How Much Septic Dye & How Much Water for a Septic Loading & Dye Test
Septic System Testing Procedure
SEPTIC TEST VOLUMES & DYE AMOUNTS - CONTENTS: How much septic dye & how much test water to use during a septic test. Exactly how to conduct a valid septic loading & dye test. WHERE TO BUY septic test dye powder, wax dye cakes, septic dye liquid or septic dye tablets
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Septic loading or dye test water test volume:
This article provides a table of septic loading and dye test water volumes and septic dye powder or tablets required to perform a valid septic loading and dye test.
This table includes details of the Septic Loading and Dye Test procedure for testing the function of
septic systems, focused on condition of the effluent disposal section, also known as a leach field, seepage pits,
drainfield or drainage field.
CAUTION: appropriate test volumes may vary depending on the type of equipment
installed. Some designs, such as dosing systems, may be approved by local
officials but may be capable of only very limited fluid handling capacity per
Information provided by seller, realtor, visual inspection, or
neighborhood history may indicate if special limited-capacity systems are
installed. The following guidelines pertain to conventional tank and
absorptions systems such as tank and trench-line drainfields.
The following table is a general guide to selecting the volume of test
water and the amount of septic tracer dye needed to perform a septic loading and dye test. If you're
asking "how much septic dye" or "how many septic dye tablets" should I use, look here and also look at
the instructions from the manufacturer of your septic dye.
Table of Septic Loading Test Volumes & Septic Dye Amount
Minimum septic dye test volume in gallons:
50 + 50 x (number of bedrooms), or 150 gallons (minimum),
whichever is more. More or less, if information about system design indicates. Some inspectors
use 75 gallons per bedroom for this calculation.
Desired septic dye test volume:
200 gallons. More or less, if information about system design indicates
Maximum septic dye test volume:
300 to 500 gallons. More or less, if information about system design indicates.
Number of Septic Dye Tablets to Use:
15 to 20 dye tablets for a 1200-gallon septic tank.
This may vary by manufacturer.
One tablet per test 50 gallons of test volume of water run will be insufficient.
The test liquid is being diluted by the volume already present
in the septic tank. Therefore a proper test needs to employ enough tablets to stain the expected volume of the
10 tablets would be the bare minimum to dye a 500 gallon septic tank.
Amount of Septic Dye Powder to Use:
Minimum of one heaping tablespoon - about 1/100th of a pound or about 2/10 of an ounce by weight.
Choose red or green based on area surface conditions.
Green septic dye is fine for
snowy conditions; red septic dye shows up better in grass.
Yellow Green septic dye is better for detection of effluent if there is
already murky brown surface water present.
For fluorescent dyes, both dye color groups may be visible by using
ultraviolet lighting, but home inspectors do not normally apply that method. The two colors will sometimes
permit determination of which drain is connected to which septic tank or drywell.)
Volume of Liquid Septic Dye to Use:
1.6 oz (liquid) per 1,000 gallons of septic tank volume.
Notes to the Table of Septic Dye Test Volumes and Dye Amount
Before selecting a test volume the inspector needs to know something about the design of the
onsite wastewater disposal system that is installed.
The table above assumes a conventional septic
tank and drainfield are installed. If a dosing system, pumping system, or other special designs
are present, flooding the system beyond the design-specifications for a given time period could
damage the system or produce inappropriate test conclusions.
The validity of a septic loading and dye test is not based on the length of time
that water is run into building fixtures - though readers will see many inspectors who use
Rather the validity of the test depends on the total volume of water
that was placed into the system along with other obvious procedural steps such as making
sure that the fixtures used to introduce water into the system indeed drain into the
septic system being tested and not to somewhere else.
Tramfloc Inc., (Tempe AZ) a producer of dye tablets and liquids, indicates the following dye
amounts and capabilities:
One Bright Dyes Tramfloc Dye Tablet will color 60 gallons of water. So to color 600 gallons you'd need to use 10 tablets.
One pound of Tramfloc "Bright Dyes Standard Blue and FLT Yellow/Green will treat 120,000 gallons of water.
One pound of FWT Red Dye (more expensive to use) will treat 60,400 gallons.
One pint of liquid Standard Blue and FLT Yellow/Green will treat 12,500 gallons
One pint of liquid Red 25 will treat 6,250 gallons
"Treat" in this instance means that a strong, easily visible color is produced.
Where existing surface water is murky brown colored, Tramfloc recommends the FLT Yellow/Green tracer dye.
Tramfloc Inc. informs us that their septic dye products are non-toxic and are rated for use in potable water. However
inspectors who put any dye product into a toilet which overflows or into a drain which is leaking will stain the building.
