In Hot Water: Hot Tubs & Your Septic System

Hot Tubs
Hot Tubs

Most people know that hot tubs and septic systems don’t mix. While many are aware that having a hot tub on a property that relies on a septic system is not recommended, most couldn’t explain why. In this article, we’ll detail the biggest potential problems hot tubs pose for your septic system and offer safe maintenance tips that will help you avoid disaster.

The Problems Hot Tubs Pose for Your Septic System

Most people only think of all the luxurious aspects of owning a hot tub but are usually unaware of their required upkeep. This upkeep is one of the biggest potential problems hot tubs pose for your septic system. Proper care and upkeep of a hot tub includes draining it every three months in order to keep it sanitary and clean. Why does this matter? For a couple reasons.

Overwhelming Your Septic System

In addition to that, dumping that amount of water into your septic tank can stir up the wastewater already being held in the tank, causing the layer of solids at the bottom to become suspended in the effluent. This can lead to solids flowing into the drainfield, clogging the pipes, and ruining your drainfield.

The Impact on Your Septic Ecosystem

We spend a lot of time advocating for the bacteria that have taken up residence in your septic system. They work hard to break down the solids in your tank and eliminate pathogens from the effluent filtering through your drainfield. But like any living creature, they depend on a balanced environment to thrive and grow. The chemicals used to keep hot tub water sanitary and clean are a deadly cocktail. These include chemicals to balance and maintain the necessary pH in your hot tub, alkalinity increasers, chlorine to sanitize, and a defoamer. All of these, when flushed into your system, have the potential to destroy your septic tank’s ecosystem. Without a working ecosystem, your septic cannot properly treat your household wastewater.

The Crushing Weight of a Hot Tub

In some unfortunate cases, septic owners make the mistake of placing their hot tub above components of their septic system, particularly the drainfield. Most people are unaware of just how heavy a hot tub can be. Small hot tubs weigh around 500 lbs empty, and as much as 3,000 lbs full. That’s as much as a small SUV. Larger hot tubs can weigh more than 1,000 lbs empty and 6,000 lbs full. Installing a hot tub above septic components can cause significant damage, easily dislodging or even crushing the pipes in your septic drainfield. If you must install a hot tub on your property, be sure to locate all of your septic components and install it far enough away to ensure the weight of your hot tub will not damage your septic system.  

The Septic Owner’s Guide to Hot Tub Care

Though we recommend against it, we understand the appeal of having a hot tub. Because septic systems are not designed to receive 300-700 gallons of water all at once, let alone that much chemically treated water, you will want to find a way to empty your hot tub outside of your septic system, while adhering to local health department regulations.

Never Empty Your Hot Tub into Streams or Ponds

The chemicals in hot tub or pool water can be deadly for wildlife and plants in nearby water sources. Be sure to avoid draining your hot tub into any nearby streams or ponds. Pay attention to where your water is flowing when you empty your hot tub, too. Emptying onto a sloping field may actually result in the nearby streams and lakes becoming polluted.

Follow Local Health Department Guidelines

Each district in Ohio has separate rules for handling hot tub and pool water, so be sure to contact your local health department for your area’s specific guidelines.

Properly Discharge Pool and Hot Tub Water

Pool and hot tub water should never be flushed into the septic system, storm sewers, or sanitary sewers (when present). Instead, in many parts of Ohio, you can discharge hot tub and pool water onto the ground or use it as irrigation on your property under the following conditions:

  1. Stop adding chlorine or turn off the chlorination system and allow the tub to “rest” with the lid off for two full days before draining. This will allow the chlorine to dissipate. This may take as long as two weeks though, so be sure to test the chlorine levels with a standard testing kit prior to draining your tub.
  2. The pH of the dechlorinated water will need to be between 6.5-8.5, measured with a standard pool test kit. If the pH of your water is not between these levels, draining or irrigating with this water can seriously damage the ecosystem. Adjust the levels, if necessary.
  3. Discharge the water far away from your septic tank and drainfield, making sure the water will not flow into nearby streams, drainageways, or sewers.
  4. You also need to make sure the water does not pool or flow onto neighboring properties. Pooling water can cause flooding and is the ideal breeding environment for mosquitoes. If your drainage is found to create a nuisance, you can be liable for any damage it causes.

In addition to draining a hot tub, the filters also need to be flushed regularly. The backwash water from cleaning filters needs to be collected, dechlorinated, and discharged using the same process.

Supeck Septic is Your Trusted Septic Provider

Are you thinking about getting a hot tub (or do you already have a hot tub) and want to make sure you’re not harming your septic system? Supeck Septic has been Northeast Ohio’s trusted septic provider since 1968. Contact us today to schedule a service visit!

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