Septic Loading & Dye Test Step 1
Do This Before Starting the Test
Septic system testing procedure
- SEPTIC TEST PRE-CHECKS - CONTENTS: How to conduct a septic system inspection & test properly: what to inspect, document & what else to do before starting the septic loading & dye test. What to ask the property owner about a septic system & its history. Obtaining permission for a septic inspection and test. Warnings about pumping the septic tank before a septic test
- POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about preparing for a septic loading & dye test
Septic loading & dye testing, step 1:
This article provides details the first step of the Septic Loading and Dye Test procedure for testing the function of septic systems, focused on condition of the effluent disposal section, also known as a leach field, seepage pits, drainfield or drainage field.
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WHAT TO DO BEFORE - the Septic Inspection and Test
Here we describe key steps to take before actually beginning the onsite septic system inspection and test procedure.
Our photo (left) shows a home-made septic tank abutting the building wall (upper left in the photo). We saw a septic effluent pump on the ground, above ground piping, and concluded that the entire system was home-made and very doubtful.
On flushing a toilet in the home, the effluent pump sprayed sewage through the air and on bystanders - needless to say this was an unsanitary event and not much of a septic system.
Our photo (below left) shows the septic effluent pump in its makeshift installation.
It was evident that the system was not functional, not sanitary, and really unsafe for bystanders. A system like this should not be tested nor operated without taking steps to protect the inspector and others.
- Questions To Ask the Property Owner About the Septic System
- Where are the septic tank and other system components located? (For help locating septic tanks see Tank Location - How to Find the Septic Tank)
- What is installed? (Steel tank, concrete tank, drain field, seepage pits, drywells, galleys, etc.)?
- What is the maintenance and repair history of the system? (Last pumped, what repairs have been done, pumping
history and frequency, backups, etc.)
Helpful information is provided by answers to septic system questions, even if the answer is "I don't know"
The septic information questions about the history of a septic system we list above are deliberately a bit vague and open ended to permit a property owner to volunteer what information
they may have about the condition of the septic system.
Our photo (left) shows a home with a septic system very close to a river - you can see the river in the center of the photo. The property owner had no idea where the septic tank nor drainfield were, and we couldn't see much space for these components on the small lot that was mostly driveway and parking area.
We inserted septic dye into the system and began running water, running down to the river to watch for our dye appearing in that body.
Our septic dye never made it to the river, and we were quickly called back up the bank by our clent who pointed out the red dyed sewage effluent that came flowing out of the driveway and towads the basement entry door.
The septic system consisted of a tank and leachfield located under the driveway - too close to the river, too compacted and destroyed by vehicle traffic, and really, too awful.
Because an owner may not recall the septic system maintenance
history or may not be familiar with onsite waste disposal
terminology, the inspector and client should obtain and consider but should not blindly
rely on simple oral statements about the type of equipment installed.
These questions can be given to the inspector's client well before the site inspection, to permit the client
or real estate agent to present them to the property owner, particularly if the owner is not going to be at the site
at the time of the inspection.
- Obtain Permission: by informing the real estate agent and through agent an owner, or if owner is present, ask the
owner's permission before performing this test.
- Do Not Pump the Septic Tank Before the Test - an owner who offers to provide this service for a prospective
buyer may be (inadvertently) preventing a valid septic loading and dye test.
We want the system to be in-use or at least
the septic tank to be at its normal level of liquid and waste (its normal condition) at the time of testing.
More details about the problem of septic tank pumpouts as a cover-up of a septic problem or failure
are at Don't Pump Before Testing Septic Systems: warnings for home buyers about septic tank pumping.
- Confirm that the septic tank has not just been pumped before starting a loading and dye test, by visual inspection and by asking
the septic system maintenance history. If the inspector sees fresh excavation in a likely septic
tank location it is possible that the tank was pumped recently.
If the system has not been used
sufficiently since pumping the septic loading and dye test should be postponed until the tank has first been
filled. Otherwise the "loading test" is simply filling the tank rather than pushing any liquid test volume
into the drain field.
- Septic system records: Are there written records of septic system installation, repair, or maintenance? Home inspectors performing a
septic loading and dye test are not required to review written records nor to perform offsite research at a health or
building department facility. Some inspectors may elect to offer that service for an additional fee.
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 OUTSIDE SEPTIC PRE-TEST INSPECTION or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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SEPTIC TEST PRE-CHECKS at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Publisher's Google+ Page by Daniel Friedman
Click to Show or Hide Citations & References
- New York State Department of Health, "Appendix 75-A Wastewater Treatment Standards - Individual Household Systems", [PDF] New York State Department of Health, 3 February 2010, retrieved 3/1/2010, original source: https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/nycrr/title_10/part_75/appendix_75-a.htm
- Inspecting Septic Systems: Online Book, Inspection, Test, Diagnosis, Repair, & Maintenance: our Online Septic Book: Septic Testing, Loading & Dye Tests, Septic Tank Pumping, Clearances, details of onsite waste disposal system inspection, testing, repair procedures.
- 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
- Septic Systems Inspection, Testing, & Maintenance - online textbook. Detailed how to inspect, maintain, repair information
- Septic Tank Pumping Guide: When, Why, How to pump the septic tank
- 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.
- How Big Should the Leach Field Be? - table of soil percolation rate vs. field size
- Septic System Drainfield Absorption System Biomat Formation - what leads to drain field clogging and expensive drainfield repairs
- Table of Required Septic & Well Clearances: Distances Between Septic System & Wells, Streams, Trees, etc.
- 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.)
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
- 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.