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Septic System Design for Small Lakefront Lots

- Thursday, August 31, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Design

Many factors require homeowners to consider alternative septic systems for small lakeMorse Engineering and Construction front lots. Coping with the limitations of a small leach field on their property prompts them to seek alternative small lot septic systems to safely, effectively and affordably treat their wastewater.

Factors that Limit Leach Field Size

A few of the most common factors that can limit a property’s available leachfield space include: tight property boundaries on a small lot; required setbacks to a well, water body, or property line; large mature trees that inhibit space-clearing for a leach field; existing landscaping considerations; and inadequate soil elevation issues.

Any of these space-limiting factors will compel a homeowner to seek an alternative septic tank solution, since the smaller available leachfield space typically cannot support a traditional septic system.

For example, a small, heavily-wooded lot often contains several mature trees. For waterfront properties, the Shoreline Protection Act requires a tree survey that assigns points based on the height and circumference of each tree, and limits the number of points you can use to cut down trees. This is important for small lot space clearing, since the points-limit often determines the size of the leach field space.

Another example of a small-lot, small-leachfield footprint challenge is the 4-ft setback to the water table required by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services unless you use an alternative technology. For traditional septic systems – and some alternative small lot septic systems as well – this can necessitate the creation of soil-mounding to raise up the leach field.

People Often Seek Guidance on Alternative Compact Septic Systems

  • When they wish to purchase or build on a small lot with tight setbacks, their real estate agent suggests the need for an alternative septic system that allows for a small leach field.
  • When they wish to add bedrooms that will expand their home’s footprint – thus shrinking the property’s available leachfield area – so they ask their designer for a wastewater treatment system that will perform well in the new smaller-footprint leach field.
  • When they wish to add bedrooms to an existing residence, without adding to the home’s footprint.

Your property’s value – and the health of your home and family – depends on selecting an efficient, value-engineered wastewater treatment system designed for a small leach field footprint.

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


Massachusetts Funding for Septic Systems

- Friday, August 25, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction

Federal Funding Sources, U.S. EPA Programs

EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF)

Under the CWSRF, EPA provides grants to all 50 states plus Puerto Rico to capitalize state CWSRF loan programs. The CWSRF programs function like environmental infrastructure banks by providing low interest loans to eligible recipients for water infrastructure projects. CWSRF-eligible decentralized wastewater treatment projects include:

  • Upgrade (e.g., nutrient removal), repair, or replacement of existing systems:
  • Construction/installation of new systems; costs associated with the establishment of a responsible management entity (RME) (e.g., permitting fees, legal fees, etc.); and
  • Septage treatment works and pumper trucks to support the proper maintenance of decentralized systems.

States are responsible for the operation of their CWSRF program and for selecting the projects that receive assistance. You can contact your CWSRF state representative to learn more about the application process and eligibility requirements.

Learn about potential state funding sources for your septic system:

  • Massachusetts Community Septic Management Program - provides loans through the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust to homeowners to fix failing septic systems. Three programs assist onsite septic system owners with wastewater management problems: the Community Septic Management Program, the Homeowner Septic Loan Program, and a tax credit program.
  • Title 5/Septic Systems: Financial Assistance Opportunities for System Owners - These programs may help septic-system owners with failing systems.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

Brochure and Guide to Septic Systems for New Homebuyers

- Friday, August 18, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic Systems for New Homebuyers

If you are about to purchase a new home with a septic system, the homebuyer's brochure and guide are for you.

These documents provide information homebuyers need to know before purchasing a home with a septic system, how a septic system works, and the importance of having it inspected prior to purchasing a home. The documents also provide information on everyday, preventative, and corrective maintenance for when you are living in your new home.

Click here for the New Homebuyer’s Brochure to Septic Systems

Click here for the New Homebuyer’s Guide to Septic Systems

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Septic System Service Coming? Need to Know

- Friday, August 11, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Service

When you call a septic service provider, he or she will inspect for leaks and examine the scum and sludge layers in your septic tank.

Your septic tank includes a T-shaped outlet which prevents sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling to the drainfield area. If the bottom of the scum layer is within six inches of the bottom of the outlet, or if the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the outlet, your tank will need to be pumped.

Remember to note the sludge and scum levels determined by the septic professional in your operation and maintenance records, as this will help determine how often pumping is necessary.

The service provider should note any repairs completed and the tank condition in your system’s service report. If additional repairs are recommended, be sure to hire someone to make them as soon as possible.

The National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) website has a septic locator that makes it easy to service professionals in your area.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


What Causes a Septic System to Fail?

