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Septic System Design Choices

- Thursday, June 24, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System

The fact is most people have no idea that they have choices. Your environment where the system will go has a big influence on which septic systems will work better. The problems could range from filling up too quickly to poor drainage to equipment breaking. Almost all of those results mean significant costs for repair and cleanup.

The Two Big Categories of Septic Systems

Almost all septic systems fall in one of two groupings. The first is conventional and the second is, almost predictably, alternative. However, if you thought the choice was easy enough to pick one or the other, surprise. The alternative category alone includes 20 different system models that one can pick from.

The Conventional Septic System Model

This category tends to be what most people are familiar with. The conventional model involves a large tank buried in the ground near the home or building that it will service. Using gravity, the wastewater that comes from the home drains into the tank.

The water line in and out continues to drain liquid out from the tank to the ground which is known as the drain field. Solid mass carried by the wastewater from the home flows into the tank and, with gravity, falls to the bottom while the water itself continues forward to draining. Eventually, due to bacteria, the solid material breaks down in the tank and settles at the bottom.

The big issue with a conventional system is the surrounding soil. The dirt and soil need to be permeable enough that as water flow reaches the tank and then the drain field, it flows into the soil and eventually evaporates upwards into the air as the ground dries out. This is enhanced by a series of pipes from the drain tank into the drain field that allows the water to move forward and farther out into the field instead of saturating the immediate exit point.

The second concern with the conventional system involves the tank. Over time, even with bacteria and break-down, the solid matter will build up inside the tank. This process will take years, but it does occur. If the tank is not pumped regularly the material will eventually block up the flow and the new wastewater will back up into the house or building. Without maintenance, most owners find out about this problem the hard way during the rainy season or a big blockage event.

The conventional septic system design has been a proven approach for decades. Taken care of properly, these standard systems will last anywhere from 25 to 30 years before a full replacement is needed. They are made from usually three different materials: concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene.

Alternative Septic System Types

Designed to deal with situations where a septic tank is a must but the surrounding soil doesn’t want to cooperate with easy draining, alternative systems use internal methods to help water separately and dissipate from the system faster instead of leaching out in a drain field.

Poor draining situations can occur from a variety of causes. Some are a result of too much rock and impermeable material in the immediate area, making it far too expensive to drill out the lock or break it down to solve the problem.

This happens a lot where a septic system is needed and it turns out just below the surface soil there’s a rock layer, like granite. In other cases, the local water table is simply too high so the wastewater can’t drain out properly with gravity. Swampy areas are notorious for this kind of situation. Fortunately, alternative systems still allow water to be removed and let solid matter escape from the home or building with drainage.

Next week we'll discuss options in alternative systems.


Single Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants in Massachusetts

- Friday, June 18, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

What does this program do?

Also known as the Section 504 Home Repair program, this provides loans to very-low-income homeowners to repair, improve or modernize their homes or grants to elderly very-low-income homeowners to remove health and safety hazards.

Who may apply for this program?

To qualify, you must:

  • Be the homeowner and occupy the house
  • Be unable to obtain affordable credit elsewhere
  • Have a family income below 50 percent of the area median income 
  • For grants, be age 62 or older and not be able to repay a repair loan

What is an eligible area?

Applicants may check the address of their home to determine eligibility.

How may funds be used?

  • Loans may be used to repair, improve or modernize homes or remove health and safety hazards
  • Grants must be used to remove health and safety hazards

How much money can I get?

  • Maximum loan is $20,000
  • Maximum grant is $7,500
  • Loans and grants can be combined for up to $27,500 in assistance

    What are the terms of the loan or grant?

    • Loans can be repaid over 20 years
    • Loan interest rate is fixed at 1%
    • Full title service is required for loans of $7,500 or more
    • Grants have a lifetime limit of $7,500
    • Grants must be repaid if the property is sold in less than 3 years
    • If applicants can repay part, but not all of the costs, applicants may be offered a loan and grant combination

    Is there a deadline to apply?

      Applications for this program are accepted through your local RD office year round

    How long does an application take?

  • Approval times depend on funding availability in your area. Talk to a USDA home loan specialist in your area for help with the application

    Who can answer questions and how do I get started?

  • Contact a USDA home loan specialist in your area

    What governs this program?

    • The Housing Act of 1949 as amended, 7 CFR Part 3550
    • HB-1-3550 - Direct Single Family Housing Loans and Grants Field Office Handbook

    Why does USDA Rural Development do this?

    • Helping people stay in their own home and keep it in good repair helps families and their communities. Homeownership helps families and individuals build savings over time. It strengthens communities and helps many kinds of businesses that support the local economy.

    For more information, click here

  • Septic System Inspections and Repairs Consumer Protection Tips

    - Friday, June 11, 2021
    Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

    If you need to hire someone to inspect or repair your septic system, this guide will help you make informed decisions.

    Why You Need to Inspect Your Septic System

    Failing septic systems and cesspools can contaminate drinking water, shellfish beds, and beaches. Title 5 of the State Environmental Code protects us by requiring inspection of private sewage disposal systems. Local boards of health receive these inspection reports. Most systems will pass inspection. Title 5 requires the replacement or upgrade of systems that fail.

    If you own a home with a septic system or cesspool and plan to put it up for sale, add a bedroom, or change its use, you will need to get a system inspection. This information will help you make the right decisions about who to hire and how to finance repairs.

    You'd Better Shop Around

    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 information or to make an appointment, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


    Replacing The Septic: When It May Not Be Worth It

    - Thursday, June 03, 2021
    Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Replacing Septic System

    If the leach field itself has failed, the entire septic system may need to be moved to a different location on the property.

    In that case, a septic technician will survey the property for system requirements such as a location relative to any water sources. You’ll also have to get a soil evaluation, which runs about $1,500. Soil technicians will be looking at soil type and slope of the property.

    Then a septic contractor will determine if the lot is large enough to accommodate a new drain field. Many existing systems are even with ground level, but new codes may no longer allow this and require unattractive remedies. So if there’s no place with appropriate soil to move the septic to, the homeowner may be forced to install what’s called a sand mound system (a literal mound of sand) or a holding tank system. The former is unsightly, and the latter could require monthly pump-outs.

    Keep in mind, a failed system could also have contaminated the soil around its original location, so do soil tests for potential ground contamination at the old site.

    For information or to make an appointment, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.