Results 1 to 23 of 23
  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Durant, OK
    Posts
    117

    Default Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    I have been doing home inspections for over a year, this is the first time that I have been asked to do an inspection on a home that is applying for an FHA loan. The subject of water sampling and septic system evaluation was brought up during my discussion with the client. What is involved in these two aspects and is my basic home inspector training sufficient for this?

    Similar Threads:
    Inspection Referral SOC

  2. #2
    James Duffin's Avatar
    James Duffin Guest

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    I defer these test to a licensed folks.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Durant, OK
    Posts
    117

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Thanks for the advice.....I had already arrived at the same conclusion. Is this something I should pursue? I understand that in order to be FHA approved, you have to have a significant number of inspections under your belt....is this true?


  4. #4
    James Duffin's Avatar
    James Duffin Guest

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Southern Vancouver Island
    Posts
    4,546

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Water testing - talk to the lab near you. They will tell you, run the cold water at the kitchen sink, fill the sample jar, bring to lab, pay the fee. That's it. That doesn't answer your FHA question, but water sampling is simple enough.

    Septic system inspection - The tank needs to be found first of all, then they dig for the lids, pump out the tank, take a look inside the empty tank and declare it good or bad. The status of the drain field is still unknown at that point. The septic tank pumper guy usually goes out on a limb and makes the call from what he sees in and around the tank, based on his experience and nowadays, in my area, training and licensing. This is way outside the realm of home inspection.

    There may also be a sewage effluent pump in there, that would involve a plumber and sometimes, an electrician.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  6. #6
    James Duffin's Avatar
    James Duffin Guest

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    In NC you don't have to have a Class A,B, or C well license to do water test for real estate transactions but if a problem develops you will wish you did if you end up in court. That is why I defer to a licensed person. Their test means more than mine would in the event of a problem.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Muncie, Indiana
    Posts
    78

    Wink Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    I don't do many ancillary services except water testing. Even though it sounds simple enough, it is more in depth than taking water from the sink and turning it in. The water has to run long enough to clear the lines and cannot usually be taken from the kitchen sink. You have to take a sample from a source that is not connected to a softener. Usually I take it at the outside faucet. The faucet has to be sterilized before the sample can be taken. Some people will use a torch or lighter and heat the faucet. If you don't burn the house down, you still might not get a good sample this way. The faucet would have to be heated over 140 degrees for a length of time to kill all bacteria. I have found using a spray bottle with bleach will work well. Wipe down the faucet with a rag (gets the spiders out) then spray with bleach inside and out, then let water run a few minutes and take your sample. As long as you can follow the instructions the lab gives you for sample taking, the legal responsibility falls to them. Bacteria is the only sample that has to be sterilized. The other water tests for FHA and VA are Lead, Nitrate, and Nitrite. They just get filled from same faucet. Again, no softened water.
    If I were you, I would try it and once you find a lab that will work with you on procedure, it is pretty easy money.

    Septic is another story. FHA and VA only require a dye test for a septic inspection. I carry dye and flush some down the stool during my functional flow of the plumbing system. I tell the client I did a dye test for them and did not charge them for it. I tell them even though FHA and VA only require this, It tells you absolutely nothing about your system. Spend the extra money for a septic company to come out pull the lid, test for back pressure of the leash field, and clean it out for a fresh start. It is about $150-200 for this and well worth it. The alternative is spend about $15,000 when your drains clog and they have to replace the tank and leach field.

    I hope this helps. Sorry long winded.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Durant, OK
    Posts
    117

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Thanks, Jeff. I have received some really good comments and some great suggestions from everyone, thanks for taking the time to reply back to my question. I hope I can return the favor some day.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Durant, OK
    Posts
    117

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Just an afterthought, I don't suppose there is a national website for testing facilities for water supplies, or would I go through my local Heath Department to get a lead?


