Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

Do's and Don’ts for Septic Systems

Joseph Coupal - Friday, February 28, 2020
Morse Engineering and Construction - Percolation Testing

Dos

  • Check with the local regulatory agency or inspector/pumper if you have a garbage disposal unit to make sure that your septic system can handle this additional waste.
  • Check with your local health department before using additives. Commercial septic tank additives do not eliminate the need for periodic pumping and can be harmful to the system.
  • Use water efficiently to avoid overloading the septic system. Be sure to repair leaky faucets or toilets. Use high-efficiency fixtures.
  • Use commercial bathroom cleaners and laundry detergents in moderation. Many people prefer to clean their toilets, sinks, showers, and tubs with a mild detergent or baking soda.
  • Check with your local regulatory agency or inspector/pumper before allowing water softener backwash to enter your septic tank.
  • Keep records of repairs, pumpings, inspections, permits issued, and other septic system maintenance activities.
  • Learn the location of your septic system. Keep a sketch of it with your maintenance record for service visits.
  • Have a septic system inspection and get it pumped as necessary by a licensed inspector/contractor.
  • Plant only grass over and near your septic system. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the drainfield.

Don’ts

  • Your septic system is not a trash can. Don’t put dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, cotton swabs, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, cat litter, paper towels, latex paint, pesticides, or other hazardous chemicals into your system.
  • Don’t use caustic drain openers for a clogged drain. Instead, use boiling water or a drain snake to open clogs.
  • Don’t drive or park vehicles on any part of your septic system. Doing so can compact the soil in your drainfield or damage the pipes, tank, or other septic system components.

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

epa.gov


Septic Design: Types of Septic Systems

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, February 20, 2020
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries, LLC - Septic System in Sturbridge, Fiskdale, MA

Septic system design and size can vary widely, from within your neighborhood to across the country, due to a combination of factors. These factors include household size, soil type, site slope, lot size, proximity to sensitive water bodies, weather conditions, or even local regulations. Below are ten of the most common types of septic systems used. The list is not all-inclusive; there are many other types of septic systems.

Septic Tank

A buried, watertight tank designated and constructed to receive and partially treat raw domestic sanitary wastewater. Heavy solids settle to the bottom of the tank while greases and lighter solids float to the top. The solids stay in the tank while the wastewater is discharged to the drainfield for further treatment and dispersal.

Conventional System

A decentralized wastewater treatment system consisting of a septic tank and a trench or bed subsurface wastewater infiltration system (drainfield). A conventional septic system is typically installed at a single-family home or small business.

The gravel/stone drainfield is a design that has existed for decades. The name refers to the construction of the drainfield. With this design, effluent is piped from the septic tank to a shallow underground trench of stone or gravel. A geofabric or similar material is then placed on top of the trench so sand, dirt, and other contaminants do not enter the clean stone.

Effluent filters through the stone and is then further treated by microbes once it reaches the soil below the gravel/stone trench.

Gravel/stone systems are relatively large in overall footprint and may not be suitable for all residential sites or conditions.

Chamber System

Gravelless drainfields have been widely used for over 30 years in many states and have become a conventional technology replacing gravel systems. They take many forms, including open-bottom chambers, fabric-wrapped pipe, and synthetic materials such as expanded polystyrene media. The gravelless systems can be manufactured with recycled materials and offer a significant savings in carbon footprint.

An example of a gravelless system is the chamber system. The chamber system serves as an alternative design to the gravel/stone system. The primary advantage of the chamber system is increased ease of delivery and construction. They are also well suited to areas with high groundwater tables, where the volume of influent to the septic system is variable (e.g., at a vacation home or seasonal inn), in an area where gravel is scarce, or in areas where other technologies such as plastic chambers are readily available.

This type of system consists of a series of connected chambers. The area around and above the chambers is filled with soil. Pipes carry wastewater from the septic tank to the chambers. In the chambers, the wastewater comes into contact with the soil. Microbes on or near the soil treat the effluent.