- Thursday, August 03, 2023
Morse Engineering and Construction

If the amount of wastewater entering the system is more than the system can handle, the wastewater backs up into the house or yard and creates a health hazard.

You can suspect a system failure not only when a foul odor is emitted but also when partially treated wastewater flows up to the ground surface. By the time you can smell or see a problem, however, the damage might already be done.

By limiting your water use, you can reduce the amount of wastewater your system must treat. When you have your system inspected and pumped as needed, you reduce the chance of system failure.

A system installed in unsuitable soils can also fail. Other failure risks include tanks that are inaccessible for maintenance, drainfields that are paved or parked on, and tree roots or defective components that interfere with the treatment process.

Failure symptoms

The most obvious septic system failures are easy to spot. Check for pooling water or muddy soil around your septic system or in your basement. Notice whether your toilet or sink backs up when you flush or do laundry. You might also notice strips of bright green grass over the drainfield. Septic systems also fail when partially treated wastewater comes into contact with groundwater. This type of failure is not easy to detect, but it can result in the pollution of wells, nearby streams, or other bodies of water. Check with a septic system professional and the local health department if you suspect such a failure.

Failure causes

Household toxics

Does someone in your house use the utility sink to clean out paint rollers or flush toxic cleaners? Oil-based paints, solvents, and large volumes of toxic cleaners should not enter your septic system. Even latex paint cleanup waste should be minimized. Squeeze all excess paint and stain from brushes and rollers on several layers of newspaper before rinsing. Leftover paints and wood stains should be taken to your local household hazardous waste collection center. Remember that your septic system contains a living collection of organisms that digest and treat waste.

Household cleaners

For the most part, your septic system’s bacteria should recover quickly after small amounts of household cleaning products have entered the system. Of course, some cleaning products are less toxic to your system than others. Labels can help key you into the potential toxicity of various products. The word “Danger” or “Poison” on a label indicates that the product is highly hazardous. “Warning” tells you the product is moderately hazardous. “Caution” means the product is slightly hazardous. (“Nontoxic” and “Septic Safe” are terms created by advertisers to sell products.) Regardless of the type of product, use it only in the amounts shown on the label instructions and minimize the amount discharged into your septic system.

Hot tubs

Hot tubs are a great way to relax. Unfortunately, your septic system was not designed to handle large quantities of water from your hot tub. Emptying hot tub water into your septic system stirs the solids in the tank and pushes them out into the drainfield, causing it to clog and fail. Draining your hot tub into a septic system or over the drainfield can overload the system. Instead, drain cooled hot tub water onto turf or landscaped areas well away from the septic tank and drainfield, and in accordance with local regulations. Use the same caution when draining your swimming pool.

Water Purification Systems

Some freshwater purification systems, including water softeners, unnecessarily pump water into the septic system. This can contribute hundreds of gallons of water to the septic tank, causing agitation of solids and excess flow to the drainfield. Check with your licensed plumbing professional about alternative routing for such freshwater treatment systems.

Garbage disposals

Eliminating the use of a garbage disposal can reduce the amount of grease and solids entering the septic tank and possibly clogging the drainfield. A garbage disposal grinds up kitchen scraps, suspends them in water, and sends the mixture to the septic tank. Once in the septic tank, some of the materials are broken down by bacterial action, but most of the grindings have to be pumped out of the tank. Using a garbage disposal frequently can significantly increase the accumulation of sludge and scum in your septic tank, resulting in the need for more frequent pumping.

Improper design or installation

Some soils provide excellent wastewater treatment; others don’t. For this reason, the design of the drainfield of a septic system is based on the results of soil analysis. Homeowners and system designers sometimes underestimate the significance of good soils or believe soils can handle any volume of wastewater applied to them. Many failures can be attributed to having an undersized drainfield or high seasonal groundwater table. Undersized septic tanks—another design failure—allow solids to clog the drainfield and result in system failure.

If a septic tank isn’t watertight, water can leak into and out of the system. Usually, water from the environment leaking into the system causes hydraulic overloading, taxing the system beyond its capabilities and causing inadequate treatment and sometimes sewage to flow up to the ground surface. Water leaking out of the septic tank is a significant health hazard because the leaking wastewater has not yet been treated.

Even when systems are properly designed, failures due to poor installation practices can occur. If the drainfield is not properly leveled, wastewater can overload the system. Heavy equipment can damage the drainfield during installation which can lead to soil compaction and reduce the wastewater infiltration rate. And if surface drainage isn’t diverted away from the field, it can flow into and saturate the drainfield.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.