How to Determine Septic Loading Test Volume
Recommended Septic Loading: How to Determine Dye Test Water Volume, and Amount of Septic Dye
FIXTURE FLOW RATE - Estimate the test fixture flow rate during a septic test
Based on field experience, actual test measurements at 25 residences served by private well systems and
observations of typical flow and pressure at residences served by municipal
water supply systems, we find that 3 gpm is a reasonable estimate of flow from
a single tub or un-screened sink fixture. Most private systems can deliver this
Actual quantitative flow rate measurements taken at a single fixture at
a single time are dangerously misleading since variations in pump pressure,
pipe obstructions, valve settings, can affect flow.
If accurate quantitative measurement of
flow rate is needed, and remembering that you're measuring the flow provided by the pump, pipes,
valves, and fixtures, not the well flow capacity, a simple procedure is the use of a 5-gallon
bucket under the test fixture, and a stopwatch. However multiple measurements may be needed to
evaluate the variation in flow rate during the pump on-off cycle.
How to Set the Septic Loading or Dye Test Water Volume
Some authorities commonly test by loading the system with 50 gallons/bedroom
over an hour - the likely maximum load for a typical residential system. A
typical trench-type absorption field would contain this volume of water even if
there were no percolation during the test period. Therefore breakout or failure
at these volumes is a reasonable sign of system failure or inadequacy.
Typical septic system design handles 150 gallons/bedroom/day. [Ref. 30, Oberg,
citing "Private Water Systems Handbook," produced by the US Dept. of
Agriculture Cooperative Extension.]
Keith Oberg (ASHI, Binghamton NY) computes that a standard leach line for soils
in central NY range from 90 lineal feet with a 3 foot wide trench and a
percolation rate of 1" in 5 minutes, to 375 lineal feet of 3 foot trench with a
perc rate of 60 minutes.
The gravel in a standard trench leaves approximately
38% of total volume available to contain effluent. Therefore, assuming no
percolation during the test period, the water level will rise 2.35" in a 90'
trench and .56" in a 375' trench. (Double these depths for more narrow gravel
trenches.) These are not excessive increases in a leaching field which is
typically set at least 12" below the surface with 18" depth of gravel as
standard practice. It is therefore apparent that an adequate septic system
should not break out when subject to this test.
Oberg applies this same test to all septic systems of all types, including sand
mounds, sand filters, aeration ponds, jet aerators, drywells, cesspools, etc.
If there are multiple systems the water load is split on each system and a 33%
extra water load is added to account for errors in estimation of the percentage
of total use.
Where to buy septic dye for septic drainfield breakout effluent indication
The first links below allow you to purchase septic dye directly from the producer.
Dyes, Bright Dyes - A Division of Kingscote Chemicals, 3334 South Tech Blvd. Miamisburg, OH 45342, Tel: 937-886-9100, Toll Free - 800-394-0678, Fax - 937-886-9300
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Bright Dyes sells Fluorescent Dyes in Yellow/Green, Red, Blue, and Orange colors and in various forms including liquids, powders, tablets, and wax cakes. The company also sells ultraviolet lights that can detect Fluorescent Dye at low concentration. The company describes their products as dye tracers, toilet leak detection, and UV lights.
Pylam Pyla-Tel Fluorescent green septic dye test dye powder, Pylam Products Company, Inc. 2175 East Cedar Street Tempe, Arizona 85281-7431. Phone: 480-929-0070 800-645-6096. Fax: 480-929-0078. Emails: email@example.com www.pylamdyes.com/contact.html
Pylam Pyla-Tel Fluorescent red septic dye test dye powder
Septic dye test powder may be packaged and re-sold by local plumbing or chemical suppliers in in your area.
For example, we bought repackaged septic dye powder from Duso Chemical in Poughkeepsie NY
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"International Private Sewage Disposal Code," 1995, BOCA-708-799-2300, ICBO-310-699-0541, SBCCI 205-591-1853, available from those code associations.
"Manual of Policy, Procedures, and Guidelines for Onsite Sewage Systems," Ontario Reg. 374/81, Part VII of the Environmental
Protection Act (Canada), ISBN 0-7743-7303-2, Ministry of the Environment,135 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto Ontario M4V 1P5 Canada $24. CDN.
Manual of Septic Tank Practice, US Public Health Service's 1959.
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
Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. He is also a contributor to InspectApedia.com in several technical areas such as plumbing and appliances (dryer vents). Contact Mr. Cranor at 804-747-7747 or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Advanced Onsite Wastewater Systems Technologies, Anish R. Jantrania, Mark A. Gross. Anish Jantrania, Ph.D., P.E., M.B.A., is a Consulting Engineer, in Mechanicsville VA, 804-550-0389 (2006). Outstanding technical reference especially on alternative septic system design alternatives. Written for designers and engineers, this book is not at all easy going for homeowners but is a text I recommend for professionals--DF.
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.
Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual [online copy, free] Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm Onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems,
Richard J Otis, published by the US EPA. Although it's more than 20 years old, this book remains a useful reference for septic system designers.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water Program Operations; Office of Research and Development, Municipal Environmental Research Laboratory; (1980)
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
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.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
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.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones