Frequently Asked Questions

Tank Risers should be concrete or PVC?

tank_riasers.jpgConcrete risers are usually better than PVC because concrete makes a better seal with the buried tank.
Concrete risers are usually the best choice. PVC risers work the same way but are much lighter weight. If you use PVC risers, be sure to get a heavy lid to fit on top of the PVC. This keeps the kids out and helps to seal the tar tape. Your riser(s) should be tall enough to extend above ground. Don't give surface water a chance to seep in at your riser lid. 

What is the best way to install access ports on a formed-in-ground tank?

Dig up the tank Lids. For each lid, measure the size (diameter) of the tank lid opening. Measure the distance from the opening to grade and add a few inches to keep dirt and debris out of the tank. Be sure to clean the top of the tank well and put down tar tape between the top of the tank and the riser. The heavy concrete riser will push down on the tar tape and give you a good seal to protect against groundwater infiltration.

How many access ports do I need on a buried tank?

You will need an access port for each compartment in the tank. On a one tank compartment, one access port on the outlet side should be enough.

Can a system have failed although the failure may not be obvious to the home owner?

failing_drainfield.jpgYes. Consider a system that you pumped a year ago and the inspection came back ok. Recently, the system started smelling badly in the house. You may find some water leaking from the drain field but no other issues.

Well, unfortunately, the septic system is in failure. Even though septic effluent is seeping to the surface only once every week or two, it still meets the State Health Department's definition of "septic system failure". Many state’s criteria for system failure is: "Effluent discharge exceeds the absorptive capacity of the soil, resulting in ponding, seepage, or other discharge of the effluent to the ground surface or to surface waters." Your county health department, or equivalent, is responsible for permitting septic system installations and repairs. You need to contact your local health department and tell them the problem. They will inform you of what you need to do. If you decide to try and repair the problem yourself without contacting your local health department and acquiring a permit; then, you risk having to pay fines, legal fees, or pay for an approved system. Each county specifies their own requirements, but they ALL must abide by the State Department of Health requirements!

What can be done to reduce silting into the trench bottom through chamber louvers due to shifting in sandy loam soil? The system was installed at the 24 inches maximum depth and back filled with native soil.

A. Make sure the drain field is percolating well.
B. Make sure there are no low spots in the ground just above the chambers that might puddle water in a heavy rain and saturate the field.
C. Apply landscape cloth over the louvers to prevent mud from getting back into the chambers.
D. Drive rebar stakes around the chambers to prevent shifting.

What steps should I take to certify the working condition of septic systems for lenders?

Some lending institutions require septic system inspections before they lend purchase money. If you wish to perform inspections of this kind, contact your local health department, first. Get a copy of sewage and well permits along with locations and drawings. The next step should be a visit to the site. Locate the septic tank. A soil probe is very useful for this. Locate the well. Be sure you understand the kind of sewage treatment system you're evaluating.

Perform your inspection and document your findings.

Your letter to the lender should state that you don't “certify” anything. The letter must have clear descriptions of what you found, the system location relative to the house and other landmarks, and well. Always include a disclaimer that the inspection is a snapshot of what you found on the day of the inspection. For example, "This report indicates the condition of the above onsite wastewater treatment system at the time of the inspection. It does not guarantee it will continue to function satisfactorily

How can I keep sand from filling septic tanks?

First, make sure it is sand and not sludge. If it is sand, use filter fabric, washed river rocks, or straw over the chambers to keep fine silt out.

sand_in_septi_tank_1.jpg  sand_in_septic_tank_2.jpg 

What can renters do about septic system issues?

Landlords are usually responsible for septic system issues on their property. Tenants should report problems to the landlord, first. The renter could hire you to speak to the landlord about the problems. At the point, the landlord should contact the health department and follow their instructions. If the landlord fails to fix the problems, the renter should contact the health department.