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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 Septic Loading & Dye Test Step 1
Do This Before Starting the Test
Septic system testing procedure

  • SEPTIC TEST PRE-CHECKS - CONTENTS: How to conduct a septic system inspection & test properly: what to inspect, document & what else to do before starting the septic loading & dye test. What to ask the property owner about a septic system & its history. Obtaining permission for a septic inspection and test. Warnings about pumping the septic tank before a septic test
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about preparing for a septic loading & dye test
  • REFERENCES
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Septic loading & dye testing, step 1:

This article provides details the first step 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.



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WHAT TO DO BEFORE - the Septic Inspection and Test

Septic system inspection procedure - bad tank (C) D Friedman

Here we describe key steps to take before actually beginning the onsite septic system inspection and test procedure.

Our photo shows a home-made septic tank abutting the building wall (upper left in the photo). We saw a septic effluent pump on the ground, above ground piping, and concluded that the entire system was home-made and very doubtful.

[Click to enlarge any image]

On flushing a toilet in the home, the effluent pump sprayed sewage through the air and on bystanders - needless to say this was an unsanitary event and not much of a septic system.

Septic pump above ground (C) D Friedman

Our photo ( shows the septic effluent pump in its makeshift installation.

It was evident that the system was not functional, not sanitary, and really unsafe for bystanders. A system like this should not be tested nor operated without taking steps to protect the inspector and others.

Helpful information is provided by answers to septic system questions, even if the answer is "I don't know"

Septic system by a river (C) D Friedman

The septic information questions about the history of a septic system we list above are deliberately a bit vague and open ended to permit a property owner to volunteer what information they may have about the condition of the septic system.

Our photo (left) shows a home with a septic system very close to a river - you can see the river in the center of the photo. The property owner had no idea where the septic tank nor drainfield were, and we couldn't see much space for these components on the small lot that was mostly driveway and parking area.

We inserted septic dye into the system and began running water, running down to the river to watch for our dye appearing in that body.

Our septic dye never made it to the river, and we were quickly called back up the bank by our clent who pointed out the red dyed sewage effluent that came flowing out of the driveway and towads the basement entry door.

Septic dye breakout in the basement (C) D Friedman

The septic system consisted of a tank and leachfield located under the driveway - too close to the river, too compacted and destroyed by vehicle traffic, and really, too awful.

Because an owner may not recall the septic system maintenance history or may not be familiar with onsite waste disposal terminology, the inspector and client should obtain and consider but should not blindly rely on simple oral statements about the type of equipment installed.

These questions can be given to the inspector's client well before the site inspection, to permit the client or real estate agent to present them to the property owner, particularly if the owner is not going to be at the site at the time of the inspection.

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.

Septic System Inspection, Loading & Dye Test Articles

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