Drip Distribution System

The drip distribution system is a type of effluent dispersal that can be used in many types of drainfields. The main advantage of the drip distribution system is that no large mound of soil is needed as the drip laterals are inserted into the top 6 to 12 inches of soil. The disadvantage of the drip distribution system is that it requires a large dose tank after the septic tank to accommodate the timed dose delivery of wastewater to the drip absorption area. Additional components, such as electrical power, are necessary for this system, requiring an added expense and increased maintenance.

Aerobic Treatment Unit

Aerobic Treatment Units (ATUs) use many of the same processes as a municipal sewage plant, but on a smaller scale. An aerobic system injects oxygen into the treatment tank. The additional oxygen increases natural bacterial activity within the system that then provides additional treatment for nutrients in the effluent. Some aerobic systems may also have a pretreatment tank and a final treatment tank including disinfection to further reduce pathogen levels.

The benefits of this system are that it can be used in homes with smaller lots, inadequate soil conditions, in areas where the water table is too high, or for homes close to a surface water body sensitive to contamination by nutrients contained in wastewater effluent. Regular life-time maintenance should be expected for ATUs.

Mound Systems

Mound systems are an option in areas of shallow soil depth, high groundwater, or shallow bedrock. The constructed sand mound contains a drainfield trench. Effluent from the septic tank flows to a pump chamber where it is pumped to the mound in prescribed doses. Treatment of the effluent occurs as it discharges to the trench and filters through the sand, and then disperses into the native soil.

While mound systems can be a good solution for certain soil conditions, they require a substantial amount of space and periodic maintenance.

Recirculating Sand Filter System

Sand filter systems can be constructed above or below ground. Effluent flows from the septic tank to a pump chamber. It is then pumped to the sand filter. The sand filter is often PVC-lined or a concrete box filled with a sand material. Effluent is pumped under low pressure through the pipes at the top of the filter. The effluent leaves the pipes and is treated as it filters through the sand. The treated wastewater is then discharged to the drainfield.

Sand filters provide a high level of treatment for nutrients and are good for sites with high water tables or that are close to water bodies, but they are more expensive than a conventional septic system.

Evapotranspiration System

Evapotranspiration systems have unique drainfields. The base of the evapotranspiration system drainfield is lined with a watertight material. After the effluent enters the drainfield, it evaporates into the air. Unlike other septic system designs, the effluent never filters to the soil and never reaches groundwater.

Evapotranspiration systems are only useful in specific environmental conditions. The climate must be arid and have adequate heat and sunlight. These systems work well in shallow soil; however, they are at risk of failure if it rains or snows too much.

Constructed Wetland System

A constructed wetland mimics the treatment processes that occur in natural wetlands. Wastewater flows from the septic tank and enters the wetland cell. The wastewater then passes through the media and is treated by microbes, plants, and other media that remove pathogens and nutrients. The wetland cell typically consists of an impermeable liner, and gravel and sand fill, along with the appropriate wetland plants, which must be able to survive in a perpetually saturated environment.

A wetland system can work via either gravity flow or pressure distribution. As wastewater flows through the wetland, it may exit the wetland and flow into a drainfield for further wastewater treatment into the soil.

Cluster / Community System

A decentralized wastewater treatment system under some form of common ownership that collects wastewater from two or more dwellings or buildings and conveys it to a treatment and dispersal system located on a suitable site near the dwellings or buildings. It is common to find cluster systems in places like rural subdivisions.

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


Buying or Selling a Home with a Septic System

Joseph Coupal - Friday, February 07, 2020
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Construction Fiskdale, MA

If you are buying or selling property with a septic system installed, an inspection of the system may be part of the process. Certain types of ownership changes have different requirements. Learn what your requirements and rights are.

When are septic system inspections required?

  • Within 2 years before a sale. If weather conditions prevent inspection at the time of a sale, the inspection must take place within 6 months afterward.
  • When there is a proposed change to the facility which requires a building or occupancy permit.
  • Any change in the footprint of a building, to make sure that new building construction will not take place on top of any system components or on the system’s reserve area.
  • For large systems with a design flow of 10,000 to 15,000 gallons per day or more at full build-out and every five years thereafter.
  • Every 3 years for shared systems.
  • When the property is divided, or ownership of 2 or more properties is combined.
  • When MassDEP or the local Board of Health orders an inspection.

