Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

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What to Expect in a Typical Septic System Inspection?

- Monday, June 19, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

Septic system inspections are a vital step in making sure your system is operating properly. Regular inspections ensure you and your family do not get sick due to a leak or other problems with your septic system. Since these wastewater systems are located underground, homeowners may overlook having a septic inspection. Routine inspections help prevent expensive repairs to your system or avoid a sewage backup in your home. In many states, a septic system must be inspected with the transfer of real estate. However, it is not only when you are buying a home that these inspections are needed. Septic system inspections should be done every 1 to 3 years for as long as you own your home.

In general, an inspection will involve the following:

  • Review of the system permit, design, and installation records (including system age)
  • Review of the septic tank pumping and system maintenance records
  • Opening and inspecting all tanks (septic tank, pump tank, distribution box)
  • Evaluating the septic tank sludge and scum levels and determining the need to pump
  • Assessing the condition of the septic tank effluent filter (if installed)
  • Looking for signs of leakage, such as low water levels in the tank
  • Looking for signs of backup, such as staining in the tank above the outlet pipe
  • Evaluating the integrity of the tank, inlet and outlet pipes and looking for signs of corrosion
  • Verifying all electrical connections, pumps, controls, and wiring are intact
  • Possibly using a camera to look at solid pipes and leach lines for blockages or collapsed piping
  • Evaluating the drainfield for signs of system failure, such as standing water (surfacing) or unequal drainage
  • Possibly excavating parts of the drainfield to look for signs of ponding in the system or groundwater impacting the drainfield
  • Examining the distribution box for structural integrity and to make sure drain lines are receiving equal flow
  • Reviewing other available records on water use and required inspections, monitoring, and reporting to ensure system compliance with local regulations regarding function and permit conditions.

To get your system professionally inspected by  contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Hurricane Season Preparation for Septic Systems

- Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction

Hurricane season preparation for septic systems makes more sense when you understand the risks. The hurricane season officially starts next month, and there are some things you need to know before a major storm threatens the local area.

Hurricane impact on Septic Systems

For any type of onsite sewage system, conventional or alternative, a hurricane or flood could submerge the system. If your system is submerged, the excess water may cause a backup of sewage into the house. Look for sewage backups in the plumbing fixtures at the lowest elevations in your house as your first indication.

Flooding can wash soil away from the septic tank, drain field lines or other components, causing damage to the components or introducing raw or partially treated sewage into the yard. Flooding may also cause the onsite sewage system to operate sluggishly because the soil in the dispersal area is saturated.

If your septic tank/drain field system is damaged by the storm or if the soil is saturated, minimize water use within the house to prevent raw sewage from discharging to the ground surface. Minimize contact with sewage contaminated waters. Use gloves and protective gear and wash any exposed skin with soap and water as soon as possible. Disinfect any exposed human contact surfaces with diluted bleach water.

Onsite sewage systems may fail to operate properly during power outages that are common during hurricane season. Pumps won’t work without power, but most onsite sewage systems with a pump should have 100-200 gallons storage capacity above the high-level alarm. Exceeding this storage capacity could cause the pump chamber to overflow, spilling raw sewage on the ground.

If you face this situation, use water sparingly and call Wind River Environmental for a full inspection as soon as the water recedes and power returns.

What Do I Need to Prepare My Septic System For Hurricane Season?

Hurricane preparations for septic systems should start before an emergency:

  • Seal the manhole and/or inspection ports to keep excess water out of the septic tank
  • Be sure your septic tank is at least half full with effluent to prevent it from collapsing or floating
  • If your septic system requires electricity,
    • Turn off the pump at the circuit box before the area floods
    • Waterproof all electrical connections to avoid electrical shock or damage to wiring, pumps, and the electrical system
    • Consider a power generator to run the lift station and prevent a backup into the house

Septic System Care After A Hurricane

Precautions related to septic systems include:

  • Avoid contact with any septic system electrical devices until they are dry and clean.
  • Do not pump out the septic tank more than halfway or the tank may float out of the ground until the water table returns to normal.
  • Reduce all nonessential water use (for example, dish washing, washing clothes, showering).
  • Flush toilets as little as possible or use a temporary toilet.

If you suspect septic system damage, get the system professionally inspected by contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Title V Septic Regulations and Home Sales

- Monday, June 05, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Title V Septic Regulations

My septic system failed. What do I do now?

