Septic Systems for Dummies: A Beginner’s Guide to Proper Maintenance

There are a lot of myths and misinformation surrounding the proper care and maintenance of septic systems. Concerns expressed by citizens, the local boards of health and the EPA with regard to potential contamination of local drinking water supplies and area groundwater, prompted the State of Massachusetts to institute a law with regard to the proper construction and maintenance of on-site septic systems.

In 1995 Title 5 of the State Environmental Code was established to protect the citizens of Massachusetts from potential health threats by requiring property owners to receive an inspection of their private septic systems before selling, expanding or changing their homes in any way. Any septic systems that fail Title 5 Inspection must be upgraded or repaired.

How to Hire a System Inspector

If you are preparing to sell or make changes to your property, you will need to hire a licensed and certified inspector. In order to be qualified to inspect your property, a Title 5 Inspector must have passed the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) administered exam, making it important to check on the identification, certification and references for any inspection service you are considering. The DEP website suggests that you get an estimate for inspection services in-writing.

If Your System Fails…

The State of Massachusetts gives property owners up to 2 years to upgrade or complete repairs on any septic system that fails a Title 5 Inspection. If you do fail you will need to contact your local board of health for information on obtaining approval for repairs, upgrades and other requirements. Hiring someone to do repairs or upgrades on your failed system should be done with the same care as hiring an inspector. Check ID, certification and references, taking care to hire a septic system service professional that will do quality work at a fair price.

How Much Will It Cost?

The cost to upgrade or repair your system will depend upon several factors that are relative to your unique situation:

  • soil conditions
  • location to water supplies
  • size of the property
  • number of individuals using the system
  • reason the system failed inspection

For citizens living in the State of Massachusetts, there are a couple of ways to help you cover the costs associated with repairs or upgrades if you can’t afford them. You can apply to qualify for low-cost financing through the Federal Farmers Home Administration (FHA) or the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) or check with your city or town to find out if there are any “betterment” loan programs available to homeowners with low-cost, long-term financing opportunities. The State of Massachusetts also allows residents to take a system repair tax credit of up to $6,000 per homeowner, helping you to recoup your losses in a Title 5 failure situation.

Preventing Septic System Failure

The best way to avoid all of the costly repairs and upgrades associated with a failed septic system is to learn the proper methods for care and maintenance. Hiring a professional company to provide preventative maintenance services, regular system pumping every 2-5 years as-needed and minor lifestyle changes, respecting the unique requirements of living with a private septic system in order to increase its effectiveness and longevity.

Homeowners should consider getting a Confidential Voluntary Assessment inspection of their septic systems to determine whether there are any potential problems that need to be addressed before failure occurs. Preventative maintenance programs and receiving education about your particular septic system are two of the best ways to prevent septic system issues.

One of the chief causes of septic system failure is human error or neglect. Putting non-biodegradable items in your toilet or down your drain will clog the system and prevent it from working properly. Paper products, diapers, feminine products can be really damaging, but cooking oils, fats and grease will also thicken and clog your pipes. Water usage can affect your system as well, so its important to monitor and limit your use of water on a daily basis to avoid putting excess water into the system.

Quality Septic Services You Can Trust

Call All-Clear Septic & Wastewater at 508-763-4431 for information about our Title 5 Inspection, remedial repair, cleaning and preventative maintenance services. With over 15 years of experience serving residential and commercial customers throughout Southeastern Massachusetts, All-Clear has the knowledge, technology and experience you can depend on to take care of all your septic system needs.