Property transfers with special requirements

System inspections must occur within 2 years before or 6 months after the following types of property transfers, provided that the transferring entity notifies the buyer in writing of the requirements of 310 CMR 15.300-15.305 for inspection and upgrade. If the system is pumped once per year following the date of the inspection, then the inspection remains valid for three years, provided the inspection report includes records demonstrating that the system has been pumped at least once a year during that time.

Foreclosure or deeds in lieu of foreclosure

  • Levy of execution that results in a conveyance of property
  • Bankruptcy

Sale of a condominium unit or condominiums:

  • Condominiums with 5 or more units - all systems must be inspected every 3 years.
  • Condominiums with fewer units must either inspect all systems every 3 years, or the system serving the unit being transferred must be inspected within 2 years prior to transfer.

When you DON'T need an inspection

Transfers between certain family members: Title 5 does not require a system inspection if the transfer is of residential real property, and is between the following relationships:

  • Between current spouses;
  • Between parents and their children;
  • Between full siblings; and
  • Where the property is held in a trust. See the "Guidance on Exemptions from Title 5 System Inspections", below.

Refinancing a mortgage or similar financial instrument;

Taking of a security interest in a property, e.g., issuance of a mortgage;

Appointment of, or a change in, a guardian, conservator, or trustee;

Any other change in ownership or the form of ownership where NO NEW parties are introduced (e.g., for estate planning or in a divorce);

The property owner or buyer has signed an enforceable agreement with the Board of Health to upgrade the system or to connect the facility to a sanitary sewer or a shared system within 2 years following the transfer of title, provided that such agreement has been disclosed and is binding on subsequent owners;

The property is subject to a comprehensive local plan of septic system inspection approved in writing by MassDEP and administered by a local or regional government; and the system has been inspected at the most recent time the plan requires.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

Source: mass.gov


How Often Should a Septic System be Inspected?

Joseph Coupal - Friday, January 31, 2020
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System

A septic system inspection is one of those home maintenance tasks that you might put off, and then put off some more. Because septics exist underground in the backyard, they are often out of sight, out of mind. But letting it go too long without an inspection can result in some major problems if the system fails.

Plus, septic inspections are also required if you plan to sell your home. Even if you don't know if you're going to sell, keeping your septic system in good condition will save you thousands of dollars in repairs if anything does go wrong.

Here's everything homeowners need to know about a septic system inspection.

How often should you get a septic system inspection?

Experts say you should get a septic system inspection every three years. But here's a dose of reality: Most homeowners never get their septic systems inspected unless there is a notable issue.

But that means homeowners get an inspection only when issues that may signal big trouble arise, such as when the toilet backs up, water takes too long to drain, or there's an actual septic system leakage. The benefit of doing an inspection every three years is to avoid major problems like these.

The three-year mark is also the maximum amount of time you should let your septic system go without being pumped out.

A problem caught at inspection can save you from having to replace the entire septic system (read: shell out a ton of money). It's especially important to keep your septic system in good shape if you plan on selling. During closing, a certified inspection will be performed and you don't want any last-minute surprises.

Who should perform a septic system inspection?

You're going to want to hire a professional septic contractor for the inspection.

General home inspectors do only a limited, visual-only inspection of the septic system.

A septic contractor will look for cracks in the tank indicated by a low level of liquid, the amount of solids inside the tank using a measuring device called a "sludge judge," and possible ground contamination.

How much does a septic system inspection cost?

Cost depends on how extensive the septic inspection is as well as the size of the tank, which is usually either 1,000 or 1,500 gallons. But a basic septic system inspection typically runs between $300 to $600.

You can also reach out to your local health department to see if it performs inspections for a reduced price.

Is the home seller or buyer obligated to get an inspection?

The person who's responsible for carrying out the inspection is determined based on where you live.

In Massachusetts, the standard purchase agreement contract states that it's the home seller's responsibility to get the septic inspected. If you live in a state with this type of timing caveat, don’t do an inspection before an accepted contract or you may have to do it all over again to meet the contract timeline.

Bottom line: Ask your local real estate professional about your obligation regarding the septic system inspection.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

Source: realtor.com