Preventing Unauthorized Septic Tank Access

Secondary protection products add an extra level of security beneath septic tank lids
Preventing Unauthorized Septic Tank Access
A chain and padlock on a septic lid don't do much good if the chain isn't attached to anything but the handle.

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All systems and system components need periodic maintenance to keep them operating and performing. To make maintenance easier, as an industry we have moved to providing access to systems in a variety of ways. In general, we install shallower systems than in the past and we bring access points to the surface where they are easily located, identified and accessed.

In the case of access to septic tanks and other sewage tanks this has led to some very real — and in some cases tragic — safety concerns. Every few months we read about kids or homeowners falling into tanks and being seriously injured or killed. Most of our state codes address this safety issue by requiring that measures be taken to prevent access by unauthorized persons.

When I started in the industry, our recommendation was that the manhole access to tanks be brought between 6 to 12 inches of the surface; access would be covered by soil. Of course, this means that when maintenance is performed the tank access needs to be located and excavated before the maintenance activity was performed. To help with locating, installers placed a metal plate on the access lid that could be identified with a metal detector. Obviously this still takes additional time, effort and associated costs, so bringing access to the surface saves time and money.

In addition, at least in my area, we have spent a lot of time to make sure that systems are installed shallow. If gravity is being used to distribute effluent through the system, it may not be possible to cover the tank access without creating a mound of soil in the yard — something homeowners do not like. Where a pump tank is needed, such as with a mound or at-grade system, it is important to make those pumps as accessible as possible so they can be periodically repaired or replaced.

All of this has resulted in access being brought to the surface. Concrete tanks with concrete risers and lids are heavy enough to discourage removal, and chains and padlocks are often used to further prevent access. Of course, this means as a service provider you need to know where the key is.

In the case of plastic tanks or plastic risers on concrete tanks, the lids are plastic. These lids are fastened to the riser with a set of screws and usually a “safety screw” that has a different kind of head on it from the others. This means anyone taking the lid off needs to be prepared with a couple different screwdrivers or bits.

Recently, I took a walk in my neighborhood to look at tank restraints. I did not have to look far to find some issues. One of the pictures below shows a concrete tank lid with a padlock and chain, but it is not securing anything. The second is a plastic lid where the safety screw is missing because the hole has been broken out. In both cases the service provider and homeowner should address these issues.

To further prevent unauthorized or accidental access, many installers are putting in secondary protection to prevent someone from accidentally falling into the tank if the lid is not properly secured. Keep scrolling to check out some secondary protection products.

Hedstrom Environmental safety net
Septic safety nets provide protection from accidental or unauthorized entry into tanks. The safety net is fastened to the inside of the riser and stays in place at all times. Designed to fit 18- and 24-inch round riser systems.

Tuf-Tite safety lids
Tank risers from Tuf-Tite have internal supports or ledges to reinforce internal plastic safety lids. The ledges will strengthen the company’s plastic internal safety lids or a variety of internal safety devices made by others, such as concrete, fiberglass or rope netting. The safety lid has an access hole to allow pumpout without removal. For increased safety, the lid can be filled with concrete.

PolyLok safety screen
Polylok’s safety screen protection can now be utilized on PVC ribbed pipe, HDPE corrugated, and concrete risers with Polylok’s new Universal Kid Catcher. Everything you need is included, from self-tapping screws to concrete anchors and a carbide bit to go with it. The screen tested at 250 pounds per square foot and is bright orange for safety.

Sim/Tech Filter security net
Sim/Tech Filter offers security nets for risers up to 30 inches. The nets stay in place at all times, so if a service technician needs to leave the access area for some reason, the access is vulnerable to accidental entry. Pump hoses can be inserted through the web. Optional quick links are also available for instances where a larger opening is needed. 

Orenco riser safety grates
Orenco riser safety grates rest on the flange at the bottom of an access riser to help prevent people or tools from falling into a tank. Noncorroding, polypropylene construction, easy to install, and available in a variety of sizes, these safety grates fit most brands of ribbed riser pipe.

Infiltrator safety lid system
Infiltrator Water Technologies offers a 24-inch riser safety lid system. These fiberglass-reinforced lid systems are a strong secondary level of protection if a primary riser lid is unintentionally damaged or removed. The safety lid system fits in the uppermost riser stack of both the TW and EZset 24- by 12-inch and 24- by 18-inch risers and prevents unintended entry into the tank.


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