selling the house, no known (ie. as someone living
in house) problems with septic system. no backups, no
funky odors, etc. everything business as usual ....
potential buyer has septic system inspection done,
inspector doesn't specifically state the system is
damaged - but states there is a lot of sludge in the
tank, and the absorption field stone has liquid
above the stone area (probe holes dug).
question, since there aren't any signs of a problem
(from the perspective of the resident), and the
description of the problem "seems" simple enough.
would simply pumping the tank and "jetting" the
drain pipes "fix" the situation ?
tank is fine,
house to tank flow is fine,
tank to field is where the bottleneck
appears to be. "D box" was in liquid.
i'm thinking just pump tank, jet pipes, and
inspector satisfied ... yes ? no ?
Maybe, but the buyer will always have a lingering doubt. Do have it pumped
though. If it is truly not right, it will cost quite a bit of money to have
it properly repaired. Maybe the next buyer will accept it as is after
I don't think I would do anything. "a lot of sludge in the tank" simply
means the buyer will have to pump the tank shortly when it gets full.
"absorption field stone has liquid above the stone area" may simply mean its
winter time and wet. Let the buyer do it and pay for it if he wants to. If
something is found that would prevent the bank from issuing a mortgage then
I might do something.
Here in the west one thing that is nearly always stated on the offer
is that the septic be pumped before transfer of ownership. I can't
even imagine buying a house with a septic that wasn't pumped first at
the seller's expense. I'm not sure some lending agencies would even
approve a loan without the septic being pumped and inspected.
I'm the seller.
Yes, tank "shoulda" been pumped more than it was (but what do I
know ? i'm a city slicker!).
Tank will be pumped before sale.
What concerns me is the "absorption field". Having Google'd the
subject. I'm reading differing views. For starters if there even
is a problem, to methods of remedying any problem (if one exists).
It is winter (northeast), and there's snow on the ground, and
it rained last week. So could the liquid above the stone be from
Also, presuming worst case, the perforated pipes into the field
are clogged. Would just "jetting" them be a simple, low cost fix?
(some sites say, nope, need new field - other posters on some
sites are saying "rip off", and all they did is "jet" them and
it unclogged them fine - there are no roots or such , it's a flat
any thoughts ? obviously, i don't want to spend a lot of $$ on
I've grown up with septic systems and have owned two homes so far with
Sludge in the tank needs to be pumped out, whether it's you or the
buyer who does it will depend on the local codes, the bank, and
negotiations between you and the buyer
The absorption field might just have runoff from the rain/snow. I
think the most commonly accepted test for a failed absorption (leech)
field is a dye test. Has the inspector done this? In order to do
this, a fluorescent dye tablet is put in the toilet and flushed down
(if the house is vacant, the toilet is allowed to run for a couple of
hours first to make sure that the tank is full). After waiting a
while, the ground is inspected for signs of the dye. If the dye is
visible, then the system has failed and needs to be repaired. The
repairs usually mean involving the local officials/engineers and
getting approval and a permit, depending on what part of the system has
failed. If I were the buyer and saw the report of standing water above
the leech field, I would want the dye test to see if that water was
coming from the septic or not.
Tell me, how does adding dye to the septic tank tell you if the water
standing in the leach field originates with the septic tank. No matter what,
adding water to the septic tank is going to release some water to the leach
field. The dye will travel with it and show up in any leakage or in a test
hole. This test will show that water is traveling into the leach field but
not if the existing water originated with ground water or from the septic
tank only that the new dyed water came from the tank.
I think the point is that if dye shows up near the surface in the leach
field, then it means the leach field is not working adequately. If the
water near the surface is from snow, rain, etc, it will not have dye.
"I think the point is that if dye shows up near the surface in the
field, then it means the leach field is not working adequately. If the
water near the surface is from snow, rain, etc, it will not have dye. "
bingo. Though EXT is correct that drilling a test hole will also show
some dye if you drill in the right (wrong?) spot. The whole point is
that the leachate is not supposed to come up to the surface.
When the snow is gone you could try spreading a bag of lime on
the area. I've only had my tank pumped once in 14 years. My dad
told me the field should last 30 or 40 years, longer if I put
lime on it every now and then.
I think jetting would only be useful if the tank had failed in some manner
allowing solids to pass into the field. Fields are normally repaired by
increasing their size by adding more lines. Do you know the number and
length of the lines? Is the field heavily loaded?
I don't know how many or how long.
There are no signs (in the house) of ANY problems whatsoever.
NO signs or odors outdoors either (over the field). The house
was only occupied by 2 people. So there was never a large
volume of waste going out. Unfortunately, the tank had not
been pumped in maybe 10+ yrs of usage.
The inspection company claims the field is "saturated" when
a probe hole is dug.
Having Google'd the subject, there are conflicting claims of
how and what can be done (ranging from using something called
Sep2Max, to just jetting the pipes, to using other chemicals,
to putting in a new field). One expert has one opinion with a
cheering section that claims he's right, another expert says
no that's not going to work, blah, blah, blah.
It's impossible to try and figure out who's right.
Instead of just listening to all the USENET "experts" why not talk to
your county agency in charge of septic approvals. At least where I
live (Arizona) there is all kinds of information available from these
folks on the care and repair of your septic system.
I wouldn't talk to the county agency unless you want them on alert to
go inspect your place and then end up with a several thousand dollar
I would instead talk to multiple contractors who deal with this kind of
stuff. Sure, there might be some crooked contractors wanting you to
spend money on them, but at least you will have a CHOICE, rather than
being forced to by the health department, EPA, etc. if they think there
might be a problem! And hopefully, if you talk to several contractors,
you should be able to tell who is honest and who isnt'.
After 10+ years of no pumping, there is an excellent chance sludge has
found it's way into the leach field and clogged the pores in the field
floor and walls. Hence the high water level.
Since your field surface area does not appear to be soggy and smelly,
reverting to a three year pumpout cycle may allow the field to
recover. But but it would take a long time for the bacteria to get
the job done.
If your field was squishy and smelly, there would no hope of recovery
unless it was left unused for a couple years.
In order to sell the house, you could add a couple of infiltrators to
the field. This would add about 18' of unused length of the field and
allow the leachate level to drop to normal (and improve the field's
chances of recovery). With the liquid level reduction, you would then
Infiltrators are orderable from building supply centers. They are
easy to install because they require no gravel - just digging a
trench, placing the infiltrators, then covering them. The small
amount of dirt they would displace could be distributed around the
Using bacterial agents can be tricky. Most are advertised to reduce
the need for pumping. This is accomplished by liquifying the sluge in
the tank and sending it to the field. The sludge then helps clog your
field's arteries - but you don't have to pump as often!
My above comments are based on experience and research only. I'm not
a professional in these matters.
It sounds like you've been a house guest short of a flooded basement
for a while. If you're lucky then having the tank pumped and leach
lines jetted will satisfy the buyer enough to make it someone else's
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