LARGER VIEW of a sloping bank mound system installed across a natural drainage cachment, an area where where we found effluent breakout at the ends of the septic mound - evidence of a failed septic leach field Inspection of the Septic System - Simple Visual Site Inspection Gives Key Information About Septic System Condition

  • OUTSIDE SEPTIC PRE-TEST INSPECTION - CONTENTS: Safety Advice & Critical Site Observations that you should note before beginning a septic or soakaway system inspection or test. Visual inspection procedures for septic systems: how to inspect the site for septic component location & for indicators of trouble with the septic system, drainfield, septic tank, cesspool, drywell, soakaway bed, leachfield. How to inspect a building site before testing a septic system & where to look outside for evidence of septic failure, difficult sites, or clues indicating a septic problem
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the outside inspection that should be made before beginning the septic loading & dye test

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Septic Test Procedure: This document describes the first step in septic inspection or testing: how to look for visual evidence of septic failure without or before testing a septic system and also difficult site conditions that may require special measures to install a working septic system.

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Safety Advice for Septic System Testing & Inspection

Unsafe septic tank  cover

Looking for septic failure conditions outdoors give key information about the condition of the septic system before (and perhaps without) performing a septic loading and dye test and also before (and perhaps without) invasive septic system inspection measures such as excavation.

[Click to enlarge any image]

The septic system site observations described here can be performed regardless of whether or not a septic test is planned at a property.

While visual inspections cannot directly disclose all buried hazards and problems, there are often immediately obvious and very important clues that can indicate dangerous conditions (such as the collapsing septic tank shown in our photo at left), a history of repeated repairs, septic system failures, and even dishonesty or malfeasance.

Septic system FAILURE SPOTS, part of our STEP BY STEP SEPTIC TEST procedure, describes where you're likely to see actual evidence of septic failure during a septic loading and dye test.

There are often visual clues, such as the ones described here, which can be strong indicators of a history of septic system problems or of a building site which will involve special difficulties in installing an effective onsite wastewater disposal system.

These site observations can increase the property owner, seller, or buyer's understanding of the chances that significant costs are likely to be faced in providing or repairing the septic system.

Anyone buying a property or owning a property and needing to assess the condition of the septic system should consider this easy procedure. Simply paying attention to a building site's shape and other visual clues can give critically important information.

Critical site observations before starting a septic loading & dye test

Unsafe conditions?

Is there any visual evidence of unsafe site conditions such as subsidence, collapse, sink holes, or report of presence of a cesspool, missing or damaged tank covers (like the collapsing septic tank cover in the photo at left), or other old or site-built equipment?

If so dangerous, possibly fatal conditions could be present and it may be appropriate to rope off suspect areas and postpone any testing at all.

It is absolutely essential that any unsafe or even suspected unsafe conditions be reported to the building owner and occupants immediately - falling into a septic tank can be fatal.

See SEPTIC & CESSPOOL SAFETY for details about Septic System, Septic Tank, & Cesspool Safety Warnings for Septic Inspectors, Septic Pumpers, and Homeowners

The next four septic field inspection documents provide details of what you can see outdoors that indicates either a septic system that is in failure or a system that probably required special measures to deal with a difficult site, such as a steep or hilly site, a rocky site, or a septic system near a lake or stream.  

Septic System Inspection, Loading & Dye Test Articles


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