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
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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.
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
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:
What does the existing septic system consist of: tank, d-box, drainfields, type, material, location, pumps, controls, etc.
Does the septic system appear to be working properly at present?
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).
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)
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
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.
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Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. He is also a contributor to InspectApedia.com in several technical areas such as plumbing and appliances (dryer vents). Contact Mr. Cranor at 804-747-7747 or by Email: email@example.com
Home Inspection Education Home Study Courses - ASHI@Home Training 10-course program. Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Home Reference Book, a reference & inspection report product for building owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Home Reference eBook, an electronic version for PCs, the iPad, iPhone, & Android smart phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter inspectaehrb in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones.
Pennsylvania State Fact Sheets relating to domestic wastewater treatment systems include
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-161, Septic System Failure: Diagnosis and Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-162, The Soil Media and the Percolation Test
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-l64, Mound Systems for Wastewater Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-165, Septic Tank-Soil Absorption Systems
Document Sources used for this web page include but are not limited to: Agricultural Fact Sheet #SW-161 "Septic Tank Pumping," by Paul D. Robillard and
Kelli S. Martin. Penn State College of Agriculture - Cooperative Extension, edited and annotated by
Dan Friedman (Thanks: to Bob Mackey for proofreading the original source material.)
Septic Tank/Soil-Absorption Systems: How to Operate & Maintain [ copy on file as /septic/Septic_Operation_USDA.pdf ] - , Equipment Tips, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8271 1302, 7100 Engineering, 2300 Recreation, September 1982, web search 08/28/2010, original source: http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfimage/82711302.pdf
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Advanced Onsite Wastewater Systems Technologies, Anish R. Jantrania, Mark A. Gross. Anish Jantrania, Ph.D., P.E., M.B.A., is a Consulting Engineer, in Mechanicsville VA, 804-550-0389 (2006). Outstanding technical reference especially on alternative septic system design alternatives. Written for designers and engineers, this book is not at all easy going for homeowners but is a text I recommend for professionals--DF.
Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual [online copy, free] Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm Onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems,
Richard J Otis, published by the US EPA. Although it's more than 20 years old, this book remains a useful reference for septic system designers.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water Program Operations; Office of Research and Development, Municipal Environmental Research Laboratory; (1980)
"International Private Sewage Disposal Code," 1995, BOCA-708-799-2300, ICBO-310-699-0541, SBCCI 205-591-1853, available from those code associations.
"Manual of Policy, Procedures, and Guidelines for Onsite Sewage Systems," Ontario Reg. 374/81, Part VII of the Environmental
Protection Act (Canada), ISBN 0-7743-7303-2, Ministry of the Environment,135 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto Ontario M4V 1P5 Canada $24. CDN.
Manual of Septic Tank Practice, US Public Health Service's 1959.
Onsite Wastewater Disposal, R. J. Perkins;
Quoting from Amazon: This practical book, co-published with the National Environmental Health Association,
describes the step-by-step procedures needed to avoid common pitfalls in septic system technology.
Valuable in matching the septic system to the site-specific conditions, this useful book will help you install a reliable system in
both suitable and difficult environments. Septic tank installers, planners, state and local regulators, civil and sanitary engineers,
consulting engineers, architects, homeowners, academics, and land developers will find this publication valuable.
Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems, Bennette D. Burks, Mary Margaret Minnis, Hogarth House 1994 - one of the best septic system books around, suffering a bit from small fonts and a weak index. While it contains some material more technical than needed by homeowners, Burks/Minnis book on onsite wastewater treatment systems a very useful reference for both property owners and septic system designers.
Septic System Owner's Manual, Lloyd Kahn, Blair Allen, Julie Jones, Shelter Publications, 2000 $14.95 U.S. - easy to understand, well illustrated, one of the best practical references around on septic design basics including some advanced systems; a little short on safety and maintenance. Both new and used (low priced copies are available, and we think the authors are working on an updated edition--DF.
Quoting from one of several Amazon reviews: The basics of septic systems, from underground systems and failures to what the owner can do to promote and maintain a healthy system, is revealed in an excellent guide essential for any who reside on a septic system. Rural residents receive a primer on not only the basics; but how to conduct period inspections and what to do when things go wrong. History also figures into the fine coverage.
Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, Bombeck, Erma: $ 5.99; FAWCETT; MM;
This septic system classic whose title helps avoid intimidating readers new to septic systems, is available new or used at very low prices.
It's more entertainment than a serious "how to" book on septic systems design, maintenance, or repair. Not recommended -- DF.
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm
Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook, R. Dodge Woodson. This book is in the upper price range, but is worth the cost for serious septic installers and designers.
Quoting Amazon: Each year, thousands upon thousands of Americans install water wells and septic systems on their properties. But with a maze of codes governing their use along with a host of design requirements that ensure their functionality where can someone turn for comprehensive, one-stop guidance? Enter the Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook from McGraw-Hill. Written in language any property owner can understand yet detailed enough for professionals and technical students this easy-to-use volume delivers the latest techniques and code requirements for designing, building, rehabilitating, and maintaining private water wells and septic systems. Bolstered by a wealth of informative charts, tables, and illustrations, this book delivers: * Current construction, maintenance, and repair methods
* New International Private Sewage Disposal Code
* Up-to-date standards from the American Water Works Association
Wells and Septic Systems, Alth, Max and Charlet, Rev. by S. Blackwell Duncan, $ 18.95; Tab Books 1992. We have found this text very useful for conventional well and septic systems design and maintenance --DF.
Quoting an Amazon description:Here's all the information you need to build a well or septic system yourself - and save a lot of time, money, and frustration. S. Blackwell Duncan has thoroughly revised and updated this second edition of Wells and Septic Systems to conform to current codes and requirements. He also has expanded this national bestseller to include new material on well and septic installation, water storage and distribution, water treatment, ecological considerations, and septic systems for problem building sites.