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Thread: Drainage Field

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Wisconsin
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    274

    Default Drainage Field

    So, I'm watching a show about buying homes (well, the wife was, is that a good sign???) and the HI pours a dye in the toilet and flushes it, then they cut to the outside and low and behold the drain field has a leak, or at least something in the system was leaking out of the ground.

    Anyway, do you guys inspect/observe private systems and if so any idea on the dye used? I would think it would be more than just food dye, I suppose I could Google septic dyes, but curious if and what you guys would look at. I'm guessing he left water running inside while he was outside looking for leaks. I understand the concepts of septic systems, but never looked at old ones.


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  2. #2

    Default Re: Drainage Field

    A dye test is NOT an adequate test of a septic system. A proper test involves locating the tank access, removing the cover, pumping out the tank, and sending either a technician or a camera into the tank to check on the condition of the internal components. I'm always amazed when home inspectors do this kind of test. We tell our clients to contact a septic service provider for a pump and inspection.
    In our area, we have a lot of properties that were built with septic systems, but with all the new construction around here, they now have access to tie into the municipal sewer system. For these homeowners, if their septic system fails or otherwise needs repair, they will NOT be allowed to install a new system, but rather they will be REQUIRED to tie into the municipal system, at their own expense (which can be considerable). We are actually personally affected by this rule, so we baby our septic system as we've been given a conservative estimate of about $90K to tie into the sewer. Ouch.

    Welmoed Sisson
    Inspections by Bob, LLC, Boyds, MD
    "Given sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
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    Default Re: Drainage Field

    Quote Originally Posted by Welmoed Sisson View Post
    We are actually personally affected by this rule, so we baby our septic system as we've been given a conservative estimate of about $90K to tie into the sewer. Ouch.
    PSSST.......I will repair septics in the middle of the night for a quarter of that price.

    But on a serious note, I don't recommend hanging your hat on flushing dye. I see a lot of homes with septics too (and I'm on septic at my house). I always recommend getting a septic service out for a septic inspection, just as I recommend getting a separate service to scope the main drain line to the sewer (or to a septic, sometimes).

    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Oregon, USA
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    333

    Default Re: Drainage Field

    I'm very curious--how much of the ninety grand is the municipality's fee and how much is the actual construction cost? Our second-last place in Colorado in 2004 was on septic, and the City came through with a forced-main system that they wanted all of us septic-tankers to tie into. Our total quote came to just a tad under $10,000, and that included a $2600+/- City tie-in fee. We decided to stay on septic, as our system was working just fine.

    Hard to believe that inflation and regional differences could amount to an increase factor of more than nine. Almost makes me want to go out and hug my current septic tank and leach field, right now.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Stacy, MN
    Posts
    145

    Default Re: Drainage Field

    A dye should only be used when there is a discharge to the surface that you don't know where it's coming from. Could be the septic, could be from the foundation sump, could be who knows what. If it shows up after you flush it then you know what the discharge is.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Alton Bay NH
    Posts
    49

    Default Re: Drainage Field

    Mike;
    I am a certified septic evaluator here in NH and I would say 90% of my home inspection include a septic evaluation.

    The only proper way to evaluate the system is to dig inspection holes in the EDA (effluent disposal area) and evaluate the condition of the drainfield.

    Check out my web site nhsepticinspection.com

    I have a lot of picture's of actual evaluation I've done along with the procedure I use to inspect them.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Stacy, MN
    Posts
    145

    Default Re: Drainage Field

    Peter,
    I visited your website, very interesting how things are done differently in different parts of the country. I am a septic system inspector in MN; what you call drywells we call seepage pits, and none of them would pass here.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Alton Bay NH
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    49

    Default Re: Drainage Field

    Hi Fred
    Thanks for taking a look at my site.
    Drywells or seepage pits are no longer used here, haven't for decades but there are still many in use. I live in an area where there are many vacation homes and see them there mostly.

    In your area do you dig inspections holes in the EDA/leech bed?


  9. #9
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    Jun 2008
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    Stacy, MN
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    Default Re: Drainage Field

    Peter, I mostly inspect new and replacement systems as the city inspector. Complaince inspectors are required to have the tank(s) pumped to determine if they are watertight. The systems have inspection pipes that extend into the rock bed to determine if they are hydraulically overloaded, so that the system doesn't need to be dug up. Soil borings are done near the drainfield, but not in the drainfield, to determine if the bottom of the rockbed has the required 3 feet of separation from seasonally saturated soil (the water table).


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    2,777

    Default Re: Drainage Field

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Kleisch View Post
    ...... HI pours a dye in the toilet and flushes it, then they cut to the outside and low and behold the drain field has a leak, or at least something in the system was leaking out of the ground.
    ......
    Mike, Hope that you understand that the drain field does not have a leak but is not working, draining. Drain fields can be disfunctional for many reasons. The dye test is just showing that fluid is leaching to the surface, which is why you would see the colored dye. Ou can go to Professional Equipment web site and see the dye that they sell.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Wisconsin
    Posts
    274

    Default Re: Drainage Field

    I don't inspect septic systems (but know not to stick my head in there ) and thought you would just reference that the system should be inspected by a professional and ask the seller for maintenance reports. I know things vary from State to State, even Town to Town, and see in some association SOP that inspecting the septic would be going above and beyond the inspection standards, unless I misread something. Heck, here in WI the HI is not required to determine if it is a public or private system.

    I don't remember the State, but the HI on the show said there was a leak in the system and the buyers did not buy the home based on the dye flowing out of the ground. I just thought that was an odd and Bold way of claiming a leak in the system, but didn't know for sure...

    I was just more curious as to how many people (HI) inspect them and how they would do it. As others have stated, and what I have read, the only way to inspect septic systems would be to pump the system out. In our County, owners are required to file maintenance reports every three years showing the system was inspected and/or maintained by a Dept. of Natural Resources licensed professional.

    Thanks for all the replies, informative site Peter...




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