For the majority of buyers, hearing that a property has a septic system can be an immediate concern. If you’ve never had a septic system before, there are many unknowns. If you have, you may have heard “horror stories” about their “problems.” The good news is no more paying the ever increasing sewer bill.
Just like a vehicle, a little education and proper maintenance go a long way. If you understand the general standards of car care and comply, a car will treat you well and get you from point A to point B during its life. This same idea applies to a Septic System. Each system has its variations, but when an inspection is performed it acquaints you with the components, helps you to understand its function, and makes you aware of any defects or less than ideal circumstances, which not only enables you to make an informed decision during your real estate transaction, but will allow for proper maintenance throughout the life of the system.
The main purpose of a Septic Inspection is to determine if the system is disposing of liquid wastes properly. This includes a visual inspection of:
– All readily accessible components of the system (tanks, pipes, ports)
– Running water for a minimum of 30 minutes
– Probing the absorption area for any indications of saturations, back-ups, or ponding
– Checking the household plumbing is connected to the septic system
– Verifying presence of proper venting
Digging, Dye Testing, and Fecal Coliform Soil Testing are also available, if requested.
Septic Tank Pumping:
Regular pumping is a critical component of septic system maintenance. When the listing agent, or seller, is contacted to arrange for access, it is requested they schedule a pumper approximately 90 minutes into the Septic Inspection appointment.
Benefit of Pumping: Allows the inspector to visually inspect the walls and baffles that would normally be below the liquid level.
Potential Drawback: If any defects are found during an inspection, pumping should be postponed to allow for a 2nd opinion. A pumper may charge a cancellation fee if a 24 hour notice isn’t received.
Another Point to Consider: Any reputable pumper should be inspecting the walls and baffles every time the tank is pumped and make the homeowner aware of any deterioration, defects, or other repairs that may be needed. Be sure any company you choose does this.
As an inspection company, we don’t perform any repairs or do any pumping, so as to not have a conflict of interest. Our office staff is happy to discuss your specific concerns and situation to help you come to a decision you feel comfortable with regarding Septic System Pumping.
Note: Pumping should not be performed prior to an inspection appointment. This hinders the inspector’s ability to inspect the system under its normal operating conditions.
For more information regarding Septic Inspections, see EPA’s Septic Smart booklet
Hydraulic Load Test:
If the residence has been vacant for >7 days or there is going to be an increased occupancy, it is recommended to perform a Hydraulic Load Test.
Hydraulic Load Testing is a means to verify the absorption area can handle the estimated daily usage of water of a home. The pre-determined amount of water from the home is measured while being introduced to the septic system. Measurement of the liquid level in the absorption area is measured before, throughout, and after the water is introduced. These steps are repeated on the 2nd day and the measurements are compared to the previous day to determine if the absorption area can drain the estimated daily usage of liquid.
How Much Water?
The number of gallons of water used in a Hydraulic Load Test is based on the number of bedrooms in the home. The Pennsylvania DEP provides the estimated peak flow of 400 gallons for a 1 to 3 bedroom home and 100 gallons for each additional bedroom.
For further information, see our Septic System Brochure