My thoughts are to look at this from a couple of different points of view. My training and experience normally make me look at things from a technical or logistical position. However, occasionally, I also tend to be somewhat emotional with my thought process (Maybe more than occasionally if you ask my staff but I will plead the 5th here).
From a purely technical point of view, here is a description of what I would want in an Inspector:
- Someone who is licensed! In NJ there are currently no licensing requirements for a Septic System Inspector! The State does require either a Home Improvement Contractor License (HICL) for anyone performing most types of work on a home owners property to ensure that they are properly registered and insured. This leads to #2.
- Someone who is INSURED! The State does not require someone who performs a Septic System Inspection to be insured! However, I would absolutely require this before hiring someone to come onto my property, but more than that, I would also want a copy of their Liability and Workman’s Comp Insurance Certificate. Insurance is a requirement for someone who holds an HICL.
- Someone who is Certified! There are several organizations in the U.S. who hold training sessions for Septic System Inspectors. One of those is the National Association of Wastewater Technicians (NAWT). NAWT provides this training with a national viewpoint so that all inspectors across the nation, upon a passing test score, have the basic knowledge and understanding of general terms and procedures. Another organization is Pennsylvania Septage Management Association (PSMA). PSMA provides not only basic knowledge of core principles but also an Advanced level of training for Septic System Inspectors for a much deeper understanding of procedures and practical knowledge. Testing is done for both levels with a minimum passing score required for certification. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) offers annual training for Septic System Inspectors through Cook College in New Brunswick but they DO NOT provide any type of certification nor licensing for this training (all that is required is attendance at the training and a self graded quiz).
- Someone who follows the Septic System Inspection Protocol! According to NJDEP, septic system inspections are not required by law. However, if you are going to perform a Septic System Inspection specifically for a transfer of real property and wish to have the inspection officially recognized as a NJDEP inspection, you must follow the procedures and reporting requirements provided by the NJDEP under N.J.A.C. 7:9A Appendix E (procedures) and Appendix F (reporting). The procedure provides a standardized step by step process to maintain consistency between inspectors.
The self interested side of me would want a few other things:
- Someone who has access to the latest in technology (and knows how to use it)! This speaks for itself.
- Someone who can explain the findings in clear and plain English! This is a must. The terminology used in the rules and regulations is very industry specific and sometimes needs to be further explained clearly and in context. In particular how site conditions may affect the overall report outcome or report limitations. These reports are designed to provide information valuable for the negotiations that happen between a buyer and seller (and of course their Agents). At times the Health Department will provide their own perspective. This is all important. The more accurate and complete the report the more accurate the decisions that can be made.
- Someone who is prepared! I would want to see that the company inspecting my septic system has taken the time to look for Health Department records, called in an underground utility markout, has in their possession the NJDEP check list and reporting form and is prepared to perform the inspection. Without the proper organization it is more difficult to provide an accurate assessment of a system without skipping steps. Having a copy on hand during the inspection is a great place to start with finding all the system components. The legally required underground utility markout is also very important since the inspector may very well be digging in, on or near a gas line, cable line, underground electric line, etc.
- If you have a copy of your sprinkler system layout it can avoid damage to the piping during probing and digging. You don’t want to have an inspector damaging a sprinkler line if it can be helped. Access to the house is critical in determining the exit points of sewer line(s) from inside the house. Permission for the inspector is important i.e. do we have permission from the seller or their agent to actually be on the property?
This is basically just a “scratch the surface” list and is not meant to describe all necessary requirements for all people. Please share any and all opinions for this list and add any other personal choice requirements in the comments section below. I look forward to your thoughts and hope to continue this discussion. If you wish to message me privately, please email me at email@example.com anytime.
My next post will delve into a recent septic system inspection for a real estate transfer. I know you’re on the edge of your seat for that!
Until next time,
Joe Garner – General Manager