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FAQ for Realtors

Question:
When should my seller have their septic system pumped and inspected?

Answer:
We suggest that sellers have their septic pumped and inspected BEFORE they list their home. If there is an issue or failure with a system, it could take several weeks or even months before the repair can be completed and signed off by the health department. This could delay a closing or even cause a sale to fail if the cost of the repair is more than the seller’s proceeds.

Question:
What does the health department require with the sale of a home?

Answer:
All sellers of properties with onsite sewage systems must have their system inspected by a certified On-Site System Maintainer (OSM) before the transfer of title.

Before closing, the seller must record a Notice of On-site Sewage System Operation and Maintenance Requirements (OSSM) at the King County Recorder’s Office. This is also known as the Northwest Multiple Listing Service form #22U. If the Notice is already recorded on title, this requirement has been met – the seller does not need to record the Notice again. The seller must give a copy of the recorded OSSM to the buyer prior to closing.

Question:
How long are septic inspections good for?

Answer:
OSS Property Transfer Inspection Reports are valid for six months from the inspection date.

Question:
What should happen during a septic system inspection?

Answer:
The inspector will check for the following:
Pumping and maintenance records; The age of the septic system; Sludge levels and scum thickness in the tank; Signs of leakage, such as low water levels in the tank; Signs of backup, such as staining in the tank above the outlet pipe; Integrity of the tank, inlet, and outlet pipes; The drain field, for signs of system failure like standing water; The distribution box, to make sure drain lines are receiving equal flow; and Available records, to ensure the system complies with local regulations regarding function and location.

Question:
How long can a septic repair take?

Answer:
Depending on the repair it could take 6-8 weeks from start to finish. The steps would be,
design, county approval, permitting, install, county inspection & backfill.

Question:
Are permits required for septic repairs?

Answer:
Yes

Question:
How do you maintain a septic tank?

Answer:

  • Regularly inspect and maintain your septic system
  • Pump your septic tank every 3-5 years
  • Be water-wise
  • Direct water from land and roof drains away from the drain field
  • Landscape with love
  • Keep septic tank lids easily accessible.


Question:
What happens if a septic tank is not pumped?

Answer:

If the tank is not pumped, the solids will build up in the tank and the holding capacity of the tank will be diminished. Eventually, the solids will reach the pipe that feeds into the drain field, causing a clog and wastewater could back up into the house.

Dos_and_donts_blog

Do’s and Dont’s

DO’s and DON’Ts when maintaining your septic system.

Things you SHOULD do to maintain your septic system:

REGULARLY INSPECT & MAINTAIN YOUR SEPTIC SYSTEM
Routine maintenance can lengthen the life of your septic system. Contact a certified On-site System Maintainer (OSM) to inspect and monitor your sstem on a regular basis. The frequency of maintenance depends on the type of system, ranging from 6 months to 3 years. Gravity and Pump to Gravity system owners may inspect their own system, or hire a Pumper or OSM.

PUMP YOUR SEPTIC TANK EVERY 3-5 YEARS
How often you pump depends on the amount of water use in your household or business. General rule of them: the more people using your septic system = increased water flow = your septic tank will fill up faster = more frequent pumping.

BE WATER-WISE
Using less water may increase the life of your septic system. Using too much water is a frequent factor in failed systems.

QUICKLY REPAIR ALL LEAKEY FAUCETS & TOILETS
This is one of the easiest ways to be water wise. “Even apparently very slow leaks, such as a slowly dripping faucet, can generate 15 to 20 gallons (57 to 76 liters) of wastewater per day,” according to the USEPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual.

USE “LOW FLOW” FIXTURES ON FAUCETS & SHOWER HEADS (these may be found at most hardware stores)

Some examples are:

    • Faucet insert: devise that slows water flow
    • Faucet aerator: device that adds air to spread the water flow
    • Reduced flow faucet: the faucet is built for low water flow
    • Mixing valves: one fixture regulates hot and cold water

SPREAD LAUNDRY WASHING THROUGHOUT THE WEEK & WASH FULL LOADS

DIRECT WATER FROM LAND & ROOF DRAINS AWAY FROM THE DRAINFIELD
This additional water may prevent the drainfield from working properly.

LANDSCAPE WITH LOVE
Grass is the best cover for your septic tank and drainfield. Other plants with very shallow root systems can also be used for landscaping.

KEEP SEPTIC TANK LIDS EASILY ACCESSIBLE
Have “risers” installed to make septic tank pumping and monitoring visits easier and less time-consuming. A “riser” also makes pumping and monitoring cause less mess and disruption in your yard.

Things you DON’T want to do when maintaining your septic system:

• DON’T USE GARBAGE DISPOSAL
Garbage disposals add solids and grease which can build-up quickly and clog or choke your drainfield. If you absolutely must use one, try to limit your use as much as possible.

• DON’T FLUSH ANYTHING EXCEPT TOILET PAPER INTO YOUR SEPTIC SYSTEM.
This includes diapers, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms, grease, oils, unwanted medications or paper products other than toilet paper. Products labeled as “flushable” may not be suitable for a septic system.

• DON’T PUT HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS DOWN THE DRAIN
This includes chemicals such as paint products, drain and floor cleaners, motor oil, antifreeze, and pesticides. These chemicals destroy bacteria in your system that are necessary to break down solids.
    – Long term use of medications, such as antibiotics, may also destroy important bacteria in your tank and drainfield.

• DON’T PARK CARS AND TRUCKS ON YOUR DRAINFIELD OR SEPTIC TANK
In addition, keep patios, carports, decks, storage sheds, sports courts, landscaping plastics, and grazing animals off the drainfield and drainfield reserve areas. This will prevent soils from being packed down and pipes from breaking.

• DON’T DIG INTO OR AROUND THE SEPTIC DRAINFIELD & IT’S RESERVE AREA

• DON’T RAISE OR LOWER THE LEVEL OF THE GROUND ON, OR NEAR, THE SAND FILTER OR THE DRAINFIELD & IT’S RESERVE AREA

• DON’T REMOVE OR DAMAGE THE INSPECTION PORTS IN THE DRAINFIELD.

• DON’T USE SEPTIC TANK ADDITIVES
These products may be harmful by adding extra solids to the system that can clog your drainfield. The chemicals can also pollute groud and surface water. If you feel you must use additives, be sure to use only those that have received written approval from the Washington State Department of Health. It is unlawful to use any non-approved additive.

• DISHWASHERS & WASHING MACHINES SHOULD NOT BE RAN AT THE SAME TIME

• DON’T FLUSH ANYTHING EXCEPT TOILET PAPER INTO YOUR SEPTIC SYSTEM
This includes diapers, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms, grease, oils, unwanted medications or paper products other than toilet paper. Products labeled as “flushable” may not be suitable for a septic system.

• DON’T DRAIN WATER FROM HOT TUBS OR SWIMMING POOLS INTO YOUR SEPTIC SYSTEM
Large volumes of water can ‘drown’ your drainfield and chlorine can destroy important bacteria in your septic tank and drainfield. Drain hot tubs away from the system, especially the drainfield. For disposal options, call King County’s Water and Land Resources Division at (206) 296-6519.