FCPH: Septic inspection Q&A – The Record Herald

Many of you in Fayette County have septic systems on your property. Most of you will probably have an inspection of this septic tank and I’m sure you have some questions about the inspection and how it’s done. Well, I’m here today to walk you through the septic inspection process and to answer some of the common questions we receive every day here at Fayette County Public Health (FCPH).

Why do I need an inspection of my sewage treatment plant?

All septic systems in Fayette County are subject to inspection. Ohio Administrative Code 3701-29-23 states: “At any reasonable time, the Department of Health may inspect STS, any portion thereof, or proposed STS sites to collect samples, collect data, or perform other activities necessary to establish the ensure compliance with this chapter.” “(2) Health departments will work with interested stakeholders to develop a timetable and process for the phased introduction of operations and maintenance management for previously installed systems, and should consider risk factors such as system age, complexity, and risks to the consider public health when establishing the criteria and procedures for phasing in previously installed systems, except as provided in paragraph (B) of this rule.”

Depending on the type, sewage treatment plants can be quite complex. Some are gravity fed, going from the septic tank to a leach field, others contain aeration motors, UV lights, lift pumps and other mechanical parts. These parts must be checked to ensure they continue to function to avoid a system failure that causes environmental pollution.

Why am I checked every year and my neighbor is not?

One of the most common questions I get weekly is, “Why is my system checked but my neighbor isn’t? This ties in with the previous question, it all depends on what type of system is on your property, what parts it has, and if the system discharges.

If your system has an aerator system, you will need to have your system checked once a year due to the complex mechanical parts that the system has. An aerator system has a motor that supplies oxygen to beneficial bacteria that break down the solids in a septic system. If the bacteria don’t have oxygen, they die and the solids don’t break down, and eventually you have an environmental impact and a very costly fix.

Other systems have lift pumps that pump wastewater to a leach field or discharge point, an area that allows clean treated wastewater to be discharged into the environment, usually a body of water. These systems are reviewed every two years. In contrast to an aerator system, the motor of a lifting pump does not work constantly. These systems are usually timed or activated when the sewage level reaches a certain point. If the pump fails, the waste water backs up and you have an environmental impact.

In case you’re asking, “Hey, I don’t have any mechanical parts, but I get inspected every two years, why?” If your system drains into a body of water, it needs to be inspected to make sure no environmental pollution is getting into the water.

If you have a system that runs conventionally, septic to depleted, your system needs to be inspected every ten years.

How does FCPH conduct a septic inspection?

If you choose to have FCPH do your inspection, it will cost $40. Having FCPH perform your inspection is the cheapest way to have your inspection performed. However, FCPH does not perform routine cleaning or maintenance of your sewage system. This is an inspection only, if you wish to have your system serviced or cleaned we recommend a service provider to do your inspection, I will address service providers in the next question.

The inspection process is done quickly. The inspector arrives at the property and has a detailed drawing of where your septic tank is located on your property, including where the drain lines are or where the system discharges. The inspector will find the septic tank and look for sewage on the surface of the earth. If the system has an aerator system, the inspector will then check the aerator to make sure it is working properly.

After looking at the tank, the inspector drives to where the lye lines are located to make sure no waste water spills onto the floor surface. The sewage is black foul smelling water with muddy discharge, don’t touch it. When the system discharges, the inspector goes to the place where the system discharges. This is in many cases in a wooded area with a body of water. The inspector will ensure that the discharge is clear and clean and does not have the foul-smelling black tint previously noted.

If there are inspection openings or boxes afterwards, they are also inspected. After that the inspection is finished, a report is written and sent to the owner of the property as well as the invoice. It’s short, sweet and to the point.

Can I have someone else check my system?

If you are looking to have a more comprehensive inspection of your system including cleaning, sampling and general maintenance, I recommend having your inspection performed by a registered service provider. These inspections are more expensive but can keep your system in good shape. We cannot specifically recommend any service providers, but we can provide a list of all service providers for Fayette County. If your system is an NPDES, Mound, or DRIP system, you must have a service provider perform the inspection. These systems require much more detailed inspection and some require sampling, and FCPH does not currently offer this service.

What do I do if my system is not working properly?

With sewage treatment plants, it is not a question of whether but when the sewage treatment plant fails. All septic systems have a shelf life like everything else in a home, be it the roof, air conditioner or furnace. Sewage systems have a service life of about forty-fifty years, they inevitably have problems, breakdowns and total failures.

If your system is having problems and you have a contract with a service provider, contact them as soon as possible. If you don’t have a service provider and are having problems with your septic system, please call FCPH and we can help you find a solution to your problem – from locating a service provider to repair your aeration system to assisting with Acquisition of a new system. If your system fails, don’t procrastinate.

If you’re concerned about the cost of a system, there are grants that the EPA may award you if you meet certain parameters. These grants can contribute fifty to one hundred percent towards the cost of a new system!

I hope I have answered some of your questions regarding the septic inspection process. I know that many of you may still have questions about your treatment plant. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the FCPH Environmental Health Department (740-333-3590) and we will do our best to answer your questions.

If you see me inspecting your system and have a question, don’t hesitate to ask me and I will do my best to answer your question. Have a nice day and don’t be shy to say hello if you see me in the field.

Eric Newcomer is an Environmental Health Engineer and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) program coordinator at Fayette County Public Health. For more information, call Eric at 740-333-3590.

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