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Cadillac, Michigan
    Posts
    49

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Dub Smith View Post
    Just an afterthought, I don't suppose there is a national website for testing facilities for water supplies, or would I go through my local Heath Department to get a lead?
    Check with the Local Health Department for lists of certified labs and get prices for the different tests. Lead is more complicated and not all labs do them, sometimes results take longer to obtain.
    Most labs don't work weekends, you have to get the samples to them within 24 hours of sampling and this usually means before noon on Fridays so they can get the tests done that afternoon. Have to keep the samples cool also.
    If the home is on a well and has been vacant, run the water for a good half hour on an exterior outlet not to stress the septic tank, in addition to a complete flush of the interior pipes, in addition to the bleach and heat as noted before.
    I agree, the dye test is a waste of time and money, particularly if the house has been vacant for any length of time as the drainfield has cleared itself to a certain extent and evaporation in the tank has most likely taken place and could be half empty at the time of test.
    The drainfield needs to be cored or dig down into the stone layer below the pipes to observe the condition of the stone for presence of sludge that is a sign of impending failure. This is the step that pumping companies don't do!
    Michigan only licenses pumpers, not inspectors except, a few areas are starting to have Point of Sale septic inspections with requirements for testing the drainfields, in addition to pumping unless proof of pumping in the last 2 years. These inspectors have to be certified by the local Health Department.
    There is a fair amount of one line information available to the general public on this subject but does create the potential for increased liability for a home inspector.
    Good luck finding any definitive information from FHA!

    Gary Bottomley
    Cadillac, Michigan

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Caledon, Ontario
    Posts
    5,005

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Ensure you draw the water directly from the well by passing any filtration, UV, or chlorination system.

    You client needs to know the well is fine not that the filtration equipment is contaminated.
    Two tests would be required, one of the well and water post filtration.

    Ideally a test routine should be developed by the new owner a water test at least 4 times per year, and then there after a test once or twice per year. As you can imagine water quality can change overnite and a well that is not constructed properly can become contaminated very easily by an ignorant owner or neighbours.

    Many a realtor has been known to take water samples with all the filtration systems on line. That can lead to trouble.

    Have also encountered wells which had been chlorinated prior to testing, and in some cases you can smell the chlorine if they dozed the well and it has not been flushed.


  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Durant, OK
    Posts
    117

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Thanks for all your help, I think I have enough information to go on.....or rather to "pass on". Don't need more liability than I am trained for.

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
    Jubilee Home Inspections

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Fredericksburg, VA
    Posts
    885

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Dub Smith View Post
    Thanks for all your help, I think I have enough information to go on.....or rather to "pass on". Don't need more liability than I am trained for.
    Regardless how many "Labs", real estate agents, or loan processors say otherwise, there are NO FHA or VA or HUD requirements for specific tests on private well water. Reference is only made as the general statement, "as required by the locality". Find a local lab that is certified by your state and/or local health department. Ask your state or local health department what tests they require and under what conditions would the requirements change.

    Tests for bacteria, in general "coliform", must be into the lab within 24 hours of sampling and must be maintained at a temperature above freezing but below 50F until it gets to the lab. Most labs will supply you with a SEALED and STERILE bottle for bacteria tests not any old jar laying around. They may also have a small amount of a preservative in the bottle. My lab requires a 100 ml sample. You will most likely have to complete a chain-of-custody form for the sample or samples.

    Another issue is well "shocking". Should it be done before sampling or take a chance on the water in the well as is. The state of VA has a specific shock protocol for wells that test positive for fecal bacteria contamination (look up Coliform tests). Shocking a well without testing first is often done as a precaution to prevent false positives. A lot has to do with the type of well, its depth, casing material, condition of the casing, the location and condition of septic fields, soil type, and agricultural use near or on the up stream side of the well.

    Beware real estate agents who call you to get the test done. Get a credit card number from them and if you haven't been paid in 30-days, put it on their card. The only people who owe me money are agents who requested tests but just didn't want to bother following up with their clients to make sure they paid for them.

    Don't worry about being "cheap". It takes time to go to the site, prepare to take a sample, and return to the lab, get the report and send it out. My lab emails the results and follows with a written report. I charge $245 for a single coliform test. If they want to shock the well first, the fee goes to $390 (2 trips, 1 test). If an intital test is positive, the well has to be shocked and retested, another $540 (3 trips, 1 test).

    Remember to the check with the health department(s). Some states or localities may require you to have some training or certification to test. It's not Astrophysics but you do have to set and/or follow a protocol. You have to do it right the first time. What you do and how you do it can seriously affect the life and health of people. You have to care about what you're doing; not just be out to make another buck.

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  14. #14
    James Duffin's Avatar
    James Duffin Guest

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    In NC you can not legaly shock a well unless you have a Class D (or higher) Well License. A license plumber can shock a well when a new pump is installed but only that one time.

    I agree with Dub....if there is a license in your state for an inspection or process and you don't have it....it is not a good idea to do the test IMO.


