Managing Summer Guests
by Shirley Hild
Summer is in full swing and most of us have several visits scheduled for family and friends to share our enjoyment of the Cullen Lakes. With each set of visitors, time will be spent planning and preparing for meals, sleeping arrangements, and potential activities. But one of the things we often forget to plan for is the management of water use when the number of guests exceeds the capacity of our septic system.
Why should we be concerned about the use of water when we have large numbers of visitors? One of the most common reasons for failure of a septic system to adequately treat wastewater is over-use of water. All systems are designed to treat a typical water usage of approximately 100 gallons per
person per day. Primary treatment of wastewater occurs in the septic tank which is sized according to the number of bedrooms in the building(s) serviced by the system. In the tank, waste separates into three layers: a floating scum layer (soaps, greases, toilet paper, etc.); a liquid layer (water, liquid, suspended solids); a sludge layer (heavy organic and inorganic materials). Every time water is used, it enters the septic tank and an equal amount leaves the tank and enters the drainfield. When the
number of people using the system exceeds the capacity of the system, large volumes of water can enter the tank in a short time resulting in the agitation and resuspension of previously separated sludge and scum into the liquid layer of the tank. When this happens the suspended solids can be carried into the drainfield preventing adequate treatment of the waste.
Ken LeVoir from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency suggests that if the number of guests exceeds the capacity of your system you should consider one of the following as a short term solution:
- 1) Rent a satellite to reduce the amount of wastewater entering the system through toilet flushing (the largest use of water in most households);
Since our septic system is designed for use by five people we have another solution when our number of guests reaches into the teens. When we have fifteen guests for a week at the end of this month, two families will be staying at the Day's Inn. (Another advantage of that arrangement is if it rains the 9 grandchildren have the availability of a swimming pool!) And when the company leaves, John will take a good book and the 8+ loads of dirty bedding and towels and head for the laundromat.
- 2) Pump the septic tank immediately prior to the arrival of visitors. By doing so, you will have at least 1000 gallons to use for flushing and showers before the water goes into the drainfield.
For your information, septic systems are now designed according to the following:
# OF BEDROOMS
# OF PEOPLE
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