Below you’ll find the answers to a number of questions that our customers routinely ask. If you’re interested in learning more about the permitting process or if you have difficulty understanding the terminology in these questions, please use the links on the right to learn more.
- Learn the terminology.
If you’re unfamiliar with septic systems and permitting terminology, please review the list of terms and definitions that you will find on our site.
- How does a septic system work ?
All onsite residential septic systems operate with the same goal in mind, that is to biologically treat all water used in the home and safely return it to the environment. Settling tanks also referred to as septic tanks are common to all septic systems. The purpose of these tanks is to trap the solids carried from the house via the sewer line and separate these solids from the water. This water now called effluent is then treated by the many variations of septic systems.
- How often do I need to pump my septic tank ?
The reason for pumping a septic tank is to prevent solids from building up to a point where they begin overflowing and exiting the septic tank and potentially plugging other components of the septic system. On today’s modern systems we recommend a minimum of every two years. Number of household residents also plays a role in the recommended pumping frequency. Many municipalities are now adopting this minimum two year guideline.
- I have never pumped my septic tank and do not know where it is located. What should I do ?
A trained professional can usually spot the location of an existing tank simply by variations in the grounds characteristics. There are also locating devices designed for this task such as, probe rods and electronic locating equipment that can be flushed down the toilet.
- What type of septic system do I have on my property ?
There are many different types of septic systems many with unique characteristics. Are the tanks lids exposed ? Is there a large mound or hill on the property? Do you have an alarm system in or around the home? This information can help in determining the type of system you may have. Please feel free to contact us. Sometimes an answer can be determined over the phone. We would also be happy to stop by the property and take a look and help determine your system type.
- What causes a septic system to fail?
Many contributing factors can lead to septic system failure. Not pumping the septic tank on a routine basis greatly increases the chance of system failure. Other reasons may be pump(s) failures, lack of routine maintenance, improper disposal of household products and cleaning agents, excessive water usage or ground water entering a leaking system component. An older system may even have been incorrectly built on unsatisfactory soil conditions, that can simply not absorb the household water.
- What household products are harmful to my septic system?
The most common and most harmful items we routinely find being used in the household are cleaning products containing chlorine bleach, These include chlorine bleach being used in the laundry, toilet bowl cleaning products containing chlorine bleach and salt brine backwash from water softener units.
Many septic system component manufacturers will void all company warranties if salt brine backwash is found to be discharging into the septic system.
NEVER FLUSH THE FOLLOWING:
Disposable diapers, bones, sanitary napkins, tampons, tampon applicators, condoms, coffee grounds, plastic band aids, bandage wrappers, dental floss and cigarette butts will not break down. Throw them in the trash. Otherwise they accumulate in your septic tank. Petroleum based and latex paints will inactivate the bacteria located inside your septic tank and can pollute the ground water.
- How do I know if I have a failing septic system?
The definition of a failing septic system is improperly treated water / sewage entering the environment. Many homeowners have failing septic systems and never know they have a problem. The household drains seem to be working correctly from inside the home. The problem exists outside the home. Where is all that water going? Many instances are of overflow pipes going over a hillside, gravel trenches that are suppose to absorb the effluent, but only work during the dry seasons of the year. Take the time to walk around your property, wet spots in the yard, unknown purpose pipes, constant water in road ditches, all can be indicators of potential problems. If you are unaware of where your septic system is located that is also a good indicator that your system may not be functioning properly.
- How much does a septic system cost?
The price of a septic system is determined by the type and size of the system required on your specific property. The system type and size is determined by soil testing conducted by a sewage enforcement officer. Once the soil characteristics are know we will match the most appropriate type of system to the specific property. Without this specific knowledge a cost would only be a guess at best.
- My old septic system is failing, but I cannot afford the cost of a new septic system?
Penvest loan info
- I am looking at purchasing an unimproved piece of property. What do I need to know about installing a septic system?
