Securing septic tank lids needs to be a priority for everyone in the industry


A fifth-grader should never be faced with the responsibility of saving another child’s life. But such was the case on April 8 for 10-year-old Quinnlan Kittson of Milton, Vermont.

Several children were playing in a yard during a birthday party when Hannah Danaher jumped onto the septic tank cover. It flipped and she fell in. Luckily, the girl was able to maintain enough of a hold on the ground to not fall in completely. Quinlann heard her scream and rushed to help. With the help of the children’s mothers, he managed to pull Hannah to safety.

Over the past several years we’ve seen too many stories of similar accidents, often with much younger children who are unable to keep themselves from completely falling into the tank and who, sadly, aren’t always rescued in time.

Related: Blog: Disaster averted: Toddler pulled from septic tank

This story is another sobering reminder — albeit with a happy ending — that securing septic tanks lids needs to be a priority for everyone involved in the onsite industry: installers, pumpers, maintenance providers, inspectors, regulators and homeowners.

Here are some tips from instructor Sara Heger, Ph. D.:

  1. If you see an unsafe lid, don’t walk away from it! Often when you are out doing service or an inspection on a system the owner is not home. This typically results in a report with a list of repair activities that need to occur and you wait to receive permission. Issues of safety should not be optional repairs. Therefore, having service and maintenance vehicles stocked with likely material for lid repair and replacement is key. In addition, have safety tape and lathes to block off the area until the repair can be made with the supplies available. A new lid can be made available for under $50.
  2. Include information about lid and tank safety on all education materials you provide and place danger signs on exposed lids. The potential risk of an open septic tank is not something that all members of the general public understand and it is part of all of our jobs to change this. To the public, falling in a septic tank seems like a disgusting mess to get out of, and unfortunately some people think that it doesn’t pose a real danger. Include a reminder to check tank covers between servicing to make sure lids are in place, screws are securely fastened and there is no cover damage.
  3. If you are concerned about a lid that is technically safe but likely to be driven over or accessed by the public, install a permanent barricade, secondary restraint or additional locking mechanism. A safety screen or secondary restraint can be added for as little as $25 and provides an extra layer of protection, and should be installed even if the access is not exposed to traffic and public.

Read the news story here.

Related: Blog: Toddler rescue update: We’re going to sue!

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