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Posts Tagged ‘Title 5’

# 1 Septic System Maintenance Tip

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

 

septic tank outlet filter
septic tank outlet filter

 

 

New Septic Systems and replacement septic tanks in Massachusetts are being constructed with a filter device that is inserted into the Septic tank outlet tee. There is supposed to be