Septic system inspections are not required by most California rural counties when the title of real property is transferred from seller to buyer. An inspection may, however, be required by contract between the parties, or by the underwriters of a loan, but not by County regulations. That said, Nevada and Placer Counties have established 25 inspection criteria in order to receive County “approval.” Whatever that’s worth. Not much actually. Currently two Nevada and Placer County septic companies abide by those criteria and will conduct “approved” inspections that address the following questions:
1. Number of occupants
2. Number of bedrooms (this determines the minimum size of septic tank and the minimum size of the leach field)
3. Age of the septic system
4. Last septic tank pumping
5. Were both inlet and outlet chambers pumped?
6. Tank size and interior dimensions
7. Tank construction (materials)
8. Tank top construction (materials)
9. Tank deterioration
10. Baffle divider type (materials)
11. Baffle deterioration
12. Condition of Inlet and outlet tees
13. Inlet and outlet tees entering and exiting tank at normal angles
14. Inlet and outlet lids have unobstructed access
15. Tank complies with 5′ minimum setback from footings and deck supports
16. System complies with required setbacks from wells, property lines, bodies of water, etc.
17. Evidence of high water level in tank before pumping
18. Back-flow from leach filed observed after pumping*
19. Ran 300 gallons of water into outlet to load test leach field
20. Inspected leach field for signs of surface effluent
21. If equipped with access risers, lids at or above grade
22. Tank equipped with effluent filter
23. Proper pump or alarm function if so equipped
24. Type of system (standard gravity, pressure dose, sand filter, etc)
25. Annual monitoring and maintenance for “special design” systems
The inspector will then elaborate on any findings and make recommendations for regular maintenance.
*Backflow from the leach field is, in my opinion, the most critical and worrisome of the inspections. Properly conducted, the inspector will inject 300 gallons of water through the outlet tee and into the leach field. If the field can not handle 300 gallons, and the water flows back into the tank, then the leach field has a problem. Correcting leach field problems is expensive. Always. There are no quick, cheap fixes. At a minimum, someone is going to pay the septic company $1,000 or more for a bacterial or chemical cleanout. These “cures” can be dangerous (the chemicals are powerful) and don’t always work. At worse, the leach field may be condemned. Yikes. Very bad news. What do you do if the leach field is condemned? That’s the subject of an entire blog all to itself.
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