We just bought our home and moved in less than a week ago, so I haven't
had much time to get used to the ins and outs of our new home but there
are a couple things I'm not sure about with the septic system here. I've
never had a septic so I don't know if this is common, acceptable, or not.
1) Seems like when it rains, the outside back yard (where the tank and
drain field is), side yard (driveway) AND front yard smell like sewage. I
guess this is normal.
.. However, today I could smell sewage inside while I was just watching
tv, which prompted me to start doing a bunch of research. It's a little
gross. And Ohio is very wet during certain times of the year, so it's
going to be awful if this is normal.
2) Our yard is very long and a little narrow (for it length). It also
slopes downhill, gradually at first and then half way down it is steeper,
ending in a forest... and I only have my best guess where the drain field
is, but I think I know where the tank is due to a concrete disc cover.
Anyway, the further you go down our yard, the squishier the ground gets.
Some places it's very wobbly and if you're going too fast you could
probably trip and break your ankle! One time I was running down our
backyard with my dog and stepped straight into a wet puddle, and it hadn't
rained recently so I was a little confused and disgusted. Didn't smell
like sewage then, but who knows (my dog wasn't very interested in the
smell or the water though, my logic is if it was actual sewage she would
probably be eating it and rolling in it)
After reading posts on this site and doing a lot of research, I'm growing
increasingly concerned. At first I was like "oh, 200 bucks to get it
pumped!" but now it sounds like a failure that only a replace can fix....?
On Nov 19, 11:39 am, tehaleks_at_gmail_dot email@example.com (tehaleks)
Start by having it pumped. That's going to be the first thing anyone
suggests I think. What you are experiencing is not normal for a
properly functioning septic system. Frankly I'd say you should have
had it inspected by a specialist prior to closing. If the field is
failing it's going to cost a lot to have it fixed.
On Nov 19, 11:39 am, tehaleks_at_gmail_dot firstname.lastname@example.org (tehaleks)
No, it's definitely not normal. How many back yard barbecues/parties
have you been to? Ever smell sewage?
You should be concerned. Did you have the septic system checked as
part of inspection prior to buying the home? Do you know how old the
system is? Was there any state disclosure documents that the sellers
had to fill out and sign? I'd start by getting a good septic system
company out to take a look and do a thorough inspection. Try to find
one from neighbors, etc if at all possible.
If effluent is showing up at the surface, that would seem to indicate
that either there is break in a pipe going into the system or else the
leach field is not percolating down.
I'd also ask the neighbors if they noticed any septic work, trucks,
etc at the house prior to your purchasing it. If so, you might have
a case that the buyers concealed a problem they knew about. Even
without that, I think you might make a case that with a stinking
backyard, they knew about it and didn't disclose. Document
everything, pictures, get in writting any reports, opinions, etc.,
have good witnesses that saw it, etc. You could pursue it in small
claims with little to lose and you might win.
Is there a municipal sewage system...storm and/or sanitary?
If there is a sink or tub not used for a long time, the trap can dry up
and allow sewer gas to back up into the house.
If you live on the edge of a swamp, that might be the normal condition.
You can also get stinky air around swamp if a lot of stuff is rotting,
I think...or someone else's septic is draining down there?
Was house inspected prior to purchase? What did it say about septic?
Most places require the septic be pumped prior to selling... check
with the County, City etc. Public disclosure is also an issue. The
owner, realtor have to tell you of any issues with the house. Again,
check with the proper authorities.
Take the lids (2) off the tank and have it pumped. The inlet pipe is
closest to the house. The outlet, to the drain field, is on the other
end of the tank and is a little higher than the inlet. When the tank
is pumped observe the outlet pipe. When it is fully exposed see if
water begins running back into the tank. If it does than your
drainfield is saturated and needs repair.
My first call would be to the realtor and start raising hell!
I've never heard of anywhere that had that as a requirement for selling;
I'd think it _most_ unusual.
OTOH, afaik all states do have disclosure requirements of known issues;
I agree w/ other posters it's essentially impossible to have a failed
drain field and not know of it.
To OP--you _did_ have a legal beagle on your payroll didn't you? (I
just know you wouldn't be one of those trying to get by "on the cheap"
and not, now, would you?) Since you did, check w/ them on best course
If you didn't, start by looking at the state and local requirements for
disclosure by the seller and the documentation you have and disclosure
form as submitted by the seller. Also, what did the inspector's report
All places I've been that had any zoning or restrictions at all did
require a local sanitary inspection that would have discovered the
issue--is this not a requirement where you are or was it somehow not done?
One possible way it wasn't uncovered would be if the house had been
vacant for quite a long time and thus the drainfield had dried out and
so didn't show the failure on the surface. There's still no way imo an
owner couldn't have not known of the problem other than by willingly
If the outlet is higher than the inlet you're going to have big trouble
since that will cause the drain line from the house to stand
full...you've got it backwards here.
It's not at the tank OP has a real problem although if the tank does
have a high level of solids that's an issue; his problem as described is
that the drainfield has already broken through the ground surface.
That'll take replacing the existing field or having sufficient area on
the property within the requirements for separation from next, etc., to
Had to do that in TN; we subsequently put a diverter valve in the
outline line and were able to switch from one to another although never
had to as the second functioned as intended. In our case, the cause of
the first failing was that the original installation didn't get it
graded where it drained both ways from the inlet so all water went to
one (low) end.
