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  1. #1
    WalterSobchak's Avatar
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    Default Septic Inspection

    Just got a letter from the County saying they need to inspect the septic system and may have to enter the house. Why do they have to come inside if the tank is outside.....and what if I don't want nosy people in my home? Do I have any recourse?

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  2. #2
    James Duffin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by WalterSobchak View Post
    Just got a letter from the County saying they need to inspect the septic system and may have to enter the house. Why do they have to come inside if the tank is outside.....and what if I don't want nosy people in my home? Do I have any recourse?
    Does your system have a pump with an alarm?


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by WalterSobchak View Post
    Just got a letter from the County saying they need to inspect the septic system and may have to enter the house. Why do they have to come inside if the tank is outside.....and what if I don't want nosy people in my home? Do I have any recourse?
    With the clean water act your county has a great deal of authority when it comes to private septic systems. Get over being a grouch and let the folks take a look and bless your system.

    Recourse? Sure you have plenty of it, but I bet the County has more.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    They need to get in so they can flush the toilets and run water down the sink drains.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    You should refer to the legislation which supposedly permits entry to your residence for the purpose stated. The devil is in the details.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Delete - double post


  7. #7
    Kary Krismer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    I think James may have hit on it with the pump/alarm issue. It might be that all they need is garage access, and that might even be optional depending on the system and what happens. I don't recall a septic inspector ever wanting to go inside.


  8. #8
    WalterSobchak's Avatar
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    With the clean water act your county has a great deal of authority when it comes to private septic systems. Get over being a grouch and let the folks take a look and bless your system.

    Recourse? Sure you have plenty of it, but I bet the County has more.

    Thank you for such a "friendly" response....this isn't about being a "grouch"....to me it's about invasion of privacy and the principle of the matter.


  9. #9
    WalterSobchak's Avatar
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by James Duffin View Post
    Does your system have a pump with an alarm?

    No...it was built in 1917.


  10. #10
    WalterSobchak's Avatar
    WalterSobchak Guest

    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by A.D. Miller View Post
    Walter: What are you growing in there that they should not see?
    LOL.......nothing.......I quit that 35 years ago....


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by WalterSobchak View Post
    Thank you for such a "friendly" response....this isn't about being a "grouch"....to me it's about invasion of privacy and the principle of the matter.
    I thought it was a pretty friendly response. Hang around this site for awhile if you want to see some unfriendly responses....

    When it comes to the federal clean water act and if you have a private sewage system you forfeit some of your privacy and must make you system available for inspection. With an almost 100 year old system like you have, I'm sure you are high on the list of possible problematic systems.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  12. #12
    WalterSobchak's Avatar
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by stanley frost View Post
    They need to get in so they can flush the toilets and run water down the sink drains.

    The sink goes into a separate grease trap


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    The owner of the premises has to allow someone in to flush and run water? How novel. I guess the owner is incapable of flushing and running the water and some bureaucrat earning his wages must complete this most complicated of tasks?


  14. #14
    David Bell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Next thing you know they will want copies of pump out dates and required DEP inspections. Not to mention install dates and whether it's a single or double tank with overflow. Big Brother ?


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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by David Bell View Post
    Next thing you know they will want copies of pump out dates and required DEP inspections. Not to mention install dates and whether it's a single or double tank with overflow. Big Brother ?
    Maybe Big Brother lives downstream from this 90 year old cesspool.

    Some kid could end up sick with typhus, hepatitis or other from contaminated drinking water.


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

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by WalterSobchak View Post
    Just got a letter from the County saying they need to inspect the septic system and may have to enter the house. Why do they have to come inside if the tank is outside.....and what if I don't want nosy people in my home? Do I have any recourse?

    You could fight them in court.

    Of course, though, you would most likely lose, and spend a lot of money to lose, but that would be up to you.

    Florida just enacted a law which requires septic systems to be inspected every 5 years. If you were in Florida I would say get prepared to get over your paranoia and deal with it.

    Most codes have a right of entry section, this one is from the IRC.

    - R104.6 Right of entry. Where it is necessary to make an inspection to enforce the provisions of this code, or where the building official has reasonable cause to believe that there exists in a structure or upon a premises a condition which is contrary to or in violation of this code which makes the structure or premises unsafe, dangerous or hazardous, the building official or designee is authorized to enter the structure or premises at reasonable times to inspect or to perform the duties imposed by this code, provided that if such structure or premises be occupied that credentials be presented to the occupant and entry requested. If such structure or premises be unoccupied, the building official shall first make a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other person having charge or control of the structure or premises and request entry. If entry is refused, the building official shall have recourse to the remedies provided by law to secure entry.

    Consider that you have received your request for entry.

    Then read the last line I highlighted in bold.


