Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

Recent Posts


Consumer Protection Tips: Septic System Inspections

- Friday, June 23, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction

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.

    What to Do if Your System Fails

    If your system fails inspection, Title 5 allows up to 2 years to complete repairs or an upgrade. The first thing you should do is contact your local board of health, which needs to approve all upgrades and most repairs. The board of health will tell you what you will need to do.

    Again, shop around. Get written estimates, check qualifications and references. Remember that you are under no obligation to have the person who inspects your system perform any other work on it. In fact, you may want to hire separate contractors. While most septic system professionals are honest, as in any other profession there may be a few "bad apples" who try to take advantage of the consumer. If you have a complaint, contact your MassDEP regional office and speak to the staff responsible for Title 5. If you receive an inspection report that appears to have been altered or contains false or misleading information, call the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force at 617-556-1000 or toll free at 1-888-VIOLATE (1-888-846-5283).

    Repair or upgrade costs will vary depending on the nature of the problem, soil conditions, distance to water supplies, and the size of the lot. Title 5 does not specify who must pay for the system inspections, repairs or upgrades. Keep that in mind if you are planning to sell your home. You may find during negotiations that the prospective buyer is willing to assume some or all of the costs. Be sure to consult with a lawyer or mortgage lender who is familiar with Title 5 before closing the deal.

    Even if you plan to stay in the home, you may qualify for financial aid programs for septic system or cesspool repair or replacement:

    • Many cities and towns have "betterment" programs for long-term, low-cost financing.
    • State law provides for a system repair tax credit of up to $6,000 per homeowner.
    • The Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) offers septic-system repair loans.
    • USDA Rural Development offers single-family housing repair loans and grants.

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

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.