Septic System Inspections | Wake County Government

Nearly a quarter of a million people in Wake County are served by sewer systems, but these complex, underground structures unsettle and worry residents. Many are unsure exactly how the systems work, but more importantly, they don't realize that a lack of care could end up costing them thousands and putting them at risk of contaminating their drinking water and our environment. That's why Wake County is working to inform septic tank owners that help is available.

Septic systems work by burying tanks and drain lines in the ground to collect wastewater from sinks, toilets, showers and washing machines. The systems then retain the solids while the liquid percolates through several feet of soil, where microbes and other biological processes remove harmful bacteria. If this process does not work, bacteria and viruses from human waste can contaminate drinking water supplies and nearby recreational waters, posing a public health problem.

The best way to prevent problems before they worsen is to get a free inspection from the Wake County Water Quality team. They perform approximately 500 septic inspections each year. There are no fees for property owners, site inspections are conducted year-round, and the resident does not even need to be home at the time of the inspection. Following the visit, the septic tank owner will receive a detailed report via email or mail to review any issues or concerns.

Aside from being extremely helpful to homeowners, these inspections are also required by law within certain time frames depending on the type of septic system. The water quality team keeps track of the need for an upcoming inspection and sends a notice to each wastewater treatment plant owner informing them that an inspector will be visiting in the coming weeks. Homeowners also have the opportunity to make special appointment arrangements; for example, if they need to unlock a fence or remove pets from a garden near the sewage treatment plant.

There are four types of wastewater treatment plants in Wake County that require state-mandated inspections*:

  • Type IIIB – This type of system includes a single wastewater pump and is often used in residential buildings served by an on-site septic tank. A Type IIIB septic tank requires an inspection by Wake County staff every five years.
  • Type IV – This type of system involves more than one wastewater pump or systems that utilize low pressure pipe distribution for the drainage field. A Type IV system requires an inspection by Wake County staff every three years.
  • Type V – This type of system includes advanced pretreatment components or other more complex wastewater treatment and distribution technologies. A Type V system requires an inspection by Wake County staff each year.
  • Type VI – This type of system involves planned wastewater flows greater than 3,000 gallons per day or systems incorporating wastewater reuse or recycling technologies. A Type VI system requires inspection by Wake County staff twice per year.

    *Per government regulation, Types IV, V and VI require the system owner to contract with a certified operator or appropriately licensed management entity to perform maintenance tasks specific to the system type. This is a separate requirement to the Wake County inspection frequencies listed above.

To address problems found during an inspection, Wake County offers numerous programs to assist low-income, elderly and disabled residents who may not be able to afford the repairs, and offers non-refundable grants of up to $20,000 must . Properly maintained wastewater systems can last 25 years or longer without replacement, providing a trouble-free and cost-effective wastewater service for our growing county.

For more information, please call 919-856-7400 or contact us at [email protected].

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