Septic System Inspection Results for 2013

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All 2013 Septic Inspection results have been catalogued and I am ready to present those results to you along with what the results mean.

            “Septic system inspector means a person who performs inspections of systems in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:9A-12.6 for inspections during real property transfers.” 7:9A-2.1

Let me begin by stating that all of the 2013 Septic System Inspections have been completed IAW N.J.A.C. 7:9A-12.6 along with the inspection protocol and reporting requirements found in Appendices E & F.   Greek to you – Right?  Basically this is a standard process provided to inspectors to allow everyone to evaluate or report on septic systems using the same methodology. 

Here is a basic breakdown of the results:

Satisfactory

Unsatisfactory

Total

87

103

190

 I know most people understand what satisfactory means but just for definition purposes:

sat•is•fac•to•ry (ˌsæt ɪsˈfæk tə ri, -ˈfæk tri) 
adj.

  1. satisfying demands, expectations, or requirements; adequate.

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. 

I do want to take a closer look at the “Unsatisfactory” category and describe some examples of what is considered an unsatisfactory septic system.  (Keep in mind that the Inspection Procedure describes certain conditions of a system and which may place the system in Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory or Satisfactory with Concerns categories.)   One automatic Unsatisfactory is: Cesspool.

  1. 20 of these systems were found to be “Cesspools” (“Cesspool” means a covered pit with open-jointed lining into which untreated sewage is discharged, the liquid portion of which is disposed of by leaching into the surrounding soil, the solids or sludge being retained within the pit.)  According to the septic code – 7:9A-3.16 Other sanitary sewage disposal units

     (a)    “Cesspools, privies, outhouses, latrines, pit toilets or similar sanitary sewage disposal units are not systems. When an administrative authority discovers a privy, outhouse, latrine, pit toilet or similar sanitary sewage disposal unit, or any cesspool that serves a structure and that is in need of repair or alteration, it must order these units be abandoned and a conforming system installed…”

     (b)    Effective June 2, 2012, … “all cesspools, privies, outhouses, latrines and pit toilets that are part of a real property transfer shall be abandoned and replaced with a system in accordance with (a) above.”

   2.      The rest of this category is mix of reasons. Most had multiple reasons for being unsatisfactory. Many of the systems (more than 50) were older systems (built before 1990 according to tax records) where either the Health Departments had no records or when they did have records the systems were found to be undersized, the soil was saturated and/or other components were physically falling apart or had deteriorated completely.  (I do need to point out here that the age of the system alone does not make a system unsatisfactory.)

   3.      We found a lot of broken distribution boxes and septic tank lids.

   4.      We also found several instances where overflow lines were installed to “help” the system drain better and a few where that “helper” line flowed directly to a stream or creek.

   5.      There is some good news here even with the unsatisfactory group.  35 of these required only minor repairs costing between $500 and $1,500 to get back to a satisfactory condition. Many of these minor repairs included replacing broken or missing baffles and installing new tank and distribution box lids where they were found to be cracked or broken. In some cases we only needed to replace only a distribution box or connecting piping.

All in all the inspection results we had in 2013 were typical and similar to our statistics going back to 2010.   Not every system will be satisfactory and an unsatisfactory system is better found during the sales process rather than after closing.

At the end of the day, the inspector follows a specific guidance document and reports his findings to the Health Department who makes the final decision as to the acceptability of the system.   Some are more forgiving than others, some more strict interpreters of the code.   We all have to follow their guidance.

If you are looking to buy or sell a home and you have a septic system, hire a reputable company; one that has, at a minimum, liability and workman’s comp insurance and one that been certified to inspect your septic system the correct way by following the NJDEP Inspection Protocol.  I can discuss the various organizations providing the necessary training for inspectors in a later Blog.   

Please feel free to comment below and/or email me directly with any questions, comments or concerns at joe.garner@englishsewage.com .

Until next time, 

Joe Garner

General Manager – English Sewage Disposal, Inc.

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