septic dye breakout at a basement entry from a failed septic system buried below a driveway during conduct of a septic loading and dye test
- an expert can find clues and perform tests that reduce risk of a costly surprise How to Report the Results of a Septic Loading & Dye Test

  • SEPTIC DYE TEST REPORT - CONTENTS: Septic inspection report contents: how to report septic inspection results or septic testing results after using a loading & dye test. What is the minimum information that must be included in a septic inspection & test report? What documentation should be included in a septic system report? Link to a sample septic field inspection report sheet
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about septic system inspection & test reports

Septic test reporting procedures: how to write a septic test report. :

This article provides details of how to report the results of a Septic Loading and Dye Test. If waste water leaks to the ground surface (an unsanitary condition indicating serious septic failure) one may find dye in that water provided the septic system is flowing at common rates.

But even without that result, the septic inspection and its report will contain critical findings and information for the property owner or for a prospective buyer.

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HOW TO REPORT SEPTIC TEST RESULTS - & Test Conditions - What is the Minimum That A a Septic Test Report Include

A septic loading and dye test does not guarantee detection of all failing conditions. However it can make a meaningful reduction in the risk of an imminent costly septic failure, if the test is performed and documented properly. For a test to be meaningful, it is critical that reasonable test procedures be followed, such as described above, and that the procedures are documented.

A professional inspector is expected to provide sufficient documentation of the procedure followed and results obtained that an experienced third party could review that information and agree that the test provided was acceptable, regardless of the outcome. Finally, proper documentation at the site and during the test makes writing the septic report much easier.

The meaning and reliability of any test procedure is obscure unless the consultant records the test parameters and conditions. For example, a "dye test" was performed by an inspector who placed a single dye tablet into a washing machine drain line, followed by running 50 gallons of water at an upstairs plumbing fixture.

The lack of aggressiveness of the test, inadequate dye amount, minimal volume of water run, and failure to confirm that the fixture operated actually placed water into the septic tank all would have been more obvious to both the inspector and the client had this date been reported. Instead, the inspector wrote that he had "performed a septic dye test" and that there was "no evidence of a problem."

In an often-occurring anecdote, the morning after the new building owner moved into the home, sewage effluent had flooded the yard behind the home. When the septic contractor opened the tank it was evident that the tank was totally packed with solids. Litigation followed. This sounds like an extreme example, but it's all too common.

Septic Inspection & Test Report Contents

Authorities from various U.S. states all suggest that a septic inspection report should answer the following basic questions about the septic system:

  1. What does the existing septic system consist of: tank, d-box, drainfields, type, material, location, pumps, controls, etc.
  2. Does the septic system appear to be working properly at present?
  3. How long do we expect the present septic system to last? (A difficult question but there are often clues about system maintenance or condition that give very clear indicators of remaining septic system life).
  4. What repairs or maintenance are needed now, and when replacement is needed what will that cost?

We recommend that for clarity, responsibility, and usefulness, anyone inspecting a septic system for a home buyer or home owner should add to these basic septic inspection report findings the information we list below. These details not only make the septic inspection report more valuable to to the client, they reduce the chances for a future and costly surprise for any of the parties involved.

Essential documentation of septic loading and dye test procedure and conditions includes at least the following

  • Administrative details: Inspector's name and contact information, client name, property address, inspection date, time, and pertinent weather conditions

  • Septic System Safety: Observations of visually obviously unsafe conditions at the property such as the presence of cesspools, bad tank covers, open pits, subsidence or collapsing equipment.

  • Septic Inspection or Test Limitations: Observations of conditions which limited the test or which added risk of the septic test having been subverted: recent application of bleach, damaged tank (low liquid levels), or reported maintenance history of the system

  • Pre Test Septic System Conditions: Observations before attempting the test: odors, wet conditions, grass color, rocky site, etc.

  • Plumbing Fixtures Operated: Location and identity of plumbing fixtures operated during the test, for placement of dye and for placement of the test volume of water into the system.

  • Septic System Components present: Observation of or reported type of septic system components: tank (concrete, steel, reported size), reported absorption system type (drainfield, mound system, pump up system), presence of pumps (single vs. duplex), alarms.

  • Components not tested: such as drywells or other components which are known to be present or for which there is strong suggestion of their presence (such as graywater lines leaving building locations at points remote from or below the elevation of the main drain.)

  • Septic Test Parameters: Estimated total test volume of water used. Details may include fixture flow rates and flow duration. This information should include confirmation, or inability to confirm, that the test water entered the septic system.

  • Indications of septic system failure:
    • Presence of effluent or dye surfacing or breakout at the yard surface during and after the test.
    • Marked change in the wetness or softness of ground over the suspected leach area (as compared with that observed at the start of the test)
    • Septic odors
    • Discharge of septic effluent or graywater to the surface or to a nearby pond, lake, stream, drainage ditch, etc.

  • History: Information regarding the system history and maintenance if such were reported to the inspector by the seller or realtor or another party

  • If there was historical, visual, or test results that indicate or strongly suggest that the system is in-failure or that it is in very questionable condition, the report should include an explanation of these site observations, system history, and test results such that the client has an opportunity to understand the significance of the findings and reasonably probable need for repair.

  • Conclusions: there was or was not visual or historical evidence of the need for septic system repair or replacement. Other recommendations for maintenance or further investigation (such as tank pumping and inspection, D-box exploration, etc.)

Septic System Inspection Data Recording Worksheets & Checklists

An example field data recording sheet that documents details about the septic system and includes a section on Dye Test Procedure Used (fixtures operated, total volume run, confirmation of flow into septic) and pre and post-test Observations such as and evidence of dye breakout is provided at Level 0 - Basic Septic Inspection Worksheet

These pages are part of our SEPTIC DYE TEST PROCEDURE for testing septic system function. Technical review by industry experts has been performed and is ongoing - reviewers are listed at REFERENCES. Comments and suggestions for content are welcome.


Continue reading at SEPTIC DYE TEST WARNINGS or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below.

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