septic tanks

Hi all…I have a question about septic tanks. When you inpsect a home do you inspect the septic tank too? The reason I ask is I noticed some sinkage in the soil on top of the tank. So I filled it with some dirt thinking it was because of the rainy winter we had here in the Seattle area. I checked on it again a day later and a bit more sinkage in the soil and noticed a slight septic tank smell. It was pumped 2 years ago. thanks for any advice.

Cheryl,in the area i inspect it is a separate certification and if you are not then defer and if your certified then go for it. If your client wants to pay the additional fee.Your area may be differant.Matt.

In my opinion, there really isn’t any good and fast way to test a septic system. We can’t see underground, and I’m not running a snake camera down the drains. All we can do is test the water systems inside the house, then look for back ups or possibly water from the latterals. But this would take lots and lots of water before we would notice anything. Septic problems are best left to the experts.

No, must be licensed and/or certified to do that. As far as settling around the tank, that falls under recommendations on the lot. I would advise the client to have it further evaluated by a qualified specialist, because it could be a broken tank or lid, or as simple as settling from the previous excavation. I wrote one up on this very thing last week. Ken

I would suggest subbing this (septic system) out, unless you really know what you are doing with septiic waste systems. I sub mine out and add a handling charge on it and disclose the handling charge to my clients. It takes care of the problem and limits your liability regarding the waste system. I do perform water quality testing which is also included in the handling charge with a chain of custody report attached (not required but I do it as more CYA)…

Just did one last Sat. Every area has there own standards. You need to know the local standards. All I do is walk the field or mount looking for seeping. If I find seepage I report that the field may be at the end of it’s life and need to be rebuilt. the other check is to look into the tank and operate the pump and check for leaks. I report verbally and do not put anything into my written report except to advise the client to have the tank pumped and have it inspected when empty. No one can see the condition of the tank if it is full of water. I do not write write anything and do not charge for the inspection.

PS In this jurisdiction we have two tanks the septic tank where the solids are digested and the effluent tank where the liquid is held untill there is enough water to flood the whole field and leave time for the water to disapate before the next dump.

Cheryl, as stated many times on different subjects on this board, it certainly depends on ones location. I myself inspect several hundred septic systems per year (as an add on) and have found it to be a great service to my clients. Had a two year old home yesterday that had an unplugged drain hole in the bottom of the tanks second chamber, allowing the “grey water” to seep out. The fluid levels had never reached the outbound hole to the drain field since construction:eek: Our state/county has no licensing in effect for performing septic inspections.
It sounds like your questioning your own system. I suspect your lid may be cracked or broken, allowing dirt to sift down into the tank, at the same time allowing the odors to escape. Seems quite simple to me to just grab a shovel and dig up the area thats caving in slightly to evaluate. If thats more than you want to do, you best bet is to call the company that pumped it, have them re-dig and make any necessary repairs:)

thanks John (and everyone) Yes it is my septic tank I am talking about. I will watch it for a few days and if the dirt sinks again I will dig to find the lid and call someone to pump it again and take a peek. ewww.

I am with John your tank cover maybe cracked or collapsing, I would be very careful in this area because it collapses while you’re on top of the tank… you could go for a nasty swim.

You should also have some sort of access port so that you should be able to go look down into your tank with a flashlight and miror you my see something out of the ordinary. Don’t forget the clothes pin.

Hi Joseph…today I am going to dig and find out about the lid…what do I do with a clothes pin?

Put it on your nose! :roll::D:p:cool:

LOLOLOL I know. I was laughing so hard when I finally ‘got it’
I am not the quickest in the morning before my coffee. Anyways…ummm my $#i! doesn’t smell. dontcha know (yah shur u betcha)
thanks for the help I will let you know what I found down deep in the sink hole

drainage field is failing. 3500-7000.00 to fix. I am checking into how much it would cost to hook up to sewer.

Sorry to hear that… Good Luck - I need to ask, what was discovered on the tank to cause sinkage or did I miss understand your post in the first place/… which isn’t the first time for that to happen and it’s most likely not to be the last time for it to happen as well…:wink:

Patrick…there was soil on top of the septic tank that kept sinking. I filled it up a couple times…then when it settled a 3rd time (and the soil was wet) I started digging and called a septic service as I had a feeling something was wrong since it had been pumped only a year and a half before. when I lifted one of the lids, the water level was up to the top, which meant the drains are either clogged or are disintegrating so the only place for the drainage to go is up and over the top of the septic lid. My home was built in the 60’s so it was sure to happen sooner or later. The septic guy said it would be best to re route the drain field rather than mess with the old lines.

If the cost of repair is only 3000 to 7000 consider yourself lucky. The septic in this place has failed and the quote to replace is $26000. There are some issues with the perc rate that has driven the price up and the requirement for an effluant pump to a raised bed so it is pricey.

I had this done to my field a few years back(Teralift), not a problem since. Also, did they scope your lines to identify the failed area, they can just repair secions of the distibution piping.

thanks for the replies everyone. I think I am just going to have him re route the drain line. To get the city to look and give a price on sewer hook up is only going to cause major $$ with all the permits and regulations.

Cheryl, the hook-up is labor intensive. Where I am the it has to be made by a licensed sewer contractor, but perhaps you could rent a back-hoe and hire someone to dig the trench, or do it yourself. There is also a fairly recent trenchless technology, called “Tiger Trenchless,” by which an auger pulls a seamless sewer pipe from a hole near the house to one near the sewer connection at the street. Check that out first. Good luck.


Before you do anything, I would strongly recommend you call your local county Health Dept. I am in Minnesota now, but I still own my home in Vancouver (WA.). The county requires that new testing be performed, for the new drainfield, and of course, $$ for permits, and possible review for an engineered drainfield. What was approved back when the house was built, probably is no longer acceptable today (Kinda like upgraded Codes). The total length now required may be four times that of the old system. May even need to be an engineered system (extremely expensive).

I agree with Keith…check out your options…you may find hooking up to the sewer system is not that much more expensive, if at all.