If the inspection fails, your septic system must be repaired or replaced. If ownership of the house is not being changed, the homeowner may have up to two years to complete the repair. However, if the Health Agent deems the failure to be a health hazard, the homeowner can be required to begin the process of repairing it immediately.

Failed septic systems can be handled in a real estate sales transaction in two ways. First, the seller can undertake the work and complete it prior to closing, with a full sign off from the Board of Health. This is often the preferable course for all parties and the lender. Alternatively, the parties can agree to an escrow holdback to cover the cost of the septic repair plus a contingency reserve, and the work is undertaken after the closing. Some lenders don’t allow septic holdbacks, however.

What are the steps and permitting fees to install a new septic system?

The first step in beginning a septic repair is to hire an engineer to evaluate your land and to design a system that would be appropriate for your property. Once the engineer is hired, a percolation or “perc” test is scheduled. The perc test measures the rate at which water is absorbed into the ground and determines whether the soil is suitable for a septic system. Based on the results of the perc test, the size of your lot, and the number of bedrooms in your home, the engineer designs a septic system to serve the property. Once the plans have been drawn, four copies of the plans, two copies of the soil analysis, and a fee must be submitted to the Board of Health office. The BOH has 45 days to review the plans and to either approve or reject them. If the plans are approved, the plans can be picked up and the installation of the system can begin. If the plans are rejected, the plans must be revised and an additional fee is charged to have them reviewed again. If the designed system requires state variances (done by the Department of Environmental Protection), an additional 90 days must be allotted for the review process.

When the job is completed is there any form of certification that it has been done and that it meets Title V standards?

At the completion of the job, (that is, when all work has been done according to the plans; when the engineer has submitted an “as-built” plan as to where the system was installed; and when the installer has submitted a certification statement), the Health Agent signs a Certificate of Compliance, (COC), which is issued to the installer. Upon payment for the work, the installer gives the COC to the homeowner.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Title 5 Septic Systems for New Construction

- Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction -  Title 5 Septic Systems for New Construction

Whether you're building a new septic system or upgrading an existing one, there are Title 5 requirements that apply to new construction.

If you are building a new septic system or upgrading an existing one, there are Title 5 requirements that must be followed in order to prevent damage to human health and the environment.

System owner's responsibilities

Whether or not you are the person actually doing the construction, it is always the system owner's responsibility to ensure things are done in accordance with Title 5 regulations. If you have questions related to building or expanding a new Title 5 system, you should contact your local Board of Health directly as they are the primary regulatory authority for new construction.

For new construction of a system, the first step is to go to your local Board of Health as well as your local Building Department. You will need to obtain permits from both separately. You should initially provide each department with a verbal explanation of what you're proposing.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


5 FAQs: Repairs and New Construction

- Friday, May 19, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

Why can't I put my soil absorption system (SAS) under my driveway?

Title 5 precludes using area under a driveway for a soil absorption system unless restrictions on the land leave no other feasible option. Impervious areas such as driveways or parking lots restrict air passing through the soils. In addition, the weight of the cars can compact the soil and may break distribution pipes. Lack of oxygen prevents the degradation of the septic tank effluent in the soil, and compaction reduces flow, making the system likely to clog and fail. Soil absorption systems which are placed under driveways are required, by 310 CMR 15.240 (7), to be vented to the atmosphere. Additional standards apply to system components in areas where automobile or other heavy equipment is anticipated. How far away from property lines and existing buildings does my septic system need to be? h3

Title 5 (310 CMR 15.211) lists minimum setback distances, and the local Board of Health can provide more information about your particular situation.

I am thinking about adding living space to my home (family room, garage, etc), but I'm maintaining the same number of bedrooms. Am I required to have a Title 5 inspection to get a building permit? h3

A system must be inspected upon any change of use or expansion of use for which a building permit or occupancy permit is required. However, if the change of use or expansion does not increase the existing design flow, the requirement is for an assessment only, in order to determine the location of all system components, including the reserve area. This will ensure that the proposed construction is not placed on top of any system components. The requirement for an assessment can be waived if an official record exists that shows the location of system components as they relate to the proposed construction. (310 CMR 15.301(5).

Contact your local board of health to verify if local regulations require a full inspection.

Can a Board of Health require the replacement of an undersized septic tank?

