Septic failed inspection - need advice


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Old 05-15-15, 03:34 AM
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Septic failed inspection - need advice

Hi,

We have a clear stream septic system – installed new in 2009. This is a system where there is a concrete tank for the waste coming directly from the house and then two other plastic tanks, the first of which has some air pumped into it and then the second plastic tank gets this effluent for more settling. Basically by the time the stuff gets past the last plastic tank the water is much safer for the environment. The leaching bed is 6 pipes, each about 20feet long (I think).

We just put the house up for sale and have an interested buyer. One of the conditions for selling the house was to have the septic system inspected. We had that done yesterday and according to the inspector the system failed the test because of water in the leaching bed.

The inspector dug 3 holes over the leaching bed. Here are the layers he dug through:

• 6 inches of top soil;
• About 1 ˝ feet of sand;
• Geotex fabric;
• About 1 ft of gravel (large, roughly 2” stones); and then
• About 2 feet of sand

The reason the inspector failed the inspection report was because after digging into this final layer of sand some water eventually formed in the hole so that the water was about 6 inches to a foot below the gravel layer. The inspector said that the last two feet of sand should be dry – the waste water should just drain right through it. This was why he dug a total of three holes. All holes were exactly the same and had the same level of water.

I spoke with the person who actually installed the system and he said that if the water level was below the gravel layer then there was no problem. Also, the water level around this area is also quite high and I know that if I dig a hole anywhere on my property to the depth that the inspector dug I would also have water in it.

Is the inspector right, in that the sand should be dry at that depth? I’m thinking that it would always be wet because the pipes leak the water into it and the sand can’t dry at that depth because there isn’t any air to dry it. As well, the high water table would make it difficult to keep the sand dry.

The septic system has worked perfectly (as far as I can tell) and I really don’t want the bed replaced if it doesn’t need to be. Needless to say this is very worrying to me as the sale of my house is now in limbo.

Would appreciate any thoughts/advice on how to resolve this. I am going to contact the city septic inspectors today to get their opinion.

Thanks
 
  #2  
Old 05-15-15, 03:53 AM
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Welcome to the forums!

I'm not a septic system guy although I have lived most of my life with septic systems. It sounds to me like it's working correctly. Who hired [or picked out] the inspector? can you get a 2nd opinion? Locally a 120' fill bed is only allowed for 1 bed rm homes but every area is different and may have different requirements. Those that know more than me should be along later.
 
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Old 05-15-15, 04:28 AM
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Also not a pro on this, but here in my state an 09 septic system would have required a percolation test and a system designed by a licensed engineer. If the original percolation test showed the same water, and it was approved for the system design, then it had engineering approval.

If the original perc test did not show the water at that level, then the design may be in trouble.

Both the percolation test and the system design may/should be on file somewhere. But I would go with Marks suggestion and talk to my own system engineer and have him/her dig out those files, they would be the ones to talk to the city engineers and find any middle ground if needed, like it ain't perfect, but I will put my stamp of approval on it. It is that stamp of approval that will be needed to get past the first inspection and the city.

If your second inspection from an engineer you select doesn't approve it, it will probably need to be replaced or require a variance from the city authorities. None of these approaches are quick.

I do wish you luck,
Bud
 
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Old 05-15-15, 04:56 AM
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Is waste water management supervised at the Provincial level in Canada ?

If so, I'd contact the engineer who originally approved the system; because it sounds like it is performing today exactly as it was originally designed to function.

S/he may be able to shed a little light on why this Inspector may be employing a different standard than was in place in 2009.
 
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Old 05-15-15, 09:37 AM
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imo that septic inspector is being far too stringent, and also doesn't understand the water table of the property.

around here (chicago) septic inspectors never dig in the leachfield. they flush a dye pack, run 50gal water, and then look for dye in the field. if none, the system passes. some really picky inspectors might go so far as to lift the lid on the last chamber to inspect the output baffle and water level in the tank if it is easily accessible. but dig 3' down in the leachfield? not a chance.

i think your system is working perfectly fine. you have a high water table. higher in spring. again, around here there's plenty of backyards with leachfields that get entirely submerged & saturated in springtime. water 3' down would be a huge improvement.

get your governing body (like our county heath inspector) to inspect it and approve it and you should be fine. they've already approved it once. but the potential buyer might be spooked off already anyway....
 
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Old 05-15-15, 11:55 AM
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Thank you all for the responses.

The inspectors report says that the entire field needs to be replaced. I will definitely be going to an engineering firm (probably the one that approved it in the first pace) to get a definitive answer on this.

There isn't any regulation up here (at least in Ottawa) on who can do these type of inspections - no licensing needed?

I going to try and get the original installer out to dig his own hole and see what he thinks. From there I will get his recommendation on who to hire for a inspection.

Thanks again all.
 