    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  17. #17
    Kary Krismer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    If someone wanted to push the issue in Washington state, they could require a warrant. That's been required for fire inspections, and the new code regarding apartment inspections even has language regarding the process for getting a warrant. Our supreme court interprets the state provisions on searches more strictly than the feds or most other states. Here the police cannot just search your car when they pull you over like they do in most places on Cops.

    As to our septic inspection, the county apparently doesn't follow up on much. They just want to make sure that the new owner knows what they're getting into. It might be different if there were standing water on top of the drainfield--I've not seen that.


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    I think the catch phrase is; reasonble cause.

    REASONABLE CAUSE TO BELIEVE
    To have knowledge of facts which, although not amounting to direct knowledge, would cause a reasonable person, knowing the same facts, to reasonably conclude the same thing.


  19. #19
    Jon mackay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    With a system that is old such as yours and having a separate "Grease Trap" you can expect that the system will not likely pass an inspection.

    As far as letting them in, they are just doing there job to protect the environment which the government has jurisdiction over.

    If I were in your shoes, I would be prepared to get some possible bad news and be as nice to them as possible..

    Although they do say that nice guys always finish last..


  20. #20
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Wouldn't a grease trap be a good thing? After all grease is the septic systems worst enemy.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by WalterSobchak View Post
    Just got a letter from the County saying they need to inspect the septic system and may have to enter the house. Why do they have to come inside if the tank is outside.....and what if I don't want nosy people in my home? Do I have any recourse?
    "may" does not mean they will.
    The number of bedrooms determines the size and capacity of a septic system by today's standards. They may simply want to confirm the number of bedrooms. The county may be collecting data in an effort to determine the best course of action to take with older systems. They may want to determine if you are a candidate to receive public dollars which may be available to help bring older systems into compliance. There are many reasons why they may want to peek inside.

    If you are concerned about letting people inside, call them, ask for further information.


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by WalterSobchak View Post
    Just got a letter from the County saying they need to inspect the septic system and may have to enter the house. Why do they have to come inside if the tank is outside.....and what if I don't want nosy people in my home? Do I have any recourse?
    open the lid to the tank and tell them they can get to any part of the system from there!


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    If entry is refused, the building official shall have recourse to the remedies provided by law to secure entry.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kary Krismer View Post
    If someone wanted to push the issue in Washington state, they could require a warrant.

    Yeppers. That IS what that bold line says.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Expect they will review the exposed sanitary plumbing, and if washing machine is connected to same or discharging gray water to outdoors. If not traceable exposed plumbing may deposit some powder trace dye where the stand pipe or laundry sink is and examine tank for signs of dye. Further expect they will deposit some powder and wash it down the kitchen sink, then look to the tank to see if it has turned color, and if not investigate for a gray water discharge (now dyed) outdoors, in a drywell in the crawl or basement, etc. Next expect the powder to be flushed down the toilet and similar check to the tank for a color change. Usual is an orange tang looking powder which will fluoress green in the tank. A return visit to the exterior leach field if the area is boggy, the next day (outdoors). The dye is biodegradable, not toxic, sunlight and household bleach will break it down that much sooner. If private well supply expect verification of location of well head and topography in relation to sanitary and possible samples drawn after dye testing system.Keep your records of service and licensed pumping, washing and inspection of your tank - not a DIY job, and inquire of your inspector if you need to file these regularly with your appropriate governmental entity.

    Your sanitary system begins in your home and continues through the building sewer, on to your private treatment system and on to the licensed septic professional who pumps your solid waste build-up in your tank and relocates it legally for further treatment.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 06-10-2010 at 09:28 PM.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    What H.G. said, plus part of inspecting a septic system is to thoroughly stress it by running a lot of water through the system to see how it reacts. This could easily be a couple of hundred gallons or more. It's not an inspection you can do yourself, and it's not an inspection you can do without getting into the house.


  26. #26
    Phil Brody's Avatar
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    Wink Re: Septic Inspection

    I would request in writing that they are free to inspect any and all portions outside but if they want to gain entry they should state in writing what is their specific needs to inspect inside the home so you can insure it is easily accessible, and send it registered mail. You have a reasonable right to privacy. We should hold the line there.


