Arctic blast could wreak havoc on septic tanks

January 24, 2019 07:51 AM

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency estimates about 500,000 Minnesotans own properties with septic tanks. 

And with subzero temperatures expected over the next several days, and a lack of snowfall to cover and protect the pipes, those tanks run a real risk of freezing.    

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RELATED: Twin Cities headed into the deep freeze

That concerns Dana Nelson, who lives near 30th and Legion in Lake Elmo.

It's an older home with two tanks buried in his front yard.

Nelson said this is the first time in 13 years that his septic system has been this exposed to the elements, especially in January.

"There's no snow," he said. "I"m a little worried myself about them possibly freezing the next few days."

So are his neighbors, and even more folks who live in more rural or remote parts of the state.

Ahead of the anticipated drop in the mercury, the MPCA's Daniel Olson said Wednesday that the lack of snow and cold temperatures could be a bad mix.

"Where we have troubles are years like this with really bad cold spells and not much snow cover to provide needed insulation," he said.

But Olson said there is still time to protect pipes by laying eight inches of mulch, leaves, hay or straw over the septic fields. Homeowners can also run appliances to clean clothes or dishes more often.

And remember, the hotter the water the better.

Meanwhile, the expected impact of the Arctic air is also being felt on various winter activities like the St. Paul Winter Carnival Snow Sculpting Competition, scheduled to be held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. 

Warming houses have been set up and ice artists are coming prepared, according to David White, a longtime volunteer.

"Some bring tents, set up heaters in them to get warm and put their tools in their too," he said.

RELATED: Friday Winter Carnival events at State Fairgrounds postponed due to weather

St. Paul Winter Carnival President Deb Schaber has been keeping a close eye on the forecast.

"If we hit the point where it's not safe for volunteers or patrols, we'll cancel events,"  she said, adding that point is -25 degrees with the wind chill.

Schaber has already postponed one event so far. She said it's too cold to open the Vulcan Snow Park on Friday. Instead, it will open a day later on Saturday at the Fairgrounds. 

The Moon Glow Parade scheduled for Thursday was also canceled. An indoor celebration has been planned instead.

KSTP's Winter Carnival page

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Beth McDonough

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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