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Old 05-15-15, 02:01 PM
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I tend to agree with sky jumper about not digging into the leach field, but have no training to say yes or no, but I would ask those you go to if that sounds like an acceptable thing to do. If your engineer say that is dumb and should never have been done, that would put a firm strike against the skills of the inspector who failed you.

Minor detail, but see what they say.

Bud
 
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Old 05-15-15, 03:55 PM
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Hi Bud,

Will do. I now have a copy of the inspectors report. For something that cost $600 dollars it isn't much of a report very light on details, no cost estimates etc.

Here is the inspectors report:

Leaching Bed:
Three test pits were dug in the leaching bed. All pits had effluent pooling about 6” below
the gravel layer. This is an undesirable situation that shows that the leaching field has become saturated and impermeable and is not properly treating the effluent that is being supplied to it. Without the clean & dry sand bed for the effluent to be properly treated vertically, it is likely exiting the bed horizontally untreated and contaminating nearby
areas. This bed is not functioning as intended at the time of inspection.


Recommendations:

The leaching bed is not performing as intended and is currently in a stressed condition. Due to the flooded condition of the bed, it is recommended that the leaching bed be replaced or repaired to properly treat the effluent and to prevent any further contamination of the surrounding area.

An effluent filter was present. It requires regular cleaning as specified by the manufacturer.

The Clearstream treatment unit requires regular maintenance as per the manufacturers recommendations.

The high level alarm in the Clearstream unit did not appear to be functioning.

Pumping and inspection the septic tank at regular intervals is recommended (approx. 2-4 years).

It should be understood that the life of a septic system is highly dependent on usage. As such there are no guarantees regarding life span or performance. The test pits that are dug represent a small sample only, and variation may exist within the leaching bed. Impact of the current system on the environment, potable water quality or current regulations is not included in the inspection. The report is based solely on the opinion of visually exposed areas and is subject to variation and error.

If there are any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the undersigned.

Respectfully,


Not sure how he knows its effluent if he never tested it?
 
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Old 05-15-15, 04:36 PM
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many problems with this report.

1) effluent was not hit until 6" below gravel. so there was still 6" of "dry" sand between the effluent level and the gravel. that 6" represent probably 3k-5k gallons of free capacity. that 6" would have to be saturated before any threat of lateral effluent leakage.

2) "effluent likely exiting the bed horizontally untreated and contaminating nearby
areas". this is no time for "likely" or "probably". you dug 3 3ft deep holes and didn't bother to dig one at the perimeter to confirm your suspicion of lateral effluent discharge?

3) "The high level alarm in the Clearstream unit did not appear to be functioning". again, this is no time for guessing. either it works or it doesn't. what was the water level in the tank? was it too high? if not, then why make guesses as to the alarm? if it was, then explain the 6" of dry space under the gravel bed....

4) was effluent surfacing anywhere near the leachfield? if no, then why the concern? either way the ground is accepting it and treating it - be it in the leachfield or in the soil immediately around it which is separated from any drinking water well by 100ft laterally and 100-200ft vertically. so what's the problem?.....

(my questions are what I would direct at the inspector. they are not directed at you...)

get another inspection....
 
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Old 05-15-15, 04:58 PM
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as a reference point. I had a septic system where the tank would take on massive storm water during heavy rains. it would overwhelm the field and cause a huge pond of effluent to surface at the end of the field. this was 40ft from a spring fed pond that was shared among 10 homes and used for fishing, etc. I had the county come in and inspect - they said the system was fine and didn't need repair. the tank was so corroded that the lid fell in and the output baffle was gone. county said no problemo. I replaced the tank anyway and never had a problem with effluent surfacing again. system passed with flying colors when I sold the house...
 
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Old 05-16-15, 02:48 AM
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Hi Sky Jumper,

That you for the input/analysis.

As I mentioned in the beginning of my original post the system is only 6 years old. I have had regular maintenance/inspection (2 times per year) with an effluent test when required - this is required locally by our septic authority. Apart from having to have the diaphragm replaced in the air unit it has performed flawlessly and passed all inspections of the unit/system.

Nobody is on a well anywhere within several kilometres of us - everybody is on city water. There is no soft ground or wet areas anywhere near this system, it is the same as the day t was built.

I also was struck by the number of "might be's" in the report. If you are a professional these should all be pretty much absolutes. His findings/opinion have put the sale of a $800,000 + home in serious jeopardy let alone the anxiety that we are now under.

I will get another inspection (from the engineering group that planned/approved the original installation). If that report finds nothing wrong then I will be asking the inspector, who failed this system, for a full apology to both our family and the family wanting to buy this home and I will be asking for the inspector to pay back both inspection fees (mine and the other family). If he is unwilling then I will seriously consider a small civil action. I know people make mistakes but in matters that carry a lot of repercussions they have a responsibility to be accurate.

Anyway, I don't mean to rant. Thank you again for your thoughts on this and I am glad you didn't have to go through anything similar.

TB
 
 

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