  27. #27
    Herb Scott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Each municipality has itís own requirements, and as the quality of ground water decreases new requirements are being implemented. In my 17 years of doing septic inspections along with the HIís there are only 2 reasons they would want to enter your house. One is because a neighbor complained about run off / break out of your system. And given the age of your system, that is a possibility. And the other is to be sure all of your fixtures are discharging into the septic system. If a septic system is functioning properly, and many, many are not, it treats effluent / sewage water so that by the time it has percolated down to the water table it is safe to drink. Many times people will discharge some fixtures onto the ground or into a ditch or even a stream. This is untreated water and it contaminates our drinking water
    It is not likely that the municipality would be using any dye. That stuff is nasty and if you get one drop on something it can be a nightmare to get rid of it.
    Also, you donít ďstressĒ a septic system. You do make sure that all the fixtures are draining into it and that things are flowing freely from one location to another. If problems are found during the inspection or the house has been vacant it may be necessary to do a load test. This involves a measured number of gallons of water. In accordance with the local health dept. standards and the number of bedrooms the house has. The current water level in the absorption is measured from a fixed point. The measured number of gallons are installed into the absorption area, after the tank. (in the case of a cesspool or seepage pit it is installed directly into the pit) After the water is installed another measurement to the water level is taken. You come back 24 hours later and measure again. If the water level has gone down to the first measurement level, that indicates the system has absorbed that number of gallons in that 24 hour period.

    Iím not into government intervention any more than anyone else is. But,
    If the local municipality is entering my house or my neighborís house to determine if we are knowingly or unknowingly polluting the ground water that we drank, thatís what I want government to do.


  28. #28
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Rumor has it that the City of Tacoma, Washington will soon be requiring video inspections of all side sewers on homes within the city prior to sale. Sounds like it may be a good time to get me a camcorder and a skateboard!


  29. #29
    Kary Krismer's Avatar
    Kary Krismer Guest

    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hintz View Post
    Rumor has it that the City of Tacoma, Washington will soon be requiring video inspections of all side sewers on homes within the city prior to sale. Sounds like it may be a good time to get me a camcorder and a skateboard!
    I'd heard that too. It would probably be cheaper to just tax every sale transaction $200 and then use the money to pay for any repairs to side sewers that are needed in the future.

    If Tacoma wants to deal with problems in their city, they should start with the roads. Some of their streets are nothing but pothole repairs. Maybe that's affecting the side sewers. ;-)


  30. #30
    Kary Krismer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by ben jacks View Post
    Hi Kary,
    There is a WAC form for septic certification on RE resales that is required in King county. Last home inspection with a septic system I did was 4 years ago, so requirements may have changed. (Check with the KC Health department.)
    Four years ago probably all that was required was recording a document indicating that the property was served by a septic tank. Within about the last 18 months they changed it to a mandatory inspection/pumping, which I think applies to just about everything other than foreclosure sales (but not the bank REO sales after the foreclosure).

    My comment though was based on a recent transaction where the initial inspection showed a potential issue. Talking to the inspector he didn't make it sound like a big deal, but the way he wrote it up it did. Anyway, after the additional servicing was done I wanted to get that information to the county, and they didn't want it. They said there would be no follow up on the initial report. Note though that the problem wasn't one of standing surface water. I suspect they would follow up on that.


  31. #31
    Kary Krismer's Avatar
    Kary Krismer Guest

    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hintz View Post
    Rumor has it that the City of Tacoma, Washington will soon be requiring video inspections of all side sewers on homes within the city prior to sale. Sounds like it may be a good time to get me a camcorder and a skateboard!
    Here's a link to the Tacoma requirements, which go into effect July 1.

    City of Tacoma - Wastewater management - Side Sewer Inspections-

    They claim it's to reduce rainfall inflow into the sewer system. That seems like a really strange justification. I could see maybe requiring gutter drains to be inspected to verify they don't go into the sewer system, but I have a hard time seeing that a cracked pipe is going to let that much water into a system, or that a camera scope is likely to catch such a thing.

    Note the estimated cost of $300-400.

    Last edited by Kary Krismer; 06-14-2010 at 09:07 AM. Reason: Add link

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Kary Krismer View Post
    Here's a link to the Tacoma requirements, which go into effect July 1.

    City of Tacoma - Wastewater management - Side Sewer Inspections-

    They claim it's to reduce rainfall inflow into the sewer system. That seems like a really strange justification. I could see maybe requiring gutter drains to be inspected to verify they don't go into the sewer system, but I have a hard time seeing that a cracked pipe is going to let that much water into a system, or that a camera scope is likely to catch such a thing.

    Note the estimated cost of $300-400.
    Bicycle Helmets, Red Light Cameras, No Handheld Cell Phones while driving, Video Taping of Side Sewers prior to sale - in no way is it for any reason other than easy revenue for the state/county/city. This country is out of control.


  33. #33
    Kary Krismer's Avatar
    Kary Krismer Guest

    Default Re: Septic Inspection

    I wrote a simple blog piece on the Tacoma law.

    Tacoma Sellers--Prepare to Pay More To Sell Your House!

    BTW, Seattle (or maybe King County), is trying to add energy audits as a point of sale requirement.


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