  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Durant, OK
    Posts
    117

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Thank you Stuart, a lot of information, you are obviously well qualified. I think water testing is something that I may check into, you know, to broaden my client base. I want to be as complete as possible and offer as many services as I can become qualified to offer. Monday, I will pay a visit to my local Health Department and get some info from them. Septic Systems sounds like you would be better off to sub-contract to a pumper. What other areas would you suggest I pursue to add to my resume'? .....Anyone can jump in here.

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
    Jubilee Home Inspections

  16. #16
    James Duffin's Avatar
    James Duffin Guest

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    In my previous life part of my duties was the maintenance of the several on-site well systems (with water towers) and sewer systems (sub-surface and discharge systems). We had people who had their well and sewer license doing the actual work and I was the lowly supervisor. My practical experience tells me to leave the work and testing to licensed folks because that is who the courts want to talk to in the event of a problem.


  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Durant, OK
    Posts
    117

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    James.....good point! The word "Court" to me is like yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater. I like to stay as far away from both as possible

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
    Jubilee Home Inspections

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Fredericksburg, VA
    Posts
    885

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Dub Smith View Post
    Thank you Stuart, a lot of information, you are obviously well qualified. I think water testing is something that I may check into, you know, to broaden my client base. I want to be as complete as possible and offer as many services as I can become qualified to offer. Monday, I will pay a visit to my local Health Department and get some info from them. Septic Systems sounds like you would be better off to sub-contract to a pumper. What other areas would you suggest I pursue to add to my resume'? .....Anyone can jump in here.
    Septic Systems - FHA dye test. Yes, they require a dye test. IMO it's a joke dreamed up by a bureaucrat but the it has to be done to get FHA and VA backed financing. I ALWAYS advise having the system checked by a licensed septic contractor in addition to the dye test. The tank should not be pumped within 6 months before the dye test. I established a procedure that I always follow.

    You need to buy water dyes made specifically for finding leaks or detecting water flows. Basically the test involves first checking to see how drains and toilets empty. I flush 10 dye tablets down a toilet. Usually in a bathtub, I let the water run long enough to make sure the pressure tank isn't adding to flow. I time how long it takes to fill a bucket to a 2 gallon mark and compute the flow in gallons per minute. You want to run at least 180-200 gallons of water into the septic tank, which unless the tank was empty or wasn't used much in the past year, is supposed to be enough to force water to flow to a distribution box and into the drain field. That's why you don't want an empty tank to start with.You periodically flush toilets and run water elsewhere in the house to see if there if the drainage has slowed any. Now, according to the FHA, you go out and walk over the drain field to see if any colored water has seeped to the surface. - That's the joke part. Unless you have some kind of miracle flow soil, it could take a week or more for that dyed water to show up. If the system was bad there would more than likely already be evidence of wet smelly areas over the field. There are key phrases that need to be in a written report and you do not guarantee the system to be adequate or to have no problems. You only have to state that, briefly what you did, that you did not observe evidence of surface seepage or plumbing drainage problems during the test and that the system should be usable with proper maintenance for at least 3 years.

    Again - check with the health department for local requirements and regulations that govern who can do what with a septic systems. Also, there are different types of septic systems other than the standard leach field. There are raised bed and buried drip fields, Pureflow systems and I'm sure others elsewhere in the country. Special systems will have to checked by the dealers who install them


    Other things - Radon. Take a certification class even if your state doesn't require it. Know what you are supposed to be doing and how to do it. Follow the protocols. All statements begin, "According to the EPA"

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Alton Bay NH
    Posts
    49

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Proper septic inspection method:

    On April 16 2011 the State of New Hampshire change the rules and septic systems can no longer be repaired. If a septic system goes into failure a complete new system must be designed, installed by a licensed contractor and approved by the State of New Hampshire. The cost of replacing a septic system in New Hampshire could be in up wards of $15-$20 K. This article talks about the proper inspection method for inspecting a septic system and how to evaluate it’s overall condition. Whether you own a home, selling or looking to purchase, a full evaluation of the septic system should be a consideration.

    Evaluate the plumbing components inside the home:

    I inspect all of the interior plumbing fixture's for proper connections. I also make sure all the waste lines are properly discharging into an approved waste system. Water treatment systems can be harmful to septic systems and I evaluate where the discharge of these systems go.

    Examine the inside of the treatment tank:

    I open the tank and examine the inlet and outlet baffles and determine the volume of the treatment tank. I inspect the visible parts of the tank for cracks, water infiltration, corrosion, and leakage. I also take a sample from inside the tank with a sludge sampler. Similar to what is used in waste water treatment facilities. By examining the sample I can determine the amount of sludge, liquid level and scum layer. This allows me to understand whether the tank is healthy and if it needs pumping.

