Private Sewage Analyses

What is Acceptable?

Various types of decentralized wastewater treatment, if properly executed, can protect public health, preserve valuable water resources, and maintain economic vitality in a community. EPA concluded in its 1997 Response to Congress that "adequately managed decentralized wastewater systems are a cost-effective and long-term option for meeting public health and water quality goals, particularly in less densely populated areas."

Unfortunately, in far too many cases, these systems are installed and largely forgotten – until problems arise. EPA helps to ensure the success of these systems through the promotion and implementation of effective decentralized wastewater management programs.

Why is EPA concerned about onsite wastewater treatment systems? Onsite wastewater systems include a wide range of individual and cluster treatment systems that process household and commercial sewage. These systems are used in approximately 20 percent of all homes in the United States. An estimated 10 to 20 percent of these systems malfunction each year, causing pollution to the environment and creating a risk to public health. More information on septic system usage in the United States can be found in the Septic System Fact Sheet.

A visual septic dye test is combined with "pushing" the waste system. This test involves the running of three (3) plumbing fixtures simultaneously for 30-45 minutes to see if there is any slow-draining fixtures, backups, or surface breakouts. It also involves flushing colored dye into the waste lines looking for leaks. This type of test is acceptable to most lenders and is the most affordable.

A destructive septic inspection involves excavating the tank, opening the access ports to look into the tank, opening the distribution box, using a rod to measure the levels of the scum and solid wastes in the tank, and in many instances, it involves pumping the tank if the baffles and filter are not visible. Many sellers will frown on this type of test and unless the buyer will pay for the test, and it is rarely done.

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