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This article explains how to determine if a public sewer line is available at a given property or building. Previously in this article on how to determine if a building is connected to a public sewer or to a private septic tank we explained what basic questions to ask. Continuing here, we find out if a public sewer line is available at all at a property. If no one knows, this is the first question to settle. If a public sewer is present the building may or may not be connected to it. But if no sewer is available at a property then a buyer needs to use different, and more involved and detailed investigative steps to find and check out the septic tank and drainfield.
These clues suggest that a public or community sewer system is or is not present at a building
Municipal building department: This data is normally recorded with the town, village, or other municipality in which the home is located. Ask your town or village building department if your street and the homes on it are connected to a sewer.
Ask your neighbors about sewer lines or septic tanks: occupants of any neighborhood have a vital interest in local handling of waste and wastewater. Even if you or a realtor or attorney don't know if a sewer line is present or if homes have been connected, and even if there is no prior owner available to ask about your particular building, your neighbors are likely to know about their own buildings.
Age of the sewer: If a sewer system is present, ask when it was installed so that you can compare that with the age of the building or home you are buying.
Manholes: Also if you see large manholes in the street, especially if the lid says “SEWER” then a local sewer is probably present.
Our photo shows a sewer main access cover.
The fact that the cover projects above the level of the pavement tells us that this is a pretty new system and that final street paving is probably incomplete.
Storm Drains: If you see storm drains like this one in the street, a local sewer main may be located there as well.
But be careful! In some communities the storm drain system is separate and distinct from the sewer piping system.
However it would be odd for any community to go to the expense of installing a storm drainage system without also installing a sewer system.
Sewage Pumping stations: If the home or street is downhill from or lower than a local sewer main, a home or neighborhood pumping station (municipal lift station) will be somewhere nearby. Pumping Stations describes sewer system pumping stations.
We are referring to a large public pumping station not an individual private pumping system serving just the building you are concerned about.
A sewage grinder pump or pumping system installed at or in the individual building does not tell us whether the pump is sending waste up to a public sewer main or waste out to a private septic system that happens to be higher than the building main drain.
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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.
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
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.