle out, and will be discharged into the collection system causing future maintenance problems. 2. How will I know when to have the septic tank pumped out? Tanks should be checked every year in the spring or early summer to determine how much sludge and scum has accumulated. The size of the septic tank and the waste it receives affects how often it needs to be pumped out. A septic tank with 300 mm (12 inches) of sludge in its first compartment is ready to be pumped out. Pumping a tank more often than is required is much better than leaving it to the last minute. 3. Are septic additives necessary? No. These products include biologically based materials (bacteria, enzymes, and yeast), inorganic chemicals (acids and bases), or organic chemicals (including solvents). If the additive increases the level of biological activity in the tank, the additional digestion of the sludge can increase the amount of gas given off by the microorganisms digesting the solids. This gas bubbles up and can cause the suspended material in the sewage to be buoyed up and not settle out in the tank as it should. It is then carried into the collection system causing future maintenance problems. Other chemicals may emulsify greases, which will then not float and be trapped as scum in the tank. They will then flow out to the collection system. 4. Can I dump only solids into my septic tank? No. Liquids are required to help the solids break down. Adding water to your septic tank will help the break down process, but too much water can dilute the effluent. The amount of water added to your septic tank depends on the amount of solids. Regular inspections through the black compartment access barrel by removing the lid and a visual observation can help determine if you have

12 enough fluids to break down the solids; if you see a mass of solids higher than the liquid level, more water should be added. 5. Are there frost protection devices that can be inserted into the access barrels? Yes. Foam plugs will be purchased by the County at a cost of approximately $50.00 from the septic tank manufacturer, Alberta Wilbert Sales located in Edmonton, Alberta. 6. Should I enter my septic tank? No. Not unless you have been properly trained and certified for Confined Space Entry and the use of air quality monitors. 7. Can I operate the isolation valve from the surface? Yes. The internal piping in the septic tank has been designed so that the isolation valve (2) can be accessed from the ground surface above. A hand tool to operate this valve can be purchased at a cost of approximately $ from the septic tank manufacturer, Alberta Wilbert Sales located in Edmonton, Alberta. If you do not want to purchase this hand tool, one can be borrowed from Yellowhead County at no charge with a minimum of 24 hours notice. Curb stop valve at property line must be open in order to drain the pump-out line. For more information on the use and maintenance of septic tanks go to treatment_system_maintenance_tips.cfm

13 COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS BY CADOMIN RESIDENTS 1. Do I have to hire a Contractor to winterize my septic tank? No. If you feel capable of performing the tasks specified above, you can winterize your own septic tank. 2. Can I use the winterized septic tank at all? Yes. Minimal usage will not harm the septic tank as long as you follow the following steps: Assure the pump is not energized. You do not want the pump turning on when the curb stop valve is closed and when the service line is winterized. Assure the float alarm system is not energized. The higher than normal levels of fluid in the septic tank will send a signal to the control panel. The septic tank will now be used as a holding tank so the fluid levels in the septic tank will need to be monitored. If the septic tank becomes full, it will need to be pumped out leaving 600mm (24 inches) in both compartments as indicated above in the winterization tips. If RV antifreeze was used during the initial winterization steps to further protect your tank from the effects of frost and freezing, you will need to replace the antifreeze when you are finished using the septic tank while it is winterized, if desired. 3. What if the alarm is ringing? Check the control panel to see what message is indicated (refer to operating manual for guidance). A likely reason the alarm would be ringing is the fluid level in the pump out compartment of the septic tank is higher then the set elevation for the pump to operate. Check the circuit panel to ensure the breaker is ON. If so, check the receptacle at the septic tank and make sure the electrical cord for the pump is plugged in. Please remember that if the fluid level in the septic tank reaches the top of the septic tank (bottom of the access manhole barrels), the septic tank should be pumped out to prevent the risk of your sewer backing up into your residence. 4. What if my pump is not pumping? Again, check the circuit panel to ensure the breaker is ON. If so, check the receptacle at the septic tank and make sure the electrical cord for the pump is plugged in. If your pump is still not pumping, the following circumstances could be affecting this problem and used as trouble shooting:

14 To ensure there is power to the receptacle at the septic tank, you can unplug the pump cord and plug another electrical usage tool or appliance into the receptacle and make sure it works; if so, then there is power to the receptacle and you can plug the pump cord back in. If there is no power to the receptacle and the circuit breaker is ON, then possibly the electrical cable from the circuit breaker to the receptacle is faulty; visually check for signs of damage to the electrical cable coming from the receptacle at the septic tank down into the ground as well as the cable exposed coming out of the ground into the circuit panel. If damage is visibly seen, then have the cable repaired by a qualified electrician. If there is no sign of damage to the electrical cable exposed, then have the cable tested and repaired or replaced by a qualified electrician. The curb stop valve near your property line may be closed preventing the line from accepting any more fluid. Did you remember to contact Yellowhead County to re-open the curb stop valve after winterization was no longer required? The pump-out line or pump may be plugged. Did you have your septic tank cleaned as required? This prevents sludge from entering the pump &/or pump-out line. The electrical cord on the pump may be damaged. You can pull the pump out of the septic tank by lifting on the polyurethane rope which should be tied up near the top of the septic tank. Once the pump is removed from the septic tank, visually inspect the electrical cord for any damage. If there is damage visible, have the cord repaired by a qualified electrician. If there is no visible damage to the cord, visually inspect the pump and discharge outlet for any blockage and clean if necessary. The pump can be plugged into a power source with 120 volts and lift the float upwards above the pump until the pump turns on or the float is as high physically possible. If the pump does not turn on, then take the pump in to a qualified Rewind Repair Shop for inspection, repair and possibly replacement of the pump. If the pump does turn on and some fluid discharges from the outlet, reinstall the pump and check if the problem still remains (the septic tank may require to be pumped out before the pump can be re-installed). If the problem has not been resolved, contact a qualified plumber and have the pump-out line inspected &/or cleaned.

15 5. What if sewer is backing up into my residence? Check the fluid level in the septic tank. If the fluid level is higher than the bottom of the manhole access barrels, have the septic tank pumped out and trouble shoot the potential circumstances listed above. If the pump is visually seen above the fluid level in the pump-out compartment of the septic tank, hire a qualified plumber to inspect and possibly clean the service line from your residence to the septic tank. 6. What if the access barrel lids go missing? The lids are solid concrete and fairly heavy, but could be removed and possibly go missing. If you feel the barrels should be secured in place, then a security system or locking device can be added at the land owner s discretion. Please be advised that any liability arising from the lids missing or in place for that matter is the responsibility of the land owner.

16 (780) st Avenue, Edson, Alberta, Canada T7E 1N9

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