All in all, sounds like OP has a problem and may have some recourse
against seller if it has only been such a short time. That, of course,
relies on him being in an area that has such rules of disclosure and
that the buyer (OP) didn't do something to have accepted the condition
of the property "as is" despite defects under a quit-claim deed or somesuch.
As another respondent said that's peculiar at best. You sure it wasn't
a mortgage company or similar requirement and not municipal?
I looked at the NJ disclosure form -- it asks half-dozen questions re:
sewage system and includes whether has been inspected to confirm is
actually a septic tank/field or just cesspool and if is answered to be
septic system asks for date of installation and location.
Also asks about whether are abandoned or closed systems on property and
if so whether were done in accordance to local statute.
Ends section w/ question of any problems over all plumbing including
But, this is a disclosure form not an inspection so doesn't say anything
about requirements, of course.
Everywhere I've been it's been an occupancy requirement that the system
is functioning correctly but that can be so w/o pumping for a properly
It's possible (virtually anything's possible) just highly unusual that
would be an actual requirement.
Oooops...... my gaffs about the pumping requirements and outlet pipe
being higher than the inlet, (I meant lower), sure got me into a world
of ***t, didn't they. I'm afraid I was assuming most municipalities
are operating in the 21st century, as they are here in Washington.
Below is just the requirement for King Co. (Seattle).
Don't you think that some, if not many of the places that require a
septic system inspection would require that the tank be pumped as part
of that inspection? Just to show you I'm not nuts, I did a bit of
googling. Here's some examples of pump out requirements prior to a
sale or obtaining a CO that I found:
Manalapan, NJ requires proof that the tank has been pumped within the
last 2 years
Huron, NY Requires an inspection which must include a complete pump
South Carolina State Dept of Health has a sample ordinance for
municipalites to adopt. It requires an inspection which includes a
Iowa requires an inspection which includes pump out
Thanks for the research. Common sense would indicate to anyone the
next logical step, after exposing a tank for inspection, is a pump
out. Making sure the inside walls and floor are not cracked or broken
is part of any THOROUGH inspection.
No, it was a requirement by the township in order to get a CO. I
don't know why you'd find it peculiar. Two of us here have reported
it from different areas. Obviously different locations in the US
have different requirements on all kinds of things.
Yes, and the NJ form looks like it was done by total idiots. Real
sharp and pertinent questions like "Have any repairs ever been made to
the roof? If so, explain." I guess we're all supposed to keep a
log book now, like you would for an aircraft, and record that one
shingle blew off in 1987 and was replaced.
Up until 12/31/08 I was a licensed real estate broker in two states and
I have never heard of a requirement that the septic has to be pumped
prior to selling. It may be true somewhere but I certainly don't think
that it is true "MOST" places.
Could this be a city person, he admits he is not familiar with septic
systems, who moves into a house with a lot of kids who flush the toilet(s)
umpteen times a day and does all the laundry using lots of water. I have
seen this in the past, a perfectly working septic system suddenly
overwhelmed by a newby who thinks they have unlimited sewage capacity. One
has to use common sense with a septic system, that is why mine is still
working fine after 40 years.
No, it is not normal. *NO* odor is normal.
You said it was in the back yard. No?
How far down the yard? Drain fields aren't all that long IME, ours is maybe
60 - 75'. Where's the water table? Lots of rain recently?
I'm no expert on septic but it sounds to me as if your drain field is
plugged. If that is the case, it should not be a huge expense to replace
it. Not cheap but not huge either (unless they are bending you
over)...backhoe for 2-3 hours, perforated pipe, gravel...dig, replace...like
that. I would also suggest you have a perc (percolation) test done to make
sure the soil will absorb sufficient liquid.
Someone suggested you document everything. I second that...pix,
description, dates...be thorough. Get a septic guy out there to diagnose
the problem and give you a *written* and dated report. A thorough and
detailed report. There is no way the seller wouldn't know of a septic
problem and since - apparently - they did not disclose same it seems to me
they are going to have to pay to fix it. A lawyer may well be necessary.
First, go to the county or city records clerk and get a copy of the
permit that was used when the septic system was installed. If it was
done legally, there should be a map of the house and property and
septic tank and drain field, and percolation test results. These all
must be done if the system was done legally. If not, then you can sue
the previous sellers for not dislosing that fact as it was material to
the selling of the house and property, unless it was sold "as is". We
have had 2 houses with septic tanks and drain fields over the past 50
years and never had problems. But we pumped the tanks every 4 or 5
years so they never clogged the drain field..
Most sales contracts are "as-is", at least for previosly owned
homes. If it isn't sold "as is", then you'd have to give some kind
of guarantee and warranty the house and exactly what would you cover
and for how long?
Even if it was sold as-is, the buyer could have recourse in a case
like this if the seller materially misrepresented the property by
failing to disclose a major defect they knew about. Especially
given that most states now have disclosure laws that require sellers
to fill out a form with questions, which typically include septic
system related ones. Of course, the hard part is proving they knew.
But with a stinking backyard a couple weeks after closing, I think you
might convince a judge. Of course there are some exceptions, like if
it were a house the seller just inherited, never lived in, had no
direct knowledge or involvement with before, etc.
In Indianapolis, where it doesn't rain in the summertime, we could
tell where the fingers were because there the grass was green when it
wasn't as green elsewhere. Even other times of year the grass grew
faster there, but it wasnt' as noticeable.
Isn't this typical, for the grass to be greener and taller above the
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