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ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
AIR POLLUTANTS, COMMON INDOOR
AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT STRATEGIES
ALLERGEN TESTS for BUILDINGS
ANIMAL ODORS IN BUILDINGS
BACKDRAFTING HEATING EQUIPMENTAQ
BIOGAS PRODUCTION & USE
BOOKSTORE - ENVIRONMENTAL
CARPETING & INDOOR AIR QUALITY
CHINESE DRYWALL HAZARDS
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
COMBUSTION GASES & PARTICLE HAZARDS
DIRECTORY of MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERTS
Disinfecting Buildings with Bleach
DUCT SYSTEM & DUCT DEFECTS
DUST SAMPLING PROCEDURE
EMERGENCY RESPONSE, IAQ, GAS, MOLD
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
GASES, EXPOSURE, TESTING
GAS DETECTION INSTRUMENTS
GAS EXPOSURE LIMITS & STANDARDS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY & HOUSE TIGHTNESS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
INDOOR AIR QUALITY METHODS COMPARED
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
LP & Natural Gas Safety Hazards
Legionella Legionnaires' Disease
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MILDEW in BUILDINGS ?
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD: A COMPLETE GUIDE to TEST CLEAN PREVENT
MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD
MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE
MOLD or INDOOR AIR EMERGENCY RESPONSE
TEST KITS for DUST, MOLD, PARTICLE TESTS
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OUTHOUSES & LATRINES
OZONE for MOLD OR ODORS
PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS
SEPTIC & CESSPOOL SAFETY
SEPTIC SYSTEM ODORS
SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS
SEWAGE & SEPTIC CONTAMINANTS
SEWAGE CONTAMINATION in BUILDINGS
SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS
SEWAGE PATHOGENS in SEPTIC SLUDGE
SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWER GAS ODORS
SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors
STAIN & BIODETERIORATION AGENT CATALOG
STAINS on & in BUILDINGS, CAUSES & CURES
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
THERMAL IMAGING MOLD SCANS
UV LIGHT BLACK LIGHT USES
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs
WASTEWATER TREATMENT BASICS
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TEST CHOICES & WATER TEST FEES
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WETLAND SEPTIC SYSTEMS
Trouble from neighbor's septic system: This article offers advice for investigating, diagnosing, and resolving odor, seepage, or well contamination problems that appear to originate on a neighbor's property.
Also see SEPTIC CLEARANCES and Well Clearances for required distances between wells and septic systems and other site features. In general, septic effluent must be disposed of on the property from which it originates. Contact us with corrections or additions to this data.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
Check with your Neighbors
It’s always best to ask a neighbor to consider and address a problem before calling the authorities, but if a neighbor is unwilling or perhaps unable to act, the second step of involving the health department may be necessary. In my experience, when an owner’s property was sending raw septic effluent onto a neighbor’s property and the offender refused to address the matter, the health department would get involved and require action.
Whenever there seems to be a problem that begins with a neighbor's property, we advise a prompt, courteous inquiry with the neighbor involved. Explain your concerns, invite their assistance, give the neighbor an opportunity to respond. Usually that approach will lead to satisfaction for everyone. If you have the bad luck to encounter a neighbor who is unable or unwilling to assure that their septic system is not contaminating a neighbor, other steps may be necessary.
Check the distances between the neighboring septic system and property boundaries, wells, etc
Perhaps start your research by looking at http://InspectAPedia.com/septic/clearances.htm and then review the distances between the neighboring septic system and your property lines and anyone's well with your local health department. Clearance distances from wells, property lines, streams, etc. must all be respected.
Investigate the source of septic odors
Odors may mean the neighbor’s system is in failure, or that their plumbing and venting are improperly installed, or (less likely) there could be another odor source. In my experience, most health departments will require action of septic effluent is actually entering a neighbor’s property, but won’t require action on odors.
So if your neighbor’s system is producing wet spots or wet areas on your land, they will most likely be required to fix that. Here is our article on diagnosing septic odors:
Investigate the source of wet areas that might or might not be due to someone's septic system failure
If there are wet areas that may be due to a septic problem
In this photo, excavation for an above ground pool disclosed sewage effluent flowing to the surface at an adjoining property.
If there are wet areas produced on your land, or for that matter, on the neighbor’s nearby land, their septic system may be in failure and needs repair for health reasons as well as functional reasons. Here is a list of septic system failure criteria: http://InspectAPedia.com/septic/SepticFailureCriteria.htm
When effluent appears, the health department may use a septic dye to attempt to assure that the effluent is from a septic system and not another groundwater source. I find that septic dye usually but not always appears in less than a day in the wet areas when the septic has failed.
At times the septic is in failure but the dye doesn't show up – because of dilution by other groundwater or use of bleach by an owner. An explanation of how septic dye may not appear even though a septic has failed is at http://InspectAPedia.com/water/watercheater.htm
If there are no wet areas but you still suspect a septic problem
This photo shows an uphill neighboring septic field whose effluent flowed below ground into the drive drainage system of the property in the foreground of the picture. This photo shows septic dye appearing in the area drain basin in the driveway.
If there are no wet areas developing but the ground shows evidence of nearby effluent passage such as odors or warmth in winter, it may be expected that soon enough effluent will be appearing and the issue will become unambiguous – repair will be required. Pay special attention to suspect areas during wet weather.
If there are no wet areas being produced on your land then effluent is not appearing at the ground surface, that is, if there is no visual evidence of septic failure, and absent a clearance distance issue which I introduced above,I'm not sure your health department would consider the neighbor to be in violation of health codes.
Soil testing for evidence of septic failure
Testing a soil for coliform bacteria or e coli bacteria to indicate that it’s contaminated with sewage effluent can be performed by a local water testing lab. I’d call the lab to ask them the procedure they want you to use to test a soil sample rather than a water or groundwater sample, and I’d ask what standards of comparison are used. (And I ask that you share that information with me.)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about septic tank and field clearance distances from neighbors
Questions & answers or comments about responding to septic system smells, odors, or failures on neighboring properties
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Technical Reviewers & References
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