Before purchasing any property the potential buyer should always have a soil probe conducted. This determines what type of septic system will be required on that particular property. In some cases the seller may have already had a soil probe conducted. In this case always ask for a copy of all the reports, paying specific attention to the date the soil probe was conducted, as expiration dates do exist and the property may need to be retested. The type of septic system determined to be installed will greatly affect the cost of installation and the value of the property. Admittedly the cost of having a properties soil tested is not inexpensive, however the potential cost of not having the soil tested could be catastrophic. Many potential buyers and sellers come to agreement to negotiate the costs, as the soil probe is valuable to both parties involved.
- What type of septic system do I need to install?
Before purchasing any property the potential buyer should always have a soil probe conducted. This determines what type of septic system will be required on that particular property. In some cases the seller may have already had a soil probe conducted. In this case always ask for a copy of all the reports, paying specific attention to the date the soil probe was conducted, as expiration dates do exist, and the property may need to be retested as some soil requirements may have changed since the soil probe was conducted. The type of septic system determined to be installed will greatly affect the cost of installation, as septic systems can range from $3,500 to $30,000 greatly affecting the value of the property. Admittedly the cost of having a properties soil tested is not inexpensive, however the potential cost of not having the soil tested could be catastrophic. Many potential buyers and sellers come to agreement to negotiate the costs, as the soil probe is valuable to both parties involved.
Existing Home :
Before purchasing an existing home the potential buyer should always have a qualified installer / service provider conduct an inspection of the existing septic system to help determine if there are potential problems with the system. Typically a Dye Test is conducted, where colored dye is introduced into all drains and toilets, including floor drains. Where this dye appears outdoors can be an indicator of the condition of the existing septic system. A dye test alone is not a sufficient test of the systems functionality. This is the reason for the qualified installer/service provider. His or her expertise becomes invaluable in this situation. If the existing septic system is found to be failing and simple repairs can not correct the condition, then a new system would need to be installed. The steps to proceed would be the same as vacant land as described above.
- I am looking at purchasing a home with a septic system. What questions should I be asking the seller?
What type of septic system is on the property?
Where is the location of the septic tank(s)?
Where is the location of the septic system (absorption field)?
When was the system installed?
When was the system last serviced?
If any of these questions can not be answered by the seller then we highly recommend contacting our company to assist you.
There are many different types of septic systems many with unique characteristics.
Are the tanks lids exposed?
Is there a large mound or hill on the property?
Do you have an alarm system in or around the home?
This information can help in determining the type of system you may have. Please feel free to contact us. Sometimes an answer can be determined over the phone. We would also be happy to stop by the property and take a look and help determine your system type.
- Can I use a garbage disposal in my house if I have a septic system?
The bacteria located in the septic tank cannot efficiently digest the waste from a garbage disposal unit. More frequent tank pumping would result and the potential for excessive solids passing through the septic tank would increase the chances of premature failure for the entire septic system. We strongly recommend not using a garbage disposal when connected to a septic system.
- What type of maintenance should I be doing to my septic system?
NEVER ENTER A SEPTIC TANK! DEATH CAN RESULT!
Depending on the system type, detailed maintenance instructions should be given to the homeowner by the systems’ installer at the time of installation.
If you have an existing system that was installed in the past, at a minimum the septic tank should be pumped out if it has not been done so in the past few years. When having the septic tank pumped ask the operator to inspect the entire septic system and have them explain in detail the operation of the system and its components. The type of system will determine the maintenance required.
- Do I need a service provider?
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has a minimum of maintenance requirements for some types of septic systems. Local municipalities may also have minimum maintenance requirements that supersede PADEP. In some instances the homeowner can be trained to do this maintenance. So the answer is dependent upon the type of system you may have.
- Do I need to sign a maintenance contract with a service provider?
Nearly all of today’s modern septic systems and their components require regularly scheduled maintenance visits by trained technicians to maintain the company’s product warranty’s . These companies do require a maintenance contract to be signed upon system startup, or during the permitting process.