Yes, if its continued use will jeopardize the soil absorption system or the environment. Any tank smaller than 1000 gallons may be judged to be too small, depending on individual circumstances.

Does a Board of Health have to issue a Disposal System Construction Permit (DSCP) for the replacement of a single component such as a Distribution Box or septic tank? h3

Yes. Title 5 allows system components to be replaced without replacing the entire system, but requires a DSCP and a Certificate of Compliance once the work is done (see Conditional Pass).

What are the advantages of pressure distribution for a septic system with a pump?

Although Title 5 does not require it, pressure distribution for systems with pumps generally results in a more efficient and longer-lasting system. Pressure distribution can be especially important when a reduction in distance to ground water is being requested for a mounded system.

Is it legal for the Board of Health to restrict the use of mounded systems for new construction?

Communities may have requirements more restrictive than DEP's provided correct procedures are followed in adopting them (310 CMR 15.003 (3)).

A property owner with a failing septic system is in the process of obtaining local approvals for an upgrade. In the meantime, the system is experiencing breakouts of sewage onto the ground. What should be done in the interim?

Breakout of sewage onto the ground is a significant threat to public health and the environment, and the Board of Health should take immediate action to address the situation. Interim steps could include requiring the system owner to seal off any discharges from the septic tank and begin a pumping program with a licensed septage hauler. Ultimately, responsibility for the failing system falls on the system owner, but Boards of Health have primary responsibility for enforcing Title 5 in order to ensure public health and safety.

Can MassDEP recommend a certified soil laboratory?

No. Massachusetts does not certify soils testing laboratories. You can inquire with your local Board of Health on any local labs that may provide that service or check the yellow pages under "testing laboratories".

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Consumer Protection Tips: Septic System Inspections

- Monday, May 15, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction

When you need to hire a system inspector, there are two important things to remember:

  1. MassDEP does not regulate inspection fees, nor does any other state agency. Inspectors can charge whatever their customers are willing to pay. The fee also may vary depending on the complexity of the inspection.
  2. Only certain professionals may perform Title 5 system inspections:
    • Professionals who meet experience requirements and have passed a MassDEP-administered exam;
    • Registered Sanitarians;
    • Certified Health Officers; and
    • Registered Professional Engineers who specialize in civil, environmental or sanitary engineering.

For a list of qualified system inspectors in your area, contact your local Board of Health. You can also see lists of approved system inspectors on the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control website.

Before hiring anyone, do some comparison shopping:

  • Get written estimates from several inspectors. Ask them whether the price of the inspection includes pumping the system; often it does not.
  • Ask for and check each inspector's identification and references.
  • Before signing a contract, be certain that it spells out the work plan, the cost and payment terms, and any guarantees the inspector is willing to provide.
  • Once the inspection is complete, make sure the person who signs the form is the same person who conducted the inspection.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

5 Ways to Save Money on Septic Repair

- Friday, May 05, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction

Larger septic tank repair jobs can put a dent in your home maintenance budget. To reduce your costs over time, consider the following strategies:

Clean it: Retain the annual services of a local septic tank cleaning company. Regular cleaning gives your septic pro access to spot potential issues before they develop into big problems, while also eliminating one major cause of septic system failure—the buildup of sewage and scum that overwhelms your system.

Use treatment products: Ask your septic pro about products designed to help the bacteria in your system break down solid waste to stop clogs from occurring. Products such as Rid-X or Green Gobbler can give those bacteria an extra boost so your system operates more efficiently.

Pump it regularly: According to the EPA, you should have your septic tank pumped every three to five years.

Minimize water use: On average, a single-family home uses approximately 70 gallons per person per day. Leaks and inefficient appliances, such as leaky toilets, can waste hundreds of gallons of water. The more wastewater your septic system must process, the more frequently it’ll need inspection, servicing, and repair. Consider installing newer versions of heavy-use appliances, such as high-efficiency toilets and showerheads.

Point Drains Away: Keep your home’s drainage components (roof drains, gutters, etc.) flowing away from the drainfield so it doesn’t flood and slow down the treatment process or cause backups in your home’s plumbing fixtures.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


9 Common Septic System Myths

- Friday, April 28, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System

1. You’ll Never Have to Replace a Well-Maintained Septic Tank

In terms of septic tank longevity, some people may tell you it needs replacing at least every 20 years, while others will say that it could last a lifetime with proper maintenance. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

No matter how good your septic system maintenance is, the tank will need replacing at some point. Poor management could see the system fail a little after five years of use. However, with regular tank pump-outs, efficient water use, appropriate waste disposal, and careful drain maintenance, your septic system could still work after 20 to 30 years or more.

