Septic Outflow Chlorinator

Septic Outflow Chlorinator i have been presented with a couple of situations where a traditional septic system (septic tank, distribution box and leach field) has a chlorinator on the tail end of the system after the leach field with a daylighted outlet pipe. The local Health Dept. says the installations are a grandfathered non-conforming system. My take on it is that there was probably very limited absorption in the leach field or the field was clogged up around the perf pipes and the chorlinator and daylight pipe were added as a cheap way to avoid discharging untreated wastes to the surface instead of fixing the leach field. i think the system should be “passed” on the basis of “no untreated discharge or breakout” with notation stating that the HD says this is a “grandfathered non-conforming system” and that if there is any failure of a component the HD may likely require that the whole system or major components be replaced to bring it into conformance and that would be quite expensive.

Please share your thoughts.


PS. The chlorinator was after a leach field, not a sand bed or mound.

I would assume you are right a failed leachfield. If the leachfield were working and leachate were being properly distributed into the earth field there would be nothing to reach a chlorinator. We do not have such a system here but if I came across it i would state :
Septic system has failed. What was meant as a temporary solution is in place and although it is grandfathered, thus you cannot be forced to change it, it is environmentally irresponsible to continue use and needs replaced.

I agree with Bruce. If the system has been modified from it’s original design in order for it to function properly then it’s time for replacement.

Here in NH you are not allowed to modify a system, once in poor or failing condition it has to be replaced.

Another interesting definition we have is in the word failure. NH has defined failure as when the EDA (effluent disposal area) fails to contain effluent. This could be either breakout at the ground or backing up into the tank. The state removed very important wording a few years ago, “or threatens to fail” which would mean that an EDA that has flooded but still functions could be failed, but no longer, to bad because we see plenty of system that are in serious trouble but are technically not “in failure”

                    **Mark Raumikaitis**](

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 Certified Master Inspector
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Re: Septic Outflow Chlorinator

Lawrence, I don’t know where you inspect but in NH there is no way that is acceptable. Do you really want to “pass” such a system. Wouldn’t it be better to describe exactly what it is… “non conforming”. (I hate the word “grand fathered” as well.) State it does not meet any current standards and that you make zero representations about its future performance or acceptance. Let the buyer decide if he/she wants to accept responsibility for that PIG of a system. What if the municipal government passes an ordinance next week saying all such systems must be replaced no later than 180 days from now…your clients will be on the hook and they will most likely be looking at someone to be pissed at…that would be YOU because you “passed” it. Your disclaimers and other language may slow down the lawyers but you will still be fighting a claim. The system is a piece of garbage…why take any responsibility for it.

Mark Raumikaitis, CMI, NH Lic #133
HomeCheck Professional Home Inspections LLC
Derry, NH
Inspecting New Hampshire and Southern Maine
“Always think long term, do not be influenced by short term thinking or rewards.”


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Re: Septic Outflow Chlorinator

Thanks for your comments. i am trying to parse this delicate situation and appreciate the insight of others. These were not my inspections, but those of another inspector who is my friend. i wish to prepare for the possibility that i run into the same. My current “pass with provisos” bent is based on the following considerations:

  1. The system was approved by the local government when it was installed and modified
  2. The system is operating as designed and approved with no discharge of untreated wastes
    3.The system is a grand-fathered non-conforming system and that status will pass to the new owner and it will not be required to be upgraded until such time as it fails and backs up or discharges untreated wastes.
  3. The threat to the client is the cost of replacement should any part fail and that would be clearly stated in the test report provisos.
  4. “Failing” the system i feel would be unfair to the current Owner as the system is currently operational as designed and accepted by the local municipality. i expect the highest likelihood of legal action would be as a result of suit by the Seller for failing the system.

Also, my form of test report is “pass/fail” and i feel i have to pick one and not be on the fence. It also “make(s) zero representations about its future performance or acceptance”.

i am moving your comments and my reply to the Ancillary Inspection Services]( area of the forum.

Thanks again!

*Last edited by lames; 2/10/17 at 1:03 PM… *

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Thanks Guys. All good information. In New York State, the oversight of septic systems is done at the County level and from what i have learned, the modifications to add the chlorinators were approved by the County HD. You are absolutely right about the environmental damage. But “failing” a system that has been approved in design and installation is just begging to be sued by the Seller. “Passing” it without provisos would be just as bad in the other direction. That is why i feel i might have no choice but to use the “pass with provisos” approach.

