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Photograph of  a home made septic tank being excavated after total failure was discovered
24 hours after moving in to a new home. The septic inspector failed to perform a valid septic inspection and test. Septic Test Failure Lawsuit:
A Defective Septic Inspection and Septic System Failure Litigation Case Study
     

  • SEPTIC FAILURE LAWSUIT - CONTENTS: Review of litigation involving a septic inspection, test, and subsequent septic system failure. An improper "septic inspection & test" was conducted by home buyers, failing even a hance of detecting that the septic system was in total failure. A review of improper and inadequate septic system inspection & testing procedures
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to prove whether or not a septic system inspection & test were conducted properly.
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This document describes a septic lawsuit: a defective septic test and bad septic inspection led to a lawsuit after property buyers discovered, 24-hours after moving in to their new home, that the septic system was not functional, having a totally blocked septic tank and a completely failed leach field.

The text demonstrates how to prove that a septic inspection and dye test were improperly conducted, failing to have even a chance of protecting the client from the expensive surprise need to completely replace a septic tank and leach field.

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Septic Failure Lawsuit - Litigation Addresses Inadequate Septic System Inspection & Testing that Failed to Detect a Non-Functional Septic System

Plaintiff's Complaint: Septic Test Was Not Properly Performed

Where the septic dye was placed shows the problem (C) Daniel Friedman[home inspector's name deleted] performed a septic dye test, erred by putting water in laundry sink in the basement; ran 125g water, reported system in satisfactory condition;

Buyer later found no proper system installed, had to install a "trans vac" pump up mound system, for $16,000, total damages $28,000.

Area reported to be known for poor drainage, making mound system requirement likely.

Our photo (left) shows a laundry drain (photo left foreground) where septic dye tablets (not enough of them) were placed during an improper septic loading and dye test.

In the distance (photo center and right) can be seen the house main drain. It is possible that the washing machine drain does not connect to the distant sewer line. Fixtures emptying into the sewer line, not the washing machine drain, should be used when performing a septic loading and dye test.

Approach to Analysis of the Septic System Test Complaint

Failed septic tank (C) Daniel Friedman

  1. ASHI Standards of Practice (exclude requiring Septic test)
  2. Define existing professional standards for performing visual + dye test
  3. Claim basic error made: test in laundry sink - no evidence. connects to septic

Our photograph (left) shows a home made septic tank that is packed with solid waste

. It is likely (not certain) that an adequate septic loading and dye test would manifest septic system failure as a backup or breakout during testing of a septic system such as this one.

 

Assertions Made by the Plaintiff Regarding Inadequate Performance of a Septic Loading and Dye Test - Errors of Omission and Commission

Septic dye being placed into a toilet (C) Daniel Friedman

  1. Visual inspection during septic test: Common practice includes visual inspection of yard and interior and plumbing to address the pertinent questions, + dye, volume of water, reinspection for breakout. Pertinent questions include attempting to assure that drain used for test drains into the septic fields.
  2. Proper water quantity during septic test: An error can be inferred if dye and loading water volume were not introduced into the proper drains. If this is the case, whether or not the proper volume of water was run is probably moot because the wrong drain was used. The report indicated that insufficient water was used.
  3. Tracer dye quantity during septic test: A septic test procedure error also can be inferred if the inspector did not use sufficient quantity of septic dye to provide color in effluent IF effluent was observed at or near the property ground surfaces.

    If no effluent appeared during the test, the quantity or concentration of septic dye used is moot. In the litigation discussed here the inspector used septic dye tablets at a level that was inadequate to produce a visible result, had water and septic dye been placed into the proper drain.
  4. Soil characteristics and septic testing: is possible that knowledge of area soil characteristics, age of property, local building conditions and practices, might have served as a basis for caution or warning, regardless of whether or not dye was found at the surface. Such warnings are at the discretion of the inspector.

Questions In Determination of Adequacy of Septic Test Performed

  1. Is there visual evidence in basement of the subject property that the laundry sink does not or might not drain to same location as main house sewer line? [Yes-arrangement of piping; height of exit of septic drain above sink]
  2. Does client recall and can testify that dye was introduced only in drywell?
    • How much water was run?
    • Over what time? (125 g in 1/2hr is about 4.2 gpm which is possible from a reasonably strong flow at a single sink faucet. Typically 3-4 gpm for a kitchen sink, or single tub, depending on pump pressure switch settings, control valve settings, clogged piping, type of pump, etc.)
    • What type of well and pump equipment are provided? Shallow well, deep well, submersible pump vs 2-line jet pump?
    • At what pressure does the pump cut in and out, what type of holding tank is installed, what is the average water pressure in the house, what is the measured flow in gpm from the faucet used to perform the test? only. 125 gals in 1/2 hr is possible and reasonable, but a bit less than the usual volume of water run for septic tests.
  3. Would a conventional and properly conducted test absolutely, probably, possibly have revealed a failed system?
    • what conditions led to discovery of failure (number of occupants, level of usage, time until failure noted after initial occupancy)?
    • exactly what equipment was discovered when the old system was excavated?
    • can one reliably infer from what was discovered that question 3 is pertinent and that q3 can be answered?

Court Hearing Notes regarding inadequate septic testing complaint

  1. Water was run into laundry drain (photo shown above), nowhere near and no visible connection to main house drain; photo details strongly suggest laundry drain does not or may not drain to septic - wrong place to test. No dye was used.
  2. Septic report indicates dye was used etc - in boilerplate. Minimal info. provided by report
  3. Home inspection report - a checklist form - completely blank plumbing section - suspect inspector was distracted by something and just forgot this topic - does not meet ASHI standards for plumbing inspection.
  4. Septic failed immediately on occupancy - probably less than 200g water run.
  5. Subsequent discovery on excavation indicates no functioning septic - sludged tank, no leach lines except. one pipe, completely root-filled. Strong possibility that a proper loading and dye test would have failed;

7/3/95 Note to File: arbitrator found for the plaintiff in full, holding that a proper septic loading and dye test had not been not performed and the protection contracted-for was not provided.

Key in this case was that the plaintiff did not attempt to prove that a properly performed septic test would definitely have discovered the failed septic system, although given the totally impacted septic tank a proper test would almost certainly have done so. Rather the plaintiff argued that the contracted-for protection was not provided. In other words, the plaintiff was denied even the opportunity to possibly discover that the septic system had failed because the "septic test" performed by the inspector was completely incompetent.

© 2014 - 1984 DF. Citation of this article by reference to this website and brief quotation for the sole purpose of review are permitted. Use of this information at other websites, in books or pamphlets for sale is reserved to the author. Technical review by industry experts has been performed and comments from readers are welcomed. Contributors are listed at the end of each article.

This article is part of our series: Inspecting, Testing, & Maintaining Residential Septic Systems an online book on septic systems.

SEPTPROB.TXT - Excerpt from DJ Friedman arbitration file

Suggested citation for this web page

SEPTIC TANK PUMPING MISTAKES at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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