2. Using Additives Means Pump-Outs Are Unnecessary

Regular tank pump-outs (ideally every two or three years) are necessary for septic system maintenance. These typically occur when the solid waste in the tank reaches between 30% and 50% of its total storage capacity. Professionals will empty the tank and ensure it’s completely clear of the solid sludge that accumulates at the bottom of the tank and the lightweight scum that floats at the tank surface. Without pump-outs, you will end up with expensive repair bills, clogs, and a significant reduction in the system’s longevity.

You may have heard that septic tank additives can eliminate the need for this process. The claim is that these microbes and enzymes can be added to your septic tank to enable the complete breakdown and digestion of sewage waste. They can interfere with solids settling, corrode tank walls, and leach harmful chemicals into the drain field. Even the Environmental Protection Agency does not recommend their use.

If you don’t want wastewater suddenly backing up into your house, stick with periodic pump-outs and don’t try to do them yourself. Local authorities have strict regulations in place for how to handle and dispose of solid waste. Hire a septic tank cleaner near you to tackle this complex job.

3. A Full Tank Always Needs Pumping

Just because a septic tank looks full doesn't mean it’s time for a pump-out. Even after doing so, an average family-size tank will fill up to around 12 inches within a week.

You only need to do a pump-out when there are high solid levels in the tank (they should take up about a third of it). A professional septic tank cleaning company can establish this point by conducting a sludge test that checks the solid levels present.

4. Repairing a Tank Is Preferable to Pumping Out

If you have a tight few months money-wise, you might think it won’t matter if you put off getting a scheduled pump-out on your septic tank. After all, how expensive could the repairs be if something goes wrong?

The cost to pump a septic tank is usually only a few hundred dollars, but a backed-up system could cause unpleasant, unsanitary problems that are costlier to fix.

Once you smell odors from your drains or your toilet won’t flush anymore, this can indicate that damage has already occurred. Sometimes, it could result in you calling a local septic tank installation company to replace the tank.

5. You Can’t Repair a Clogged System

If your system gets clogged up, you may hear the only option is to replace the tank or the entire system. However, depending on where and why the clog has occurred, a pressure-washing technique called jetting can often clear the system so it continues to function normally.

Always be cautious if someone tells you that things cannot be fixed—they may be more interested in the low-hanging fruit than making the more difficult repairs.

This involves high-pressure water pumping through your septic pipelines to dislodge debris. However, you won’t be able to tackle major clogs or problems in the system pipelines with this technique, and it isn’t suitable if your pipes are made from more fragile clay rather than rigid PVC. Contact a local septic tank repair specialist for further advice. They use specialist equipment. If this technique isn’t done correctly, it can lead to pipeline damage and groundwater quality problems.

6. Seeding Your Tank Is Beneficial

Seeding refers to getting good bacterial growth started in a freshly pumped system to help break down the waste. To do this, some people suggest dumping a pound of yeast, some manure, or even dead pests down your toilet.

You’ll be glad to hear this is entirely unnecessary. As soon as you flush regular toilet waste away, it’s enough to introduce the beneficial bacteria needed to kick-start the system.

7. You Can Flush Most Things Down the Drain

While septic systems are relatively robust, it doesn’t mean you can chuck anything you like down the toilet or drain. They’re designed to handle only two things: wastewater and sewage.

Nothing beyond toilet paper and standard waste should enter a septic system. Even adding bleach and strong disinfectant cleaners can upset the balance of the beneficial microbes needed to break down sewage. Coffee grounds, feminine hygiene products, cat litter, grease, and oils are common problematic items flushed down drains or toilets. These items in the system can lead to drain blockages, irreparable tank malfunctions, pipe damage, and the release of toxins or dangerous bacteria into the environment.

8. It’s Fine to Build on Top of Your Septic Tank

Some people believe building a structure on top of the septic tank isn’t a problem. After all, they’re so far underground that it shouldn’t matter, right?

Adding a deck, patio, or garden shed on top can make it difficult or impossible for the pros to access the septic tank when it needs pumping, repairing, or replacing.

