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Nick Haig 300

Nick Haig is a septic systems expert with University of Minnesota Extension.

Keeping your septic system from freezing this winter

January 19, 2011

This winter’s heaping snowfall has provided help to the nearly 600,000 Minnesotans who rely on septic systems to treat their household sewage. Snow provides insulation for septic systems during subfreezing temperatures, but system owners still must be careful to protect their system from winter ills. These include lack of plant cover, irregular use and compacted snow -- even the drip from a furnace -- which can cause a system to experience problems associated with freezing.

A University of Minnesota expert who can offer septic system advice is:

Nick Haig, U of M Water Resources Center program coordinator

Haig, a septic system expert, says like any infrastructure, septic systems require regular maintenance and a little more attention in the winter. “Properly designed, installed, operated and maintained septic systems do not freeze.”

In addition to performing regular inspections for leaky plumbing, broken seals or caps, Haig suggests homeowners leave the lawn longer in late fall to catch snow and provide insulation, keep all vehicles off the system to avoid driving frost deeper into the ground and use hot and warm water regularly throughout the winter.

Haig stresses that if a system is hydraulically failing -- e.g., sewage coming to the surface or seeping out the side of a mound -- it is a prime candidate to freeze. “In addition to being a public health threat, this sewage will freeze from the ground surface into the ground and prevent additional sewage from entering the soil. If your system freezes, the first step is to contact your septic system professional.”

Haig edited the latest iteration of the University of Minnesota Extension’s “Septic System Owner’s Guide,” which is available online at

To interview Haig, contact Jeff Falk at (612) 626-1720 or; or Nina Shepherd at (612) 625-8627 or

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

Tags: College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, Extension

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"Septic System Owner's Guide" - U of M Extension