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Old 06-07-2007, 10:43 AM   #21
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Semtex, assuming you get this house you should have the seller pump the tank and pay for the inspection of same. Also find out the requirements for oil tank abandonment in your area. Some areas allow filling abandoned tanks with sand others require removal. In WA state if contaminated soil is found when removing a tank all of the contaminated soil must be removed trucked to a hazardous land fill and replaced with new soil big $$$. The seller should pay or discount the sale.
Keep in mind that using a garbage disposal in a house with a septic system is a sure fire way to have problems. Start a compost pile instead.

Good luck.
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Old 06-07-2007, 11:27 AM   #22
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Absolutely correct.

But some of us draw the line at septic tanks in the 21st century. I have already put up with enough sh** in my life and personally I choose to "just say no" to septic tanks.

That's one bill I don't mind paying one bit. Each to his/her own.
Definitely.

I grew up in houses with septic tanks. My grandparents didn't have an indoor bathroom until I was 8.
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Old 06-07-2007, 03:07 PM   #23
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You got lots of good advice here. If it wasn't mentioned, you can get a home warranty that covers septics among other things. You might want to try to get the first year premium paid for by the seller. May help you sleep better as no inspection will be able to give you the complete picture.
Our septic is an aerobic (like REW) and it does a fine job keeping a portion of the yard green.
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Old 06-07-2007, 04:15 PM   #24
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PS: CFB hit the nail on the head - if the previous owner really did not know that the house had a septic system, you have no idea of its status without a good inspection.
Even a good inspection has definite limitations. Most such inspections are quite limited in the amount of useful information they provide. The only reason they are done at all is to satisfy the lender's need to have some type of paperwork in their files regarding the general suitability of the system, to satisfy the demands of secondary mortgage market investors. The inspection does not protect you. In fact, it does very little to protect anything except a continuous income stream for local septic pumpers. In many areas the inspection itself is conducted by a firm whose primary business (and competence) is simply the pumping out of septic tanks. They generally will pump out the tank and then observe whether there is any backflow from the drainfield into the tank and that wastewater finds its way to the tank when a water using device is used. All this does is indicate that the system "appeared" to be functioning on the day of the inspection, nothing more. What this type of inspection will not tell you:

1. That the system is properly sized for the house you are considering purchasing. Drainfields are usually designed based on the number of bedrooms in the property to be served.(considered to be an indication of maximum probable occupancy and therefore water usage). It is not unheard of for a drainfield to be permitted and constructed for a 2 bedroom house only to have more bedrooms added prior to resale.

2. That the system will function properly all year round, not just on the day the inspection was done. A totally failed drainfield will appear to function normally, if it is unloaded (not used) for a period of time. If there is going to be a problem, it will occur when the system is being loaded continuously. Also, wet weather tends to aggravate the proper functioning of a marginal drainfield.

3. The maintenance history for the drainfield. Depending on the building occupancy, most septic tanks should be pumped out every 3-5 years to prevent the accumulation of undigested solids from moving into and clogging your drain lines.

4. Whether the drainfield is even legal. Design and construction of drainfields is regulated on a state by state basis and administered by local health department personnel. That does not prevent people from illegally constructing their own field which may or may not be properly designed and installed.

Bottom line:

You must depend on your own due diligence if you are to insure that the septic and drainfield will not be an expensive problem for you in the future. Whoever inspects the system, find out exactly what they are going to do and ask tough questions. Contact the local health dept authorities yourself and verify the age of the system, that it was properly installed and what the design loading was. Ask the owners for proof that the system has been maintained. If you do not get good answers to your inquiries, consider hiring and engineer or soil scientist to represent your interests. If the house is not terribly old, has been continuously occupied and the system has been maintained, there is proabably nothing to get overly concerned about. Just go in with your eyes open.
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Old 06-08-2007, 03:24 PM   #25
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Also find out the requirements for oil tank abandonment in your area. Some areas allow filling abandoned tanks with sand others require removal. In WA state if contaminated soil is found when removing a tank all of the contaminated soil must be removed trucked to a hazardous land fill and replaced with new soil big $$$. The seller should pay or discount the sale.
I don't know how I missed the oil tank issue. As Coastie has said, this could be an even more costly issue than the septic !

A tank in the ground has already leaked or will leak ! You now have a toxic waste issue with local, state and federal implications !

Contact or county or state environment office and find out what need to be done before the sale ! No deal is good enough to not have this resolved before hand (or at least have an escrow account set up to cover the expense). I doubt any bank would loan money on this property also !
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Old 06-08-2007, 04:02 PM   #26
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Gee, that is what I pointed out in response 16 some time ago. Septic tanks can be fixed -- so can oil leaks but they potentially can be worse.
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Old 06-08-2007, 08:33 PM   #27
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Gee, that is what I pointed out in response 16 some time ago. Septic tanks can be fixed -- so can oil leaks but they potentially can be worse.
Yea, and I pointed out in response #14......
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Old 06-10-2007, 03:43 AM   #28
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I grew up with septic tanks and had them several size since without any problems. An inspector said one needed pumped when I bought a house but the owner didn't think it did so put money in a bank account to be used for that if it did the first two years.
I still don't use my garbage disposal for more than a spoonful of food. Garbage goes in the garbage can unless it is very wet like cantaloupe guts. Grease is not put in the drains, no egg shells or potato peeling. I have a pipe on the celling of the basement that is flat across the house if you put stuff down the drain it stops it up, we have a clean out and with care we don't need to do that except on rare occasions.
I prefer septic because no monthly bill but with sewer already in you never have to pay to hook up to it again.
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Old 06-10-2007, 01:44 PM   #29
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Specific situations vary, but if there is a sewer line that you can connect to the connection fee is about the same as replacing a septic system.

Some health departments will not permit the replacement of a septic system where sewer service is available as many septic systems leach into waterways.

Monthly sewer charges vary by service district. High rates are well correlated to aging facilities and the need to change from combined sewer and storm water systems.

A septic system is not without ongoing cost and oversight so just because you don't pay a bill monthly you might as well budget the same amount as your reserve for maintenance.

Several people have mentioned 'pump-out'. As a sewer district commissioner I can tell you that the cost of disposing of solids is increasing exponentially. Whether you use a sewer or septic it must be dealt with.
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Old 06-11-2007, 06:37 AM   #30
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Gee, that is what I pointed out in response 16 some time ago. Septic tanks can be fixed -- so can oil leaks but they potentially can be worse.
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Yea, and I pointed out in response #14......
But I said it with more GUSTO !

Sorry for stepping on your toes, guys !
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