It can also cause problems with the breakdown of wastewater entering the drainage field. The soil won’t have full oxygenation, and this can lead to backups in the system.

Instead, growing a lawn or planting non-aggressive, water-loving plants over your septic system is a perfect solution.

9. Professional Maintenance Isn’t Necessary for a Septic System

Regular professional maintenance is essential to maximize the longevity of your septic system. A septic system specialist can test the waste levels in a tank to check when it needs pumping, perform those pump-outs, and reduce the chances of problems with poor drainage and clogs.

Getting into the habit of arranging an inspection by a reputable local contractor every year or two is well worth the expense.

For more information on septic system installation, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Septic System Pros and Cons

- Friday, April 21, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System

First you need to know how a septic system works. A septic system treats all wastewater that comes from your home—from the dishwasher to the toilet—on site. Waste flows out of your home through a main line and into a water-tight septic tank through an inlet pipe.

Once inside the tank, the waste separates into several layers. And just a heads up, the layers do not have lovely names. Solids known as sludge—we warned you—fall to the bottom of the tank while grease and oil, known as scum, form a layer that floats on the top.

The remaining water in the middle—called effluent—passes the test to move on to the next treatment area through an outlet pipe and into a drain field. A drain field, or "leach field," includes unsaturated soil, pipes, and chambers that treat the water further. Oxygen, microbes, and bacteria in the soil remove the final harmful materials in the effluent before it heads back into the earth.

As you can imagine, building and maintaining such a complex system in your backyard can be complicated. When well-cared for, however, septic systems can be both cost-effective and highly beneficial for rural areas.


  • Ideal for rural areas without access to city sewer systems
  • No monthly costs outside of maintenance
  • Naturally treats water
  • If there are leaks, contamination is concentrated to one area
  • Easier to install compared to new city line hookup


  • Requires pumping every three to five years
  • Replacement is more expensive than sewer
  • Solid materials are more likely to clog and back up systems
  • Leaks can lead to potent and unhealthy waste in your backyard
  • Roots can damage septic system pipes

For more information on septic system installation, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Buying a Home With Well Water and a Septic System

- Monday, April 17, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Home with a Septic System

If you’re curious about what it means to live with well water and a septic tank, here’s what you need to know

Buying a Home With Well Water and a Septic System

From grabbing a drink to brushing your teeth to making a meal, we rely on water constantly for everyday life. If you’re considering a home purchase in a more rural area, one important factor to think about is where your water utilities will originate. Access to a municipal water and sewer line may not be available, so you might be introduced to a well water and septic tank system for the first time.

Before you move forward with that rural homestead purchase, you will want to be familiar with living with well water and a septic tank.

How Does a Well and Septic Tank System Work?

You may not give much thought to where your water comes from, but a well and septic system will require a bit of knowledge in order to keep everything running smoothly. While the concept is simple in theory, there are several different parts that homeowners should be aware of.

What Is a Well?

In simplest terms, a well is a hole drilled into the ground that provides access to water. A pump and pipe system is used to pull water out of the ground, and then a screen filters out unwanted particles to help avoid clogs. Because groundwater sources can be exposed to bacteria and chemicals, wells can easily be contaminated if built incorrectly.Every well is made up of four important components:

Casing made from steel, PVC pipe, or concrete pipe. The casing maintains open access in the ground while preventing any leakage into the well from the surrounding area.

Grout is used as a sealant to fill in any cracks or spaces around the outside of the well, preventing contaminants from getting in.

Filter screen made from stainless steel or slotted PVC pipe keeps gravel, sand, and other debris out of the well.

Gravel is packed around the outside of the filter screen to prevent debris from entering the well or clogging the screen.

What Is a Septic System?

A septic system is an underground wastewater structure that consists of a septic tank and a drain field. These systems are commonly found in rural areas without access to centralized municipal sewers.

All the wastewater from a home’s kitchen, faucets, and bathrooms exits through one main drainage pipe into the tank, a water-tight container buried in the ground. The tank then holds all the wastewater, slowly separating the solids (which sink to the bottom) and the oils (which float to the top). Because sludge builds up over time, septic tanks need to be pumped every two to three years.

Eventually, the liquid (called effluent) is released from the tank and distributed into the drain field, which is a shallow, covered trench of unsaturated soil. The drain field treats and disperses the wastewater, eliminating much of the bacteria as it filters into the soil.

For more information on septic system installation, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.