Heavy rains lead to pricey septic issues for some

Increased rainfall is wreaking havoc on sewer systems and costing some homeowners thousands of dollars.

“You see a lot of people out there that you feel sorry for,” said Tony Burnley, the owner of Burnley Sanitary Sewer & Drain Service in Thomson. “They’ve got some serious problems.”

As of midnight Saturday, 45.32 inches of rainfall have been recorded at Augusta Regional Airport, resulting in the fifth wettest year-to-date total on record. It’s more than 15 inches above totals last year.

Businesses specializing in septic repair said system failures from the rainfall have increased business.

“It’s tripled,” said Kevin Cole­man, the owner of Drain Sur­geon of the CSRA.

System failures can cause contamination of water by bacteria, viruses, nitrates, oils, detergents and other household chemicals, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Exten­sion Web site. They can also cause health problems by exposing humans to raw sewage.

It all starts with a gurgle in the drain. From there, homeowners could be only hours away from a serious septic problem.

Coleman said no homes seem to be immune to the trouble, but low-lying homes are especially vulnerable.

“There’s so much rain it’s saturating the ground and the water from septic systems has nowhere to leak to,” Coleman said. “It’s causing everything to back up.”

Homeowners are left with the option of pumping the sewage for several hundred dollars or replacing the system for thousands of dollars.

Pumping is only a temporary fix, but it’s one that can be more appealing to the home­owner’s wallet.

“Sometimes it will get you by until the rain subsides,” Burnley said.

The better option is to call the health department, which might advise having a soil scientist perform an evaluation, he said. The finding could result in pumping the sewage to an area with higher elevation.

That option could be financially challenging, Burnley said.

“There are a lot of people out there that have ground water problems every time it rains,” he said. “We have some customers that we pump several times every year.”

The good news is that conditions could be drier this week. The National Weather Service forecasts mostly sunny conditions through Friday.

Pollution can change with weather, rain

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