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First Time Septic Tank Owner? Tips You Should Know

- Friday, October 22, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Checking Septic Tank

If you own a septic tank, you are responsible for it. That means professional maintenance, vigilant care, and proper treatment. The main benefits of proper maintenance are cost savings and environmental protection.

1. Get a professional inspection

If you are buying a home and it has a septic tank, make sure it is professionally inspected before you move forward. Important information to gather includes the age and location of the septic tank, including any installation and maintenance details. Some signs of a damaged septic tank system are damaged vents, soggy lawns, and odors.

If your home inspector recommends a specialist, get one.

As a septic tank owner, you are now responsible for regular maintenance and pumpings.

Have your septic tank inspected by a licensed professional every 3 years. Schedule septic tank pumpings whenever necessary or every 3 – 5 years. Alternative septic systems should be inspected annually.

2. Watch what goes down your drains

One of the most important factors for maintaining the health and effectiveness of your septic system is to watch what goes down your drains.

You may already know not to pour chemicals, grease, oil pesticides, gasoline, antifreeze, or paint down your drains, but read on to find out about the things you may not know about.


There are only two things that should ever go down your toilet: human waste and toilet paper. It’s simple. But, that means no wet wipes, feminine hygiene products, tissues, paper towels, Q-tips, or anything else. Read our blog for more information about what NOT to throw down your toilet and why it’s so important.

Laundry Room:

Many people don’t realize that running multiple loads of laundry during the day can put excess strain on your septic system, risking flooding to the drainfield. Consider spreading out your washes over the week and switching to a more energy and water efficient washer, such as an ENERGY STAR washer.

Kitchen Sinks/Garbage Disposal:

Grease, oil, chemicals, paint, and other household products separate from the wastewater in your septic tank and eventually need to be properly disposed of. Reduce the amount of scum and sludge that enters your drainage system or prepare to spend more time and money on septic tank inspections and pumpings.

If you are an urban dweller, you still have a responsibility to watch what goes down your drains.

3. Use water efficiently

Too much water entering the septic tank can cause overflow and flooding problems. Besides saving money on your water bill, you can help maintain your septic system by watching how much water you use.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to minimize your use of water:

  • Switch over to low-flow plumbing fixtures and high-efficiency toilets.
  • Install or replace faucet aerators
  • Run full loads of dishes and laundry
  • Periodically test your plumbing system for leaks
  • Take shorter showers and be mindful of water waste
  • Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances
  • Only use toilets for flushing toilet paper and human waste
  • Sign up for a plumbing maintenance plan or remember to schedule professional plumbing maintenance every year

4. Care for your drainfield

If you aren’t taking proper care of your drainfield, you risk sewage flooding your property, damaged vegetation, and much more. Make sure you are taking care of your drainfield by:

  • Planting only grass and removing any trees or plants that can cause root intrusion
  • Not driving or parking on the drainfield. The soil can compress and damage parts of your septic system.
  • Diverting other water sources away from the drainfield. Make sure rainwater, sump pump drains, and other excessive water is diverted elsewhere. Drainfield flooding is a common problem that can cause septic tank problems and plumbing fixture backups.

For more information or an inspection, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Massachusetts Title V Septic FAQs

- Friday, October 15, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers on Title 5 septic regulations.

My home has a septic system. Do I need to have it inspected before I sell?

If you are selling your home, you cannot close without a passing Title V inspection of your septic system, completed by an inspector who is licensed by the state and your town. A Title V Inspection is good for 2 years. However, the inspection will be valid for 3 years if you have documented septic pumping service each year on or before the anniversary date of your septic system inspection.

The inspector will determine whether your system “passes,” “fails” or “conditionally passes” (i.e., requires repairs).

What is a conditional pass?

A conditional pass means that your system will pass if a certain condition is met. A repair or replacement of the distribution box is the most common condition that needs to be met. The inspector would write up his official Title V report with the conditional pass notes outlining the needed replacement of the distribution box. Once the repair is done, your Board of Health will issue a Certificate of Compliance which will be accepted as a passing Title V at closing.

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 check for $175.00 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 of $75.00 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.

How long does the process for repairing a septic system take, from beginning to end?

A homeowner should allow approximately 3 to 4 months for the installation of a septic system. The length of time can vary from system to system. There are a number of variables involved. The availability of the Health Agent to witness a “perc “ test is one. Because of the amount of work that has to be completed, engineers and installers are often busy for months in advance. In addition, if the designed system requires either local or state variances, time must be allotted for public / variance hearings. A system that is installed in less than 2 months (from start to finish) is the exception to the rule.

If I am required to replace my failed system and I do not have the money, what do I do?

Homeowners who cannot afford to repair their failed septic systems made apply for financial aid with the Massachusetts Home Septic Loan Program. Here is the MassHousing Web site. Here is the PDF for the Homeowner Septic Loan Repair program. Applications for this program are available at most local banking institutions. The loans are low interest and repayable over an extended period of time.

The state also provides a tax credit of up to $6,000 over 4 years to defray the cost of septic repairs to a primary residence. Forms are available from the Department of Revenue (DOR) to allow homeowners to claim up to $6,000 in tax credits for septic upgrades. The credit cannot exceed $1,500 in any year and may be spread out over 4 years. The tax credit is limited to work done on a primary residence only. Tax Form Schedule SC is the correct form for the tax credits.

I have a cesspool. Will that pass Title V?

You may be wondering how this all applies to cesspools. Cesspools are much harder to pass in Massachusetts. Does every single one automatically fail? No.

Only those cesspools that exhibit signs of hydraulic failure, are located very close to private or public water supplies, or otherwise do not protect or pose a threat to the public health, safety or the environment will need to be upgraded. Also, cesspools must be upgraded prior to an increase in design flow (e.g., the addition of a bedroom to a home.

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


Sizing Septic Tanks

- Thursday, October 07, 2021
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System

Septic tanks are typically made of fiberglass, plastic or reinforced concrete. Metal tanks also are available, but these can corrode rapidly and aren’t typically recommended. Septic tanks may be constructed in rectangular, round or oval forms, but the shape of a septic tank doesn’t typically affect its function. The most important factor in choosing a septic tank is making sure you have the right size to accommodate your home.

A Range of Tank Sizes

Septic tank sizes are measured in gallons, based on the amount of sewage the tank can hold. Septic tanks must hold at least two days' worth of sewage from your home so that the solids properly separate from the liquids before the liquids move into the absorption field. The tank size is based on the number of bedrooms in your home. Standard tank sizes are typically 1,000, 1,250 and 1,500 gallons, and these suit most homes. Typically, the minimum tank liquid capacity of a one- to three-bedroom home is 1,000 gallons. A four-bedroom home requires a minimum 1,250-gallon tank, and a home with five bedrooms requires a minimum tank liquid capacity of 1,500 gallons. If you have a hot tub or whirlpool, add one-bedroom worth of capacity per fixture.

Estimating Your Needed Tank Size

Tank size is calculated using a simple calculation, although other factors, such as soil type, must be considered as well. For this reason it’s best to have an expert assess the site and your home to determine the ideal size of tank for your needs. However, to get an idea of the minimum size required for your home, multiply 150 gallons per bedroom, and then multiply the total by two to allow for the 48-hour retention time needed. For example, a one-bedroom home would need a minimum tank liquid capacity of 300 gallons. If your home has more than six bedrooms, or you have five bedrooms and a hot tub, you would multiply 150 by 6, and the total, which is 900, is multiplied by 2 to give you a minimum liquid capacity of 1,800 gallons.

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