ALERT! In recent years, there has developed quite a lot of discussion and trouble with septic permits. It used to be, when you bought a piece of property that had a septic permit, you were just about guaranteed that you could later install your septic system. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. This online article is the first public information to illuminate this subject to our knowledge.
SPECIAL, MORE EXPENSIVE TESTING NOW REQUIRED FOR SEPTIC CONSTRUCTION PERMITS: Bottom Line: if you do not have a current Construction Permit for a septic system, you have nothing guaranteed.
If you read the fine print on a so-called “Septic Improvement Permit,” (if it is Not a Construction Permit for the septic system), there is probably language on that “permit” that states something to the effect that the ground still has to be tested. And this test used to be accomplished by County Health Department Registered Sanitarians, who dug a small hole with a post hole digger and then poured some water into that and timed the absorption rate. No more. Now, you have to typically spend over a thousand dollars to have a local septic contractor come to your site with a backhoe and dig up to 3 huge test pits, that might be 4’x’4’x4′. Then those are tested with large quantities of water by that consulting contractor, who shares the results of these tests with the County Health Department. If these tests do not indicate proper absorption rates, you may have a problem on your hands. You may own a piece of property that may not work for a septic system at all, or you may have to instead have a special septic system engineered by a licensed civil engineer or other professional acceptable to the County. And this special system may cost significantly more than a conventional gravity septic system. HIRE AN ARCHITECT TO HELP YOU IDENTIFY ISSUES LIKE THIS BEFORE YOU BUY YOUR LAND:
So: if you are considering buying a piece of property on which to have your dream house designed and built, FIRST: hire a licensed Architect who specializes in the design of houses.
One of first things that professional should do is to ask you for your copy of your Septic System Construction Permit. Your Architect can help you avoid loss of your hard-earned money by helping you avoid properties that are Not properly tested. This can be a source of considerable heartache and worry. WHY DO HEALTH DEPARTMENTS DO THIS? If you do Not have a Septic System Construction Permit for your septic system and merely have a “septic permit,” this is just about worthless. Why, you might ask, would County Health Departments issue such things as “permits” for septic systems if they will not allow you to actually install a septic system on your land? Why indeed? That is a good question. It is extremely misleading for Health Departments to do this. Most lay people will not understand the difference between a so-called “permit” and a “construction permit.” And why would they? How are they supposed to know?
YOUR ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT A “SEPTIC PERMIT” WILL LIKELY BE WRONG: Most people will probably assume that if they are buying a piece of ground that has a “septic permit”, that they will be able to install a septic system later. Unfortunately, this is not the case. INSIST that whoever is selling you the land provide you with a CURRENT Septic System Construction Permit before you agree to pay them anything. otherwise, you could be stuck with a piece of ground that may or may not be allowed to have a septic system installed.
Or, you may be saddled with paying thousands of dollars more for a special septic system due to unique circumstances on your land, for instance, shallow soil cover over the bedrock layer. KEEP YOUR SEPTIC CONSTRUCTION PERMIT CURRENT: CURRENT = you can build your system now and at any time through the date of expiration. Expiration? You mean a septic permit and Septic Construction Permit do not last forever? NO. They do not. Do not go to sleep at the wheel of your project and allow your septic construction permit to expire. Renew it before it expires, doing whatever you need to do to keep it current. Once again, hiring an experience residential architect BEFORE YOU BUY YOUR LAND can save you the problems involved with this, assuming that you engage that professional before such tragedies occur. THIS STORY HAS BEEN REAL, ONLY THE NAMES HAVE BEEN WITHHELD: This online article was written to share the actual circumstances of a client of the HOME ARCHITECTS ®, (whose name and location will remain unidentified) who unfortunately bought their land years before hiring the Architect. These are kind and intelligent hard-working people. During the first week of the Architect’s due diligence, it was discovered that the Septic Permit had expired years earlier. That was compounded by the fact that it was Not a Septic System Construction Permit. The client is now having their land tested by a septic contractor who has unfortunately discovered some questionable results from their testing. The implications of this are yet to be fully understood as to what the solution might be. The likelihood of a low-cost conventional septic system on this land is starting to appear unlikely, as the bedrock layer is fairly close to the soil level, on steep slopes, near a river. This is causing considerable angst in what was hoped to be a pleasant experience for these good people.
How were they supposed to know? In other words: this article is real. Buyer beware. Engage an experienced house architect before you buy your land. This is just one more reason to have an real Architect designing and managing your house project and the value that they bring to the effort. Contact: Rand@HomeArchitects.com 828-269-9046