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Septic testing failure lawsuit:
A defective septic test and bad septic inspection led to a lawsuit after property buyers discovered, 24-hours after moving in to their new home, that the septic system was not functional, having a totally blocked septic tank and a completely failed leach field.
The text demonstrates how to prove that a septic inspection and dye test were improperly conducted, failing to have even a chance of protecting the client from the expensive surprise need to completely replace a septic tank and leach field.
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Septic Failure Lawsuit - Litigation Addresses Inadequate Septic System Inspection & Testing that Failed to Detect a Non-Functional Septic System
Plaintiff's Complaint: Septic Test Was Not Properly Performed
[home inspector's name deleted] performed a septic dye test, erred
by putting water in laundry sink in the basement; ran 125g water, reported
system in satisfactory condition;
Buyer later found no proper system installed,
had to install a "trans vac" pump up mound system, for $16,000, total damages
Area reported to be known for poor drainage, making mound system requirement
Our photo (left) shows a laundry drain (photo left foreground) where septic dye tablets (not enough of them) were placed during an improper septic loading and dye test.
In the distance (photo center and right) can be seen the house main drain. It is possible that the washing machine drain does not connect to the distant sewer line. Fixtures emptying into the sewer line, not the washing machine drain, should be used when performing a septic loading and dye test.
Approach to Analysis of the Septic System Test Complaint
Home inspection stanards such as the ASHI Standards of Practice exclude requiring Septic test but there are exi
Define existing professional standards for performing visual + dye test
Claim basic error made: test in laundry sink - no evidence. connects to septic
Our photograph (left) shows a home made septic tank that is packed with solid waste
It is likely (not certain) that an adequate septic loading and dye test would manifest septic system failure as a backup or breakout during testing of a septic system such as this one.
But an incompetent septic loading and dye test denies even a chance of disclosing the problem conditions for which the test is purported to test.
Assertions Made by the Plaintiff Regarding Inadequate Performance of a Septic Loading and Dye Test - Errors of Omission and Commission
Visual inspection during septic test: Common practice includes visual inspection of yard and interior and plumbing
to address the pertinent questions, + dye, volume of water, reinspection for
breakout. Pertinent questions include attempting to assure that drain used for
test drains into the septic fields.
Proper water quantity during septic test: An error can be inferred if dye and loading water volume were not introduced
into the proper drains. If this is the case, whether or not the proper volume
of water was run is probably moot because the wrong drain was used. The report indicated that insufficient water was used.
Tracer dye quantity during septic test: A septic test procedure error also can be inferred if the inspector did not use sufficient quantity of septic dye to provide color in effluent IF effluent was observed at or near the property ground surfaces.
If no effluent appeared during the test, the quantity or concentration of septic dye used is moot. In the litigation discussed here the inspector used septic dye tablets at a level that was inadequate to produce a visible result, had water and septic dye been placed into the proper drain.
Soil characteristics and septic testing: is possible that knowledge of area soil characteristics, age of property,
local building conditions and practices, might have served as a basis for
caution or warning, regardless of whether or not dye was found at the surface.
Such warnings are at the discretion of the inspector.
Questions In Determination of Adequacy of Septic Test Performed
Is there visual evidence in basement of the subject property that the
laundry sink does not or might not drain to same location as main house sewer
line? [Yes-arrangement of piping; height of exit of septic drain above sink]
Does client recall and can testify that dye was introduced only in drywell?
How much water was run?
Over what time? (125 g in 1/2hr is about 4.2 gpm which
is possible from a reasonably strong flow at a single sink faucet. Typically
3-4 gpm for a kitchen sink, or single tub, depending on pump pressure switch
settings, control valve settings, clogged piping, type of pump, etc.)
What type of well and pump equipment are provided? Shallow well, deep well,
submersible pump vs 2-line jet pump?
At what pressure does the pump cut in and
out, what type of holding tank is installed, what is the average water pressure
in the house, what is the measured flow in gpm from the faucet used to perform
the test? only. 125 gals in 1/2 hr is possible and reasonable, but a bit less
than the usual volume of water run for septic tests.
Would a conventional and properly conducted test absolutely, probably,
possibly have revealed a failed system?
what conditions led to discovery of failure (number of occupants, level of
usage, time until failure noted after initial occupancy)?
exactly what equipment was discovered when the old system was excavated?
can one reliably infer from what was discovered that question 3 is
pertinent and that q3 can be answered?
Water was run into laundry drain (photo shown above), nowhere near and no visible connection
to main house drain; photo details strongly suggest laundry drain does not or
may not drain to septic - wrong place to test. No dye was used.
Septic report indicates dye was used etc - in boilerplate. Minimal info.
provided by report
Home inspection report - a checklist form - completely blank plumbing
section - suspect inspector was distracted by something and just forgot this
topic - does not meet ASHI standards for plumbing inspection.
Septic failed immediately on occupancy - probably less than 200g water run.
Subsequent discovery on excavation indicates no functioning septic - sludged
tank, no leach lines except. one pipe, completely root-filled. Strong possibility
that a proper loading and dye test would have failed;
7/3/95 Note to File: arbitrator found for the plaintiff in full, holding that
a proper septic loading and dye test had not been not performed and the protection contracted-for was not provided.
Key in this case was that the plaintiff did not attempt to prove that a properly performed septic test would
definitely have discovered the failed septic system, although given the totally impacted septic tank
a proper test would almost certainly have done so. Rather the plaintiff argued that the contracted-for
protection was not provided. In other words, the plaintiff was denied even the opportunity to possibly discover that the septic system had failed because the "septic test" performed by the inspector was completely incompetent.
SEPTPROB.TXT - Excerpt from DJ Friedman arbitration file
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 SEPTIC DYE TEST WARNINGS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Septic Tank/Soil-Absorption Systems: How to Operate & Maintain [ copy on file as /septic/Septic_Operation_USDA.pdf ] - , Equipment Tips, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8271 1302, 7100 Engineering, 2300 Recreation, September 1982, web search 08/28/2010, original source: http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfimage/82711302.pdf.
Pennsylvania State Fact Sheets relating to domestic wastewater treatment systems include
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-161, Septic System Failure: Diagnosis and Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-162, The Soil Media and the Percolation Test
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-l64, Mound Systems for Wastewater Treatment
Pennsylvania State Wastewater Treatment Fact Sheet SW-165, Septic Tank-Soil Absorption Systems
Document Sources used for this web page include but are not limited to: Agricultural Fact Sheet #SW-161 "Septic Tank Pumping," by Paul D. Robillard and
Kelli S. Martin. Penn State College of Agriculture - Cooperative Extension, edited and annotated by
Dan Friedman (Thanks: to Bob Mackey for proofreading the original source material.)
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
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The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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