Thanks again!!

Any NYS inspectors out there who have experience with this?

I like Bruce’s language. I might add, “You should consult a qualified septic system expert concerning this matter.”

I am a planning commissioner and I do plan review. I do not use the word “Grandfathered” ever. I do explain why something that is now non-conforming can stay until a replacement is warranted.

If it’s a health issue the septic goes past non- conforming to replacement and the property owner is usually given 2 years to do the work.

With septics blunt is best but I never make the announcement but relay instead on the septic inspector to make the call.


i expect there is great state to state variation. i also have similar experience having served for quite a few years on the Town and County Planning Boards and also having been the County Planning Director. In my experience a “grand-fathered non-conforming use” is a commonly applied label in our local government administration.

One of the core issues i am struggling with in these cases is that in NYS inspectors are always trained not to make code interpretations. However, the point of a septic dye test inspection is to give a Buyer a cheap and easy way to tell if perhaps the septic system will need replacement before long, it being a major expense. Making them aware of its status with the local authority is essential. Failing a system that is currently accepted by the local authority as a “grand-fathered non-conforming use” (their statement) seems unfair to the Seller, especially since there is no indication of untreated waste being discharged… Passing the system without a proviso warning about the likelihood that any failure would require an expensive replacement certainly would be a major disservice to a Buyer client. Hence my proposed approach. An outright “Fail” does not seem to be appropriate to me in this case.

Thank you for your comment.

Lawrence, is this and all septic inspections in NY based on flow tests only? Just curious.

Here in NH we have a pretty detailed SOP for septic inspections that has been developed over many years which require us to dig inspection holes in the leech field to actually determine the condition of the aggregate that was used to build the system. Based on those conditions we can rate the system as Good, Fair, Poor or Failing.


Septic Dye Tests are used in NYS generally as a quick and inexpensive test in a real estate transaction that MAY uncover a system defect. No system can be certified in good condition or otherwise without the excavation and inspection of components to establish that they are structurally intact and constructed and functioning as permitted. The Dye Test reports make this very clear (or should if they are properly written). Most NYS Licensed Home Inspectors offer the Dye Test as an option with their Basic Home Inspection because it is often required in a real estate sale contract. Few get involved in the detailed inspections from my experience.

You do not mention your SOP requiring component excavation. Is that part of it?

Thanks for your comments.

We don’t excavate per se as most systems are not that deep.
We normally hand dig inspection holes and use a sewer camera.

[FONT=Arial,Bold][size=2]I do dye testing as the only form of septic inspection that I offer. VA loans require it, as do some USDA loans, and various lenders. I had to start offering it because it is so needed with few that do it and do it correctly, even though it is not that hard.[/size][/FONT]

Below is my latest inspection report of an Aerobic system with chlorinator:
[FONT=Arial,Bold][size=3]**11.0 **[/size][/FONT][FONT=Arial][size=2]A septic dye test was requested. It is an aerobic septic system, and uses a system consisting of aeration and[/size][/FONT]
[FONT=Arial][size=2]chlorination to treat water to a level presumably safe enough for above ground discharge. Diluted dye can be seen
here, a diluted pale pink in color, exiting and identifying the discharge pipe into the small creek that runs along the
side of the property. If the system were not working at all, the dye would be a bright fluorescent red, however I am
not qualified to determine if the system is working properly.

There is a fare amount of maintenance required for this type of system on a regular basis, to keep the system
operating at optimum efficiency for the sake of the environment. Recommend a complete and proper evaluation of
the system by a qualified septic specialist, to verify that it is functioning as intended, and to also help client
understand exactly what is necessary moving forward to keep it properly maintained. As mentioned in the electrical
section of this report, there is a control box for the aerator pump in the electrical room that is related
to this system, and it too should be evaluated and repaired as needed, as it is missing at least one bulb.

[/size][/FONT][FONT=Arial][size=2]More information on the maintenance of these types of systems is available here: [/size][/FONT][FONT=Arial][size=2][FONT=Arial][size=2][/size][/FONT][/size][/FONT]