Heavy snow or rainfall can cause problems with septic systems, especially when they are due to be pumped or have not been properly maintained. To understand how rainfall affects the septic system, you must have a basic understanding of how septic systems work.
The two major components of a septic system are the tank and drain field. Wastewater and sewage enter the tank through the household plumbing system. Enzymes in the tank then work to break down solid waste and begin treating the water. The partially treated water then flows out to the drain field, a series of perforated pipes buried underground. The water seeps out of these perforations and into the ground, where the soil filters it, completing the treatment cycle.
Heavy rain can saturate the ground around the drainfield, making it impossible for water to flow out of the septic system. The water then collects in the septic tank, eventually traveling backward through the plumbing and finding its way back into drains and toilets inside the house. Groundwater contamination can also occur when water escapes the pipes of the drain field but is unable to filter down through the soil and complete treatment. Instead, this contaminated water pools on or near the surface, where it can run off into streams or nearby water supplies.
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