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PMP’s Response to Frequently Asked Questions

Septic Systems


The new Title 5 has been in effect since 1995 and is still creating confusion. The following list of F.A.Q.'s is a result of hours spent with our clients in answering some of the more common questions:

Q. I am considering selling my house. Do I need a Title 5 Septic Inspection?

A. A Title 5 Septic Inspection is required prior to the sale of a house. If you haven't decided to sell, you can have a "Voluntary Inspection" performed. The results are not submitted to the local Board of Health (unless directed by you) and provides you with a pass or fail report which could impact your decision to sell.

Q. I just listed my house with a Real Estate Broker. When should I have the Title 5 Septic Inspection done?

A. As soon as possible! Should the inspection report a system failure, there will be time to correct the problem. Waiting for a potential buyer will add the risk of delays and loosing the buyer, should they not like the changes caused by the construction of the new system.

Q. My septic system failed inspection. Now what?

A. The extent of the failure needs to be assessed. For example, a failed cesspool will have to be upgraded to a full septic system. The process will involve percolation testing and soils evaluation, an existing conditions survey, a possible property line survey, possible wetland delineation, engineering design, Board of Health approval, system construction, preparation of plan showing where the system was actually constructed and issuance of a compliance certificate by the Board of Health.

Q. What is a soil evaluation? Is that the same as a 'perc' test?

A. The soil evaluation consists of digging a deep hole, at least 10 ft. in depth to observe and classify the natural soils. Some types of soils do not allow water to easily pass through them (clays) while others such as sands, allow water to move quickly. The percolation test ('perc test') is performed in the suitable soil layer to determine how fast or slow water will pass.

Q. The soil on my lot is all clay. Why can't I bring in nice sand for the system?

A. The Sanitary Code requires a four foot minimum thickness of naturally
occuring pervious material for new construction. Excavating a hole in clay and filling it with sand would be similar to building the system in a stoppered bathtub. Eventually the system would fill up and overflow.

Q. What happens if a percolation test can not be performed at my house?

A. When the soils evaluation determines a layer of soil may be suitable but it is in the water table (making it impossible to actually perform the percolation test) then a soil sample is taken and evaluated by a state certified laboratory. The soil classification is determined and the percolation rate for that class (per the State Policy) is used to design the system. A request for a variance, including abutter notification and a hearing at the Board of Health has to occur. Upon approval from the Board of Health, an application to the D.E.P. for their approval of the variance needs to be submitted. Once approved, the variance documents are recorded at the Registry of Deeds. This is a time consuming task, therefore, homeowners anticipating the sale of their house should have the system inspection performed at the earliest opportunity.

Q. How much is this going to cost me?

A. The cost for repairing/replacing a failed septic system can not be accurately determined until the design plans are prepared. There are too many variables that impact the costs. Once plans have been prepared, copies of plans can be provided to Licensed Installers for a construction quote.

P.M.P. Associates, LLC provides Land Development and Civil Engineering services to residents, businesses and municipalities in East Bridgewater MA, Bridgewater MA, West Bridgewater MA, Quincy MA, Braintree MA, Weymouth MA, Hingham MA, Cohasset MA, Norwell MA, Hanover MA, Randolph MA, Stoughton MA, Canton MA, Brockton MA, Easton MA, Foxboro MA, Mansfield MA, Avon MA, Abington MA, Whitman MA, Rockland MA, Hanson MA, Pembroke MA, Marshfield MA, Halifax MA, Carter MA, Plymouth MA, Middleboro MA, Taunton MA, and all the South Shore of Massachusetts.