septic dye breakout at a basement entry from a failed septic system buried below a driveway during conduct of a septic loading and dye test
- an expert can find clues and perform tests that reduce risk of a costly surprise How & Where to Look for Septic System Components: tank, D-box, drainfield

  • SEPTIC COMPONENT LOCATIONS - CONTENTS: Where to look for septic system components during a septic inspection & test. How to find the actual or most likely locations of the septic tank, distribution box (Dbox), piping, and drainfields during a septic system inspection. How to recognize areas where buried septic system components are very unlikely to be found
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to look for septic system components during a septic system inspection or test

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This septic system inspection article explains where to look for and how to locate septic system components for any purpose such as inspection, maintenance, troubleshooting or repair, or as part of the Septic Loading and Dye Test procedure for testing the function of septic systems.

Our page top photo shows a recently-created pile of rocky soil pushed against trees and over the "septic tank" location at a rural property. This act of burying the septic tank right before the inspection raised an immediate concern about just what was installed at the property.

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LOOK FOR SEPTIC COMPONENTS - Where, When, How Look for Septic System Components as Part of a Septic System Inspection & Test Procedure

The failed soil absorption system (drainfield) for this system was promptly found simply by climbing over this rock-pile and looking over the edge of the hill. More photos of this troubled septic system and places to look for septic system components are described below.

How to Find the Septic Tank

  • Possible Septic Tank Locations: what are the likely locations for a septic tank?

    See SEPTIC TANK, HOW TO FIND for details of how to find the septic tank.

    See SEPTIC TANK LOCATION SKETCH for examples of how people may have made a record of where to find the septic tank at a property.

  • Shared septic systems What are all of the possible locations for a tank on the property? Perhaps there is essentially none, or room for a tank but no absorption system. Do not assume that all septic components are even on the property. Some older properties were built with shared septic systems, or individual tanks and a shared leach field. Later owners may never have been told that their leach field was on a neighbor's property, and vice versa.

    See SEPTIC DRAINFIELD LOCATION for detailed procedures for finding the septic drainfield or leaching bed (also called soakaway field) at a property.

See these articles for one or more methods that will locate the septic tank, cesspool, drywell, seepage pit:

How to Find the Septic D_box - Distribution Box

How to Find the Septic Drainfields or Leaching Beds or Soakaway Pits

See these articles for details on fiding the septic drainfield by one or more of these methods:

  • SEPTIC DRAINFIELD LOCATION - separate article
  • Space for septic fields? Is there even room for a conventional tank and drainfield at this property? If the property is too small it is unlikely to have a septic tank and drainfield but it might be using a cesspool. Beware: a "grand fathered" cesspool or other non-conforming septic system at a property may not be permitted to continue in use in that form when septic repair is needed.

  • LARGER VIEW of a too-small home made septic tank - evidence of a failed septic systemAre there site encumbrances likely to make installation or replacement of the septic system difficult or costly, such as nearby streams or lakes, storm drains, trees, rocky or steep site conditions (see our septic failure case examples), or limited distances from a well or property boundary?

    Remember to check nearby streams and lakes during and after the dye test. Are there pipes extending from the property into a nearby stream, possibly discharging septage?

    The site shown in this photo was all that was available to place a septic system. Rocky and steep, a conventional system could not work properly (though special steep slope septic system designs are available.

    This system appeared to be in failure before we started our test - we saw water, probably septic effluent running over a rock just below the reported (new) septic tank.

    Our dye confirmed that it was from the septic system. Here is the same rock ledge with increased effluent flow as soon as we started our septic test. Sewage from this system had been discharging to the surface from an overflow pipe or from the bottom of a tiny, home made seepage pit which itself was sitting on solid rock, sending septic effluent running downhill to Wappingers Creek and from there to the Hudson River for decades.

    We were informed by the agent that the system was in perfect working order but that the owners, simply to improve the "curb appeal" of the property, had just installed a new septic tank. Unfortunately what was needed was an entire steep slope system to handle the effluent.

    The seller's money was not well spent.

These pages are part of our SEPTIC DYE TEST PROCEDURE for testing septic system function. Technical review by industry experts has been performed and is ongoing - reviewers are listed at REFERENCES. Comments and suggestions for content are welcome.


Continue reading at DIFFICULT SEPTIC SITES or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Or see any of these more detailed septic system component location or related site component location advice articles:

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SEPTIC COMPONENT LOCATIONS at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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