Winter Well & Septic Inspections


This is our first year inspecting well and septic inspections in Michigan and this will be our first winter inspecting septic tanks in snow. Does anybody have experience conducting well and septic inspections in a snowy climate/what is the procedure to inspect septic tanks in the dead of winter? Any input on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

Welcome to our forum, Joshua!..Enjoy and participate.

Make arrangements with a septic pumper to pump the tank so you can inspect it. Usually the ground above the tank does not freeze solid but bring your pick ax, shovel, etc. just in case.

Call a state certified water quality lab near you and ask what THEIR protocol for taking samples of the water is for different things and follow the paper they give you. They also give you sterile bottles encased in styrofoam to put the water in and certain water tests have to be at the lab to be tested within a certain time period.

Talk to them both kindly and they will help get you set up.


Welcome to the forum, Joshua. Enjoy!!

Hi Larry,
Question on your comments - you mention “pick axe”…
I’m here in Michigan also and just last week I ran into a septic tank that had “partially frozen dirt” on the top. I used only a shovel to gain access and while prying a clod of somewhat frozen dirt away from the outlet side, an approx. 1’ diameter “cookie” of dirt popped out and there was a HOLE IN THE TANK!!.. The hole was the same size of the cookie and it was obvious to me that the tank was defective and was suffering from sulfuric acid corrosion…
The homeowner thinks I damaged it!!!
I would tell anyone on this forum, I recommend that they NOT use any destructive methods to access a tank. I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with this angry homeowner… Would welcome any recommendations from you or anyone else on this topic…

Welcome to our forum, William!..enjoy participating. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Greetings Will and Joshua,

Good old Michigan winters!

I don’t change methods in the winter except to be aware that the dirt removed for the lid access will freeze. Often, It’s nearly impossible to shovel back in the hole.

My past methods were to carry a spud to pry/remove the lids.
After damaging a couple, I’ve learned to use a shovel only and occasionally a large chisel and hammer to tap around the access lid.
I’ve since made a sincere effort to remove the access lids and if they don’t budge, don’t beat on them.

If there’s no success in getting into the tank, I state it in the report and give a discount on the septic inspection portion of the fee to the client.
After locating and digging for an hour plus, some compensation is still necessary.

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Take many photos and tell the home owner you did not damage the tank, but rather discovered a defect. You did your job.

I would not continue to respond to them beyond the 1st correspondence.

For the record, who was the customer and did you have permission to perform an invasive inspection?

Great feedback Scott and Brian!
I indeed took many photo’s and told the homeowner that I didn’t damage it, but that it was defective and I actually prevented what could have been a tragic accident for her two young children!
She still wasn’t happy. So I cut off communication. I did this inspection for an out of town buyer and had authority to perform a septic inspection…
Scott - have you ever broken a tank with your “spud method” and if so, did you need to file a general liability claim?

I did once only to find the lid was already cracked, as indicated by the dark broken edge.
A fresh in concrete break looks nice and bright.

I made notes, took pictures and forwarded to the listing agent. That was the end of it for me and didn’t give it another thought.

As indicated above, if I can’t open a tank with a my pull handle and some gentle persuasion, I stop.

Where are you located?