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Septic Tank Inspection

A septic tank is an underground chamber through which wastewater flows as part of its treatment process. Typically used for domestic purposes, septic tanks are often favoured in areas of the world that have poor drainage or sewage facilities, most commonly in rural locations. Septic tanks allow for a safe disposal of wastewater that often uses more natural processes than a typical sewage system would. However, in order for septic tanks to continue performing efficiently and safely, it is strongly recommended that they are inspected on a fairly regular basis. The inspection of septic tanks often involves a number of procedures, during which a trained surveyor will carry out a range of different checks, while adhering to various health and safety rules. This article examines septic tank inspection in detail, including what an inspection involves, and any necessary procedures. It also covers how necessary an inspection is, whether one should be carried out when buying a house, its typical price, and the importance of finding a reputable company.

What is a Septic Tank Inspection?
A septic tank inspection is a large number of checks that are made on a tank and its associated pipework, to ensure that the entire septic system is functioning at a safe and efficient level. These checks are thorough and are carried out by a trained surveyor, who follows a set of procedures in order to carry out a full and detailed inspection.

Is a Septic Tank Inspection Necessary?
A septic tank inspection is highly recommended. As is the case with all apparatus, the mechanism of septic tanks can malfunction over time, and carrying out an inspection means that any problems can be spotted early on before they grow. For example, noticing any cracks as soon as they appear is very important, as cracks and faults cause sewage to leak into the groundwater around the tank, which can undermine its structure. If the owner of a septic tank notices any issues, but does not get them looked at by a professional very soon after, the problems can build up over time, causing a great amount of damage in the long run. It is also well-known that the longer problems are left unchecked, the more money will be spent on fixing a large issue later on, which could have been avoided much earlier. In the UK for example, the cost of replacing a septic tank can often exceed £10,000 ($14,000 US), which can easily be prevented by inspecting tanks much earlier.
There are also environmental dangers of not spotting problems when they first arise. For example, if a septic tank is malfunctioning and releasing raw sewage out directly into a stream or river, this can have large-scale consequences on the environment downstream, including reducing the number of fish and other aquatic species, which can significantly impact on the surrounding ecosystem. The contamination of water supplies can also be a threat to human health. Blockages and flooding from the septic tank can massively contribute to this.
Ensuring that water runoff does not enter the tank is very important, as unwanted runoff can fill the tank at a faster rate than it can flow through the outlet pipe, thereby causing sewage to flood back out if the tank fills. Furthermore, runoff water flowing into the tank from outside can also bring in sediment and debris, which can clog the outflow, subsequently increasing the occurrence of blockages. This demonstrates how, as well as being detrimental to the environment, neglecting these issues with a septic tank means that the owner could be prosecuted, for breaching environmental protection legislation. Therefore, septic tank inspections are not only rather necessary, but can also be essential.

What is Involved in a Septic Tank Inspection?
Typically, the inspection of a tank first involves a visual inspection, where brief and general checks are made on the tank. If it is found that there are potentially large-scale issues with the tank, then a more thorough septic tank inspection procedure is employed. This involves emptying the tank, thereby allowing for a thorough check within it, to ensure that there are no cracks in the sides of the tank, and that the pipework connects directly to it. An inspection does not always involve just checking the tank; sometimes relatively small-scale work, such as pumping out sludge that has accumulated on the bottom of the tank, is carried out during an inspection.
An inspection also involves checking that a septic tank is suitable to fit the property that it serves – that it is large enough to handle the number of people living on the property. It also ensures that a tank complies with environmental guidelines and legislation; in particular, that it does not discharge into any body of water (including a stream or river), onto the land at any point (apart from a designated cess pit), or into a surface water drain. Furthermore, a survey will assess whether any water runoff from the land surrounding a tank enters it.

