Conducting wastewater system inspection Conducting wastewater system inspection Conducting wastewater system inspection


New Inspection Schedule
Prior to your Inspection
What to expect at your Routine Wastewater Inspection
Gravity System Inspection
Pumped System / Sand Filter Inspection
After the Inspection

New Inspection Schedule:
Since September 1995, the Onsite Wastewater Management Program (OSWMP) has reorganized the inspection schedule so that neighboring systems will be evaluated under identical conditions. Systems will be inspected during periods of use (i.e., not when the house had been standing vacant) to promote efficiency and to minimize travel time. This means that your system may be inspected at a different time than previously.

Many customers have expressed surprise at the thoroughness of the current inspections, and have wondered about the new "Discharge Permits" and what constitutes "Failure."

Prior to Your Inspection:
To facilitate inspection and to avoid the expense of rescheduling and reinspection please comply with the following:

ACCESS   -   all elements must be accessible - clear all debris/soil from septic tank risers, trim all landscaping, move any obstruction (i.e., bird bath, monuments, etc.). District inspector must have access to alarms, panels, monitoring wells, pumps, diversion valves, etc. Remove any padlocks from panels or lids. All deck hatches must be easily removable., if screwed down, please remove all screws prior to the inspector's arrival. All lids must weigh less than 25 pounds.
WATER   -   water service must be turned on and easily accessible. Please ensure that irrigation systems do not interfere with water availability.
DOGS   -   during the inspection, please confine all dogs or aggressive pets.
GATES   -   all gates must be unlocked prior to inspection.
POWER   -   If your systems incorporates a pump and/or alarm, then the property owners must ensure that electrical power is activated during the inspection.

We suggest that you don't have your tank pumped prior to inspection (unless directed to by a Repair order). Also, generally the owner's presence is not required for inspection.

Exposing an access riser What to Expect at Your Routine Wastewater Inspection:
On the morning of your inspection day, an OSWMP inspector will first identify his/her presence on your property and then get to work. The inspector must locate all components of the wastewater disposal system (septic tank access ports, diversion valve, leachfield(s), panels, alarms and monitoring or inspection wells). Prior to starting the inspection, he/she will survey the property for signs of ponded water, unusual plant growth and note any septic odors. The inspector will then locate a source of water and open the septic tank. Upon opening the tank the static level is noted and measured from a fixed point, and scum and sludge levels are measured. Based on these measurements and the quality of the effluent, a recommendation regarding pumping is given. The inspector will also note the condition of the tank and if sanitary tees are in place. The system is then hydraulically loaded (i.e., water is added to test the system).

At this point the inspection varies depending on the type of system you have.

Gravity System Inspection:
If your system is a single or dual gravity leachfield, the inspector will surcharge the septic tank with from 50 to 100 gallons of water per field. During the testing, the inspector will periodically measure the rise in the water surface at the outlet side of the tank. A rise of 1/4 inch to one inch is normal for a properly operating system. If the leachfield pipe is either becoming blocked by roots or if the leachfield operation itself is becoming impaired, the rise may be closer to three to four inches. At the conclusion of the testing, the inspector watches the tank level to return to normal operating level. The inspector also examines the leachfield and downslope areas for surfacing effluent. A system is considered "Failed" if the level of the tank rises more than three inches and if it does not drop within about 45 minutes. Often roots are the cause of these failures. The owner is given the opportunity to remove roots and then the system is scheduled for reinspection. If effluent surfaces or breaks out, this is considered an imminent health risk and you will be contacted immediately.

Pumped System/Sand Filter Inspection:
If your system incorporates a pump or has other components (such as a sand filter), the inspection consists of adding water to initiate pump operation. The inspector then times the pump cycle and compares the length of the cycle to design specifications and/or the time noted during the final construction inspection. The inspector reviews all the plumbing connections for water tightness, checks the adequacy of the check valves, screens and other system components. As with the gravity system inspections, the inspector inspects the sand filter and leachfields for signs of break-out of effluent. The inspector will also take readings from all panels associated with the disposal system and test the alarms to ensure that they are functioning.

After the Inspection:
After the inspection is completed, the District will notify the property owner. If the system meets the minimum criteria, then a "Notice of Completed Inspection/Repair Order" is sent. This is to inform the owner that the inspection has indeed been completed, that certain repairs are required and indicates when the next inspection will take place. After the initial inspection under the reorganized program, "Discharge Permit" is issued. The new permit does not have an expiration date; assuming the system remains in good working order, the Discharge Permit will only be updated upon change of ownership or the installation of a new system. The validity of the Discharge Permit is contingent on timely compliance with all Repair Orders. The new Discharge Permit outlines proper disposal practices and includes an average and maximum daily "Discharge Limit" that is derived from the original design criteria or from past usage and staff judgment based on the size and condition of the system. Keep this permit in a safe place because this permit will not be re-issued until the property changes hands.

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