- How often do I need to maintain my septic system?
- How do I know if there is something wrong with my septic system?
- How can I find the location of my septic system?
- How often should I test the water from my private well?
- What test(s) should I run on my well?
- Where do I get water sample bottles?
- Last year my well water was okay, but now it has bacteria. It was constructed 15 years ago and is cased and sealed. Where is the bacteria coming from?
- What is my first step?
- I am developing a raw piece of land. Can I get my septic permit before my building permit? Can I get my septic permit and my building permit at the same time?
- I am thinking of buying a house that is on septic but there are no septic records. What do I do? Can I remodel?
- How do I know the class of my system?
- How long does it take to get a septic system permit?
- How long are perk tests good for?
- If the property perks OK will I be guaranteed it can be permitted?
- My system has a redwood tank and I want to do some remodeling. Will I have to replace the tank? If I have to replace the tank, should I have the system evaluated first?
- Does the involved county inspect the septic system before I purchase the property?
- What is Gray water?
- What is an Alternative System?
How often do I need to maintain my septic system?
Septic systems last an average of 20 years. A properly constructed and maintained system can last longer. A system that is not maintained can fail in 2 years or less. Regular maintenance protects the investment and avoids replacement costs. Maintenance also protects the health of your family, the community and the environment. Replacing a failing septic system can cost from $3,000 to $35,000 compared to the $300 and up (depending on your area) that it costs to have the system inspected and pumped out every few years. When systems fail, inadequately treated household wastewater is released into the environment. This can contaminate nearby wells, ground water, and drinking water sources. Any contact with untreated human waste can pose significant health risks. Septic system maintenance is simple:
- Every 3 years have us Vacuum Truck Service vacuum the solids from the tank.
Water conservation is very important.
Knowing what not to flush is important. Do not use the septic system for disposal of anything that can easily be put into the trash. This only adds to the solids build up that will eventually need to be pumped out.
Avoid grinding up food scraps, coffee grounds, and disposing of grease and cooking oils down the drains.
- Use toilet paper that is biodegradable and approved for use in septic systems by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).
- Don't plant trees within 6 feet of the system, their roots will clog the pipes.
- Don't allow anyone to drive over or park on the septic system.
- Don't fence livestock over the septic system.
- Don't dig in or cover the drain field with concrete or asphalt. Grass should be the only cover.
- Don't pour harmful chemicals or cleansers into the system. Paints, varnishes, thinners, waste oils, photographic solutions, and pesticides can destroy the biological action in the system and pollute the environment.
- Don't attempt to repair the septic system without contacting Waters Excavation. They will obtain the required Health Department permits and make necessary repairs.
- Use appropriate caution when inspecting the septic system. Toxic gases from tanks can kill in minutes so hire Waters Vacuum Truck Service.
- Home owners should be alert to the following warning signs of a failing septic system:
- Test results of well water show the presence of bacteria.
- The ground in the area is wet or soggy.
- Grass grows greener or faster in the area.
- Sewage odors in the house or yard.
- Plumbing backups into the house.
- Slowly draining sinks and toilets.
- Gurgling sounds in the plumbing.
- If one or more of these warning signs exist, the home owner should contact Waters Vacuum Truck Service to have the system inspected and pumped.
How can I find the location of my septic system?
County health departments issue permits and inspect systems as they are installed. If your system has been installed in the last 20 years they may have a sketch of the layout of the system. Our Vacuum Truck Service maintains tank locations for all of our customers. This information is available at no charge for our customers.
Our Vacuum Truck Service can usually find the tank by using a soil probe in areas where we would expect to find a tank. Tanks are usually behind the house, near the bathroom, and about 10 feet away from the foundation. For more difficult locations we uses electronic locators.
How often should I test the water from my private well?
Water in city water systems is tested monthly or in some very small towns quarterly. The State Health Department recommends yearly tests for bacteria level in private wells. Nitrate levels should not change quickly enough to warrant yearly testing and should be checked every other or every third year. It is wise to keep a file of all old tests for reference.
What test(s) should I run on my well?
By far the biggest health concern is bacteria. Bacteria which inhabit the human gut are called coliform bacteria. The water lab filters the sample and then imprints the filter on agar and grows out bacteria colonies in the growth chamber. You must have a ZERO test for coliform bacteria to be sure your water quality is acceptable. Nitrate is a lesser problem and we would like to see tests below 10 milligrams per liter (mgl) or parts per million (ppm). Some people have hard water and conduct a hardness test. Iron and manganese are the most common mineral problems.
Where do we I water sample bottles?
Any local Well company should have them available for purchase. Our customers have always spoken highly of Bruce McKay Pump and Well Service in particular.
Last year my well water was okay, but now it has bacteria. It was constructed 15 years ago and is cased and sealed. Where is the bacteria coming from?
It is possible the case has developed a leak. It is also possible that you had some well repair work done and the repair worker never shock chlorinated the well after the repair. This is standard and if it was not done call them back. We have information on shock chlorination if you desire to do it yourself.
What is my first step?
We recommend that you first inspect the site with a private septic systems consultant. Waters can perform this service. Waters is familiar with various codes and requirements. We can give you at least a rough idea whether or not your plans are feasible. When you are ready to proceed, We may help you apply for a site review and percolation tests.
I am developing a raw piece of land. Can I get my septic permit before my building permit? Can I get my septic permit and my building permit at the same time?
Yes, you may obtain a septic system construction permit prior to the issuance of a building permit. However, the septic system permit will not become valid until the building permit is issued.
I am thinking of buying a house that is on septic but there are no septic records. What do I do? Can I remodel?
Sometimes records are available through other sources, such as prior owners or the Building Inspection Division. We can locate your septic system and advice you of the options available.
Sometimes, due to site conditions, soil depths, setback problems and other reasons it may not be possible to comply with the Code in one or more respects. We can assist in gaining a resolution from the appropriate code enforcement authority.
How long does it take to get a septic system permit?
That depends on our current workload, staff availability and the complexity of your project. Summer and fall are the busiest times of the year. Once a design is submitted with all fees paid, we try to respond in no more than 30 days.
If the property perks OK will I be guaranteed it can be permitted?
Not necessarily. Due to site conditions, soil depths, setback problems and other reasons it may not be possible to comply with the Code in one or more respects to allow the property to be permitted.
My system has a redwood tank and I want to do some remodeling. Will I have to replace the tank? If I have to replace the tank, should I have the system evaluated first?
Yes, you will need to replace the septic tank and apply for a permit with appropriate fee. It must be constructed of approved materials, either concrete or fiberglass. A septic evaluation would be required at the least for any remodel
Does the involved county inspect the septic system before I purchase the property?
No. It is recommended that the individual buyer have the septic system evaluated by a qualified professional. Waters is able to perform a complete inspection including a hydrostatic performance check of the leech field. Unlike most other companies we will allow all costs to be billed through escrow.
What is Gray water?
Gray water is untreated household waste water which has not come into contact with toilet waste. Gray water includes used water from bathtubs, showers, bathroom wash basins, and water from clothes washing machines and laundry tubs. It does not include waste water from kitchen sinks, dishwashers or laundry water from soiled diapers.
For example, if ground water or percolation rates are unsuitable, it may be possible to install a mound system or engineered system. In a mound system, a suitable soil is placed above the unsuitable soil. A conventional system is then installed in the mound. There are some additional requirements for this and other engineered designs. Contact our Excavation department for assistance.