(Dec. 13, 2019) If a home doesn’t operate off of a public sewer facility, then a private in-ground wastewater treatment system is used to treat and dispose of household wastewater on-site.

In Maryland, approximately 20 percent of homeowners rely on a private septic system.

When purchasing a home that relies on a private septic system, it is of utmost importance to have the septic system tested, as it is one of the single most expensive replacement systems a homeowner will face.

Septic inspections range in price from $325 to $400, and include:

• Locating the septic system tank, distribution box and drainfield—inspection companies will contact the county office for a copy of the septic report on file for a particular property.

• Ensuring that the system is large enough for the home it serves.

For example, a three bedroom home typically requires a 1,000 gallon tank. Capacity in gallons can be calculated by length x width x depth in feet x 7.5 for rectangular tanks.

• Checking the tank and distribution box condition and baffles are checked to make sure they are firmly connected to the tank’s inlet and outlet pipes.

• Drain lines are tested, sometimes called a surge test, to determine the functionality of the drainfield. Cameras can also be used to determine the health of a drainfield. Drain lines can also be “jetted” to help clear any clogs.

In order to inspect a private septic system, the inspector must first locate the system.

In newer systems, this is not a problem as county records are more complete and newer systems have a riser above ground to show its location.

But in older systems, the following are a few ways the inspector might help locate the system:

• A thin, metal rod can be inserted into the earth to probe an area.

• A metal detector can be used if the tank contains enough metal components.

• A small radio transmitter can be flushed down the toilet and followed with a receiver.

• The current or previous homeowner can be contacted.

• Also, not surprisingly, the greenest grass in the yard is most times right above the septic system.

– Lauren Bunting is an Associate Broker with Bunting Realty, Inc. in Berlin.

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