Septic Tank Inspection Procedures
During an inspection, there is a series of typical procedures which often consist of various aspects. A septic tank inspection checklist, which is covered in further detail later on, is used to ensure that all relevant procedures are carried out. Common procedures include:
1) Checking for corrosion on the tank lids, and any sides of the tank walls and pipework (if they are made from metallic materials).
2) Assessing the level of the water in the septic tank, which helps to determine if it is backing up, or if there any leaks occurring.
3) Examining the entirety of a tank, along with its associated pipework, for any faults or cracks. This is essential in searching for not only cracks, but also for blockages, which can occur from time to time due to the narrow diameter of the pipes. Camera technology is recommended when checking the pipework.
4) Measuring the combined sludge and scum levels at the bottom of the septic tank. If these exceed a third of the tank’s working volume, it is recommended that they are pumped out.
5) Performing a load test, which simulates high water usage over a relatively short period of time.
There are further procedures involved, which are undertaken before and after an inspection. These typically include adhering to health and safety standards, ensuring that equipment is in proper working order, and that necessary action is taken in order to properly repair and improve any faults with the septic system. They are written down on a septic tank inspection checklist, which is discussed in more detail further on.

Septic Tank Inspection Checklist
A septic tank inspection checklist is used to detail exactly what surveyors should do before, during and after an inspection. It is used as a strict guide to ensure the condition and operation of a tank is properly assessed, that any maintenance made on the day of the inspection is carried out to a high standard, and to determine what larger-scale maintenance is required. A checklist includes important steps, which guide the surveyor to identify the system type and location prior to the inspection, to tick off aspects of the septic system as they inspect using checkboxes, take drawings and photographs, assign corrective actions and arrange repair work, and generate a tank inspection report. There are other steps, but the ones listed are the main parts of ensuring that a septic system is working properly, and that any malfunctioning components will be repaired.
The checklist is also important in terms of health and safety, with a list of precautions that need to be upheld before, during and after an inspection. For example, all equipment used must be kept in good condition and proper working order prior to an inspection. This ranges from cameras to safety goggles and gloves, which are essential for working in a bacteria-heavy sewage-related environment. Precautions during the inspection include wearing protective clothing at all times, only having septic tank vents open in front of you, and preventing any trip hazards. The septic tank inspection checklist covers all of these areas.

Septic Tank Inspection Report
A septic tank inspection procedure often also involves writing and producing a report. It is provided after an inspection, and details a list of any issues with the septic system and its components, repair needs, and any parts that need replacing. It is dated and signed by the surveyor, and is a very important document if you are selling a house with a septic tank, and for insurance purposes. Although the components of a report can vary depending on the size of the work and the level of inspection, a well-written report should be consistent with the set standards of an inspection company, not using different terminology that may cause confusion. In addition, a report should use certain terminology so that the audience can understand it – for example, a report produced for homeowners would not use as much technical language as a report for an industrial client. Also, any faults listed on a report must be repaired as soon as possible.

Septic Tank Inspection When Buying a House
When buying a house with a septic tank, it is important to understand a few things about the tank, which could be very beneficial in the long run. Firstly, find out what type of septic tank it is – which kind of material is it made of, its size, and how much pipework is associated with it. Different materials have a different shelf life, and larger tanks are required to serve a larger household. Secondly, find out where the wastewater is discharged; some tanks dispose wastewater into a soakaway system or drainage field, where natural processes clean up the water. However, others discharge the water directly into a watercourse, which is a breach of environmental protection protocol in some jurisdictions. In addition, enquire if the septic tank is shared with other properties, whether the tank (and soakaway system) is within the boundary of the property, and when it was installed. Lastly, check when the last inspection was carried out – the inspection report includes the date of the last survey, with any details of any of its faults properly recorded.

How Much Does a Septic Tank Inspection Cost?
The cost varies according to how thorough an inspection is – the further a septic tank is inspected, the more a survey will cost. Using the United Kingdom as an example, one can expect an average septic tank inspection to cost between £200 ($280) and £300 ($420). For example, one may expect to pay around £250 ($350) or £300 ($420) for an inspection that involves some of the more advanced checks, including using CCTV cameras to check the pipes, and a thorough search for tank leakages. However, for additional aspects of an inspection, including producing a full written report of the condition of the tank and its pipework, and a summary of all issues and the respective costs of rectifying them, expect to pay up to £500 ($700). The cost will also increase if there are fewer inspectors in your area; if there is a shortage of surveyors, expect to pay more.

Septic Tank Inspection Company/Service
For a thorough and well-performed septic tank inspection service, it is strongly advisable to find a reputable and experienced septic tank inspection company like Achievement Engineering Corp. Achievement Engineering Corp is an inspection company that is not only rated highly, but are located within a reasonable distance. We only use well-trained and certified surveyors.