Buying a home is an exciting, stressful and an emotional process. Before you buy a home it's important to know the state of every system that you are purchasing. A septic system plays a vital role in the overall performance of your plumbing system and your property's health and safety conditions. Because your septic system is buried underground, a professional inspection is needed to thoroughly assess its condition, maintenance history and likely future performance. Inspection includes:
All septic systems contain 3 components:
I. Treatment tank or septic tank
The buried tank is designed to handle all flow from the building. The tanks are of two types – aerobic (mechanical agitation) or anaerobic (tranquil). Most systems will be of the anaerobic type. Both types are designed to allow for the containment and breakdown of the solid wastes from the dwelling.
Tanks are generally concrete, metal or fiberglass with a line that enters from the house (inlet) and a line that exits the tank (outlet). Both lines have baffles installed. The inlet baffle forces the solids to the base of the tank. The outlet baffle prohibits floating solids (scum layer) from exiting the tank and entering the distribution system or piping.
Inspection of the tank will include:
• Excavation of the tank
• Type of tank (metal, concrete or fiberglass)
• Size or capacity of tank
• Condition of lids and top • Condition of baffles on inlet and outlet lines
• Cracks or leaks
• Liquid level in tank
• Solid levels in tank (both bottom and top)
• Flow to tank from house
• Overall condition of tank – Satisfactory or unsatisfactory (needs repair)
• Measurements from grade to tank and to top of tank access openings
• Measurements and location sketches of tank
II. Distribution System
Series of pipes that transport the fluids (effluent) from the treatment tank to the absorption area
The system may be gravity fed with lines from the tank to a d-box or may be a lifting or dosing type of distribution system with a tank that holds a pump.
Inspection of the Distribution System will include:
• Camera scoping from the tank to the distribution box
• Excavation of the distribution box (d-box) if one exists
• Condition of the integrity of the d-box and cover
• Liquid levels in the d-box at all outlet ports
• Measurements and location of d-box on site sketch
III. Absorption Areas
Absorption is the means by which the liquid is dispensed to the underlying soil. This is the most important component of the system because it is the most expensive to replace. Absorption systems or areas can include cesspools, seepage pits, seepage beds, trenches, and sand mounds.
Receive all the flow from the structure (both solids and liquids) and liquids seep into the soil around the tank while the solids stay in the tank.
Basically a cesspool with a treatment tank in front of it that traps the solids and lets liquid only enter the pit.
Usually a rectangular area filled with stone (aggregate) in which a series of perforated pipes distributes the liquid evenly throughout the bed.
Long narrow trenches from 1 to 6 feet wide that are partially filled with aggregate. Perforated pipe distributes effluent through the trench. (Similar to beds but each line is separate from the other.
Elevated Sand Mounds+
Usually a bed type of distribution system built on top of a man made hill. Sand provides a level surface and a porous material. The aggregate or stone is placed on top of the sand and a piping system delivers the liquid throughout the mound. Elevated systems have a pump tank that lifts the effluent to the mound and either lets it gravity feed from a d-box in the mound or pressure doses it throughout the mound in smaller piping.
Inspection of the absorption area will include:
• Determination of the type of absorption system in use
• Measurements of liquid levels in the absorption area prior to running dye
• Camera scoping of all laterals in the absorption area (except pressure dose systems)
• Dye introduction and monitoring of absorption area as water is run.
• Inspection of area around absorption system for lush vegetation, black staining, effluent breaking ground or entering waterways, or any other signs of prior failures
• Inspection of all components in pump or lift tanks including electrical connections, proper pump
• Installation and operation, float controls, and safety alarms.