    Distribution Box:

    I inspect the distribution box for corrosion, leakage and cracks. I also make sure the D-Box is level to ensure equal flow to each pipe in the leaching field.

    EDA, ( Effluent Disposal Area ) or leach field.

    I will determine the location and size of the EDA. Test hole's are hand dug in different locations throughout the EDA. This allows me to examine the condition of the EDA as well as how much saturation is present. A full evaluation of the EDA is critical in determining the overall condition of the septic system.

    Vacant homes:

    Septic inspections can still be performed on vacant homes. Sometimes a hydraulic load test will be done by running approximately 150-200 gallons of water into the system. Septic dye may also be used to determine flow.

    Reports:

    My New Hampshire septic system report is comprehensive and easy to read. I include digital photographs for a better understanding of the system, components and condition.

    For more info please go to http://www.russellinspectionservices...em-inspections

    Thought this may be helpful to anyone interested in septic inspection. Different parts of the country do them different so this is what we do in Northern New England. If anyone would like more info don't hesitate to contact me.


  20. #20
    Dave Burch1's Avatar
    Dave Burch1 Guest

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Stuart,
    Great information. I just wanted to add that I meter the water that I am running into the septic. I have put together a water meter, valves and a garden hose connector so that I can meter the amount of water that I induce into the system. This is for two reasons;
    1. I want to insure that I never exceed the amount of water that the system is designed to handle. In this area we figure a max of 75 gallons per person per day, based on the number of bedrooms. I recommend checking with the health department to obtain their design factors.
    2. When the well goes dry or the pump quits, I can show that I have only run X number of gallons and the well or pump failed under normal water usage. I had a pump die on me one day after 60 gallons. The homeowner backed down once I showed him that I had done nothing that normal everyday use wouldn't have done.

    Also, as always, check with your local health department to insure your are in compliance with licensing requirements.

    My two cents....


  21. #21
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Fredericksburg, VA
    Posts
    885

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Burch1 View Post
    Stuart,
    Great information. I just wanted to add that I meter the water that I am running into the septic. I have put together a water meter, valves and a garden hose connector so that I can meter the amount of water that I induce into the system. This is for two reasons;
    1. I want to insure that I never exceed the amount of water that the system is designed to handle. In this area we figure a max of 75 gallons per person per day, based on the number of bedrooms. I recommend checking with the health department to obtain their design factors.
    2. When the well goes dry or the pump quits, I can show that I have only run X number of gallons and the well or pump failed under normal water usage. I had a pump die on me one day after 60 gallons. The homeowner backed down once I showed him that I had done nothing that normal everyday use wouldn't have done.

    Also, as always, check with your local health department to insure your are in compliance with licensing requirements.

    My two cents....
    Good idea Dave.
    I no longer have to worry about it since the state laws have changed this year and require pumping and checking the tank as well as the distribution box. Something I always recommended anyway.

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    New Westminster, B. C., Canada
    Posts
    165

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    Hi, ALL &

    As to well water (private source), many of the above comments are good as to Lab-Testing recommendations...

    As to wast-water (septic), "up here" in British Columbia, Canada, we are fortunate to have a professional group available province-wide to cover this:

    OWRP :: Onsite Wastewater Consumer Information Centre

    There is a lot of good consumer information available and Links to practitioners for such a service...


    CHEERS !

    -Glenn Duxbury, CHI

  23. #23
    Herb Scott's Avatar
    Herb Scott Guest

    Default Re: Private Well water Sampling and Septic System Inspection

    There has been some misinformation here. Check out the PSMA/NOF
    Pennsylvania Septage Management Association / National Onsite Foundations. I got certified years ago but haven't re-certified for a number of years.
    They keep their standards a secret unless you are certified to use them. But they are the best septic inspection standards.
    Never pump the tank /s until the systems condition is determined. The absorption area is the most critical component. It's ability to absorb the sewage water / effluent at a fast enough rate is the most important factor. Dye is a tool that can be used to help determine or figure things but only on rare occasions. Hydraulic Load test are required if several things are found to be questionable but generally for vacant houses.. The water must be metered and you need to use the standards set by the regulatory agency in your area for the amount of water installed. In Pa. for a house up to 3 bedrooms its 400 gal. Most inspection companies in my area now also include cameras.


Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •