Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

Recent Posts


Septic Tank Repair and Construction: What You Need to Know

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, August 30, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Construction Fiskdale, MA

We often get asked questions about the repair and construction of septic tanks. We thought we would share some FAQs on some common topics and areas of concern.

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

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

Q. 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?
A. 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.

Q. 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?
A. 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).

For more information on septic tank construction and repair, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Types of Septic System Repairs

Joseph Coupal - Friday, August 24, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction, Fiskdale, MA

Septic tank repairs range from replacing the bacteria inside a system to replacing broken pipes or digging a new drain field. Due to the nature of a septic tank and what it does, septic repairs are serious projects best left to licensed, insured professionals who fully understand the construction and composition of the system. Here are three common types of repairs and what they entail.

Broken Pipe

Septic systems use pipes to carry household waste to the tank and wastewater from the tank to the drain field. Pipes may break when wayward tree roots grow into them, the soil surrounding the pipe shifts, or the pipe material deteriorates. If not repaired, a broken septic pipe leads to bigger — and costlier — problems. The costs of these repairs vary depending on the location of the pipe and the extent of the damage.

Drain Field Failure

The septic system's drain field — the section of land reserved to filter water from the septic tank — does not last forever. If the top and bottom layers inside the tank grow so thick that they leave little space for water, grease and solid waste will slip into the drain field. This clogs the soil in the leaching area, which lets contaminated water and waste rise to the surface. Sometimes naturally occurring microbes clog the soil to such a degree that the only option is to dig a new drain field.

Replacing Bacteria in an Aerobic Unit

Aerobic septic treatment units use an aeration system to break down waste faster than traditional anaerobic units. The bacteria in these units sometimes die when they go unused for a period of time, forcing homeowners to replace the bacteria so the system works properly again.

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


Repairing a Septic Tank

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, August 16, 2018
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Repairing a Septic Tank, Fiskdale, Sturbridge, MA

If you're like most people, you probably don't think much about your septic system very often, and you might take it for granted that, when you flush a toilet, take a shower, or turn off the sink faucet, the dirty water disappears into a hidden series of drains and pipes. In fact, properly installed septic systems last for years before showing signs of age or damage. When disaster strikes in the form of a broken pipe or sewage buildup in the yard, however, you'll be thinking about your system quite a bit: it's time to consider whether to replace or repair the septic tank.

Costs and Paying for It

Some factors that increase or decrease the cost includes materials and labor. Intensive repairs that require digging up large areas of ground cost more than simple repairs like replacing a filter. Tanks located on a slope may cost more to repair than tanks resting on flat land if the slope forces the workers to take extra precautions. Similarly, in regions where the ground freezes during the winter, workers may need to rent additional equipment and spend more time accessing the system than those working in milder climates where the ground is not as firm. Other cost factors include:

  • Septic tank construction material
  • Location of the damage within the system
  • Type of soil on the property
  • Local requirements for permits

Type of system

In some municipalities, the local health department or environmental agency may have funds available to assist homeowners with major septic repairs. This is because a damaged septic system is considered a health hazard. These agencies may offer tax credits or low-interest loans for those in need, especially in the event of an emergency. Check with your local municipality to determine if financial assistance is available for certain types of septic work.

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


Sewer Smells in My Home

Joseph Coupal - Friday, August 10, 2018

Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System RepairThere are a variety of reasons that sewer smells may be entering a home or business.

These include:

A common reason is the lack of required traps or vents. Every fixture should have a trap and a vent pipe to keep smells from entering the home. If traps and vent pipes are missing, you may need the help of a plumber to install them immediately.

A common reason is broken seals around the toilet that allows water to siphon or dry out the traps and thus allowing smells to enter the home. There could be an air leak at the wax ring of the toilet or in the vent pipe. Rotted or damp wood can also cause the smell. Check to see if the toilet is tightly sealed to the floor. Grab the bowl of the toilet and try to slide it from side to side. It should resist a few pounds of pressure. If the toilet rocks from side to side, the wax ring has failed. You may need the help of a plumber to fix these problems.

A frequent cause for inside odors is a dry trap. Pouring a quart of water into all sinks, showers/tubs and floor drains may correct this problem. All drains to a sewer system have a "P" shaped trap that is usually filled with water. The trap provides a seal to keep out sewer gas. If your basement floor drain is rarely used, water evaporates from the trap over time. Eventually the seal is eliminated, allowing sewer gas (and smell) into your house. The solution is easy: pour water into the drain.

Specifically, the trap under the basin may not be holding enough water and is allowing sewer fumes into the room. You may want to inspect your trap and be sure it holds enough water.

If you have an old "house trap" in your basement the trap may be cracked or broken allowing smells to seep through the cracks and into your home.

If the smell is noticeable mainly around a sink, try flushing a strong cleaner and bleach down the sink's overflow-the small hole(s) inside the bowl near the rim. When the sink fills to near overflowing, water is routed through an inner chamber to the drain. Debris can collect inside the inner chamber, causing odor. There may be a small leak in one of the vent lines of the plumbing system, or a small leak around the base of a toilet or other fixture. You may need the help of a plumber. Check for loose fittings, corrosion, or holes in vent piping. Also, check the top side of horizontal drain pipes. If the top is rusted, it may never leak liquid, but it will leak sewer gas. Drain lines made of copper, steel or cast iron may all exhibit this problem.

If you have older cast iron piping you may be getting smells through cracks in your pipes. This type of piping has a habit of forming a crack along the topside of the pipe over time, and this could be where your smell is coming from. You may need to inspect every inch of piping for cracks or openings where the smell is coming from, and then make the repair from there. If an entire length of pipe is cracked (quite common), you should replace it using PVC drain pipe of the same size, with no-hub couplers to fit the pipe into place.

A frequent cause for inside odors is a clogged vent. You may need the help of a plumber or a handyman to disconnect the vent pipes inside your home and clean your vents all the way through the roof.

Another common problem is the plumbing vent located on the roof. It is necessary to allow the pressure in the drainpipes to equalize as wastewater flows through them. Without this vent, sinks, tubs, and toilets would gurgle, and in some cases, the toilets and drains would act like they were plugged. These plumbing vents can freeze closed during prolonged cold periods or get clogged with leaves or other debris. A warm day or two will thaw out the frozen pipe but leaves will need to be cleaned out. The pipe can be thawed using a high pressure water jetter used for cleaning sewers or warm water.

Down drafts from wind pattern changes can also create odors in the home. The vent may need to be raised which can be accomplished by just adding onto the existing pipe.

If you have question regarding septic odors in your home, contact Morse Engineering and Construction. We may be able to help determine the source.