Sketch of a typical conventional septic system - sketch courtesy US EPA Septic Inspection Checklists & Worksheets
for Inspecting & Testing Residential Septic Systems

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Septic system inspection field data worksheets & checklists, part 1: here are three detailed septic system field inspection and test worksheets to assist in inspecting and documenting the condition of septic systems. These septic inspection field worksheets are useful for recording information during the conduct of septic system inspections for investigations of the condition of a septic system using level 0, 1, and 2 septic inspections.

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SEPTIC INSPECTION WORK SHEETS - Septic System Inspection and Testing Worksheets

This article is part of our series: Septic Systems Online Book procedures, defects in onsite waste disposal systems, septic tank problems, septic drainfield problems, checklists of system components and things to ask. Septic system maintenance and pumping schedules.

Worksheet for Septic Inspection Level 0 - Basic Information

Photograph of septic system adjacent to a public water body. Photograph of septic test water flowing into an old site-built septic system.

A surprising amount of useful diagnostic information about the condition of a septic tank and drainfield can be developed by a thoughtful visual inspection of the property even before any steps to test the septic system have begun. The two photos above show a case in which an old home-made septic tank was located just a few feet from a public lake.

You can see our septic test water pouring into the septic tank in the upper right part of the right hand photo. The jumble of stones visible just inside the septic "tank" indicate that this is a home-made system, perhaps simply a cesspool. With the nearby stream and lake just a few feet away, this system is unlikely to be acceptable by modern standards of sanitation and building code. Below we've printed our field data collection worksheets used for septic system inspection.

INSPECTION DATE:_____________________________________________________________
INSPECTION ADDRESS:__________________________________________________________
INSPECTOR's NAME:____________________________________________________________
CLIENT's NAME:_______________________________________________________________
The system was NOT INSPECTED because: _______________________________________
UNSAFE CONDITIONS OBSERVED, PEOPLE NOTIFIED: ________________________________

 System Age: _______________________  Information Source: Seller/Realtor/Other
 Recent Nr. Occupants: _____________  Year Round: Y/N Nr. Bedrooms:________
 Currently Occupied:   Y/N Vacant since:______________
 Tank Last Pumped:__________________  Garbage Disposal:  Y/N
 Separate Drywell/Drain for Washer/Other:________________
 Calculated or other Specific Flow or Load:___________________________________

  LOCATION:   Not Identified.   Reported/observed at:________________
           Information Source: Seller/Realtor/Other
  TYPE:    Not Identified.   Reported/observed at:________________
   Concrete/Steel/Other:_____________ Information Source: Seller/Realtor/Other
   Septic Tank / Aerobic Tank / Grease Trap
   Cesspool / Overflow Cesspool / Privy
   Is System Shared:  Y/N    Previous Inspection Records Attached: Y/N
   Damage/Defects Observed:________________________________________________
  CAPACITY:   Not Visible.   Reported/observed at:________________
   Gallons: _________________________ Information Source: Seller/Realtor/Other
  COVER:   Not Visible.   Reported/observed at:________________
   Concrete/Steel/Other:_____________ Information Source: Seller/Realtor/Other
   Damage/Defects Observed: child-hazard, missing, not secure, damaged,  __
  AGE OF COMPONENTS:      Information Source: Seller/Realtor/Other
  NOTICE:  Low volume minimum-flush toilets/waste disposal system installed.

Sketch of a raised-bed septic system - sketch courtesy US EPA.

If a septic mound system or raised bed septic system is installed, a pump may be required to move effluent from a pumping chamber up to the mound treatment area.

[Click to enlarge any image]

The presence of a septic mound will be quite obvious but the presence or absence of a pump serving the mound may be less apparent. Look for control boxes, pumping chamber access cover, and of course request whatever information a prior owner may be able to provide - but don't' rely on that data to be complete.

  PUMP-Mound  Not Visible.   Reported/observed at:________________
   Operating Satisfactorily  Y/N   Information Source: Seller/Realtor/Other
  PUMP-Ejector   Not Visible.   Reported/observed at:________________
   Operating Satisfactorily  Y/N   Information Source: Seller/Realtor/Other

  LOCATION:   Not Identified.   Reported/observed at:________________
           Information Source: Seller/Realtor/Other
   Damage/Defects Observed:________________________________________________
  TYPE:    Not Identified.   Reported/observed at:________________
   Cesspool   Capacity:___________ Information Source: Seller/Realtor/Other
   Seepage Bed   Trench System   Elevated Mound/Sand
   Indications of previous failure: Odors, Seepage, Lush Vegetation,
   Gray Water discharge. to surface/stream/storm drain;
   Parking, driveway, runoff, shrubs, trees over drainfield;
   Construction/additions over drainfield;

 --SATISFACTORY-- good to fair condition
No visual evidence of system failure, functional drain flow was observed.
EXPLANATION: At the time of our inspection the sewage disposal system appeared
to be working normally and adequately. There was no evidence of stopped main
drains, no unusual septic odors.
[If a loading/dye test was NOT performed:] By your instruction, we did not
perform a system loading and dye test. Important additional information about
system condition is available from this and other levels of septic inspection.
[There was/was not evidence of recent excavation or repair - which suggests
that additional questions to owner or investigation are in order.]
[If a loading/dye test was performed:] Report details of dye test procedures
(see below), and results.

WATER run at:______________________ for __________ minutes prior to introducing
tracer dye.
TRACER DYE placed at: ____________________________
WATER RUN at these fixtures:___________________________________________________
FOR ________________________ minutes at an ESTIMATED AVERAGE FLOW OF ______GPM

Sketch of a failed septic system on a difficult steep rocky site. Sketch of a failed septic system on a difficult steep rocky site.

These photographs show three reasons to believe there is no working septic system at this property and that installing one will be costly: there is no area on the site which is not very rocky - there is a lack of soil for effluent treatment; the site is very steep, and even before beginning the septic loading and dye test there is visible runout that may be septic effluent coming from a tiny home-made septic tank.

The first photo (above left) shows water running across rock near the reported septic tank location before we began our septic loading test. The second or right-hand photo shows the increase in water running across this rock shortly after we began testing this septic system.


---UNSATISFACTORY-- poor condition or nonfunctional
 Evidence of failure/improper operation was observed:
   System backup   (system backs up into house)
   System breakout (discharge or ponding of effluent on ground surface)
   System blockage (system backs up and leaks at tank or distribution. box)
       (static liquid level in distribution box above outlet)
       (liquid level in cesspool less  than 6" below invert or
      available volume less than 1/2 day flow)
   Hydraulic overload (excess. water in absorption area, effluent @ surface)
       (fields may be undersized, improperly located, damaged)
       (fields may be improperly installed, unbalanced)
   Maintenance failure (fields damaged by solids flowing from tank/tree roots)
   Mechanical damage  (driving over leach fields, damage piping/trenches)
   Groundwater flowing onto/into/flooding absorption area
   Mound systems: improper slope, insufficient soil layer, on flood plain,
    less than 5' from property line,
    less than 50' from stream; pump defects;
   Other Defects:
  (pumping multiple times during past year (e.g. less than 4))
  (damaged tank, baffles, distribution box, other)
  (Absorption system located in low/wet areas)
  (Components within 50' of a surface stream, pond, river, or private well)
  (Between 50 and 100' from a private well with no acceptable water analysis)
  (Components within 100' of a tributary to a surface water supply)
  (Too close to a public well (depends on state regulations.))
  (Cesspool or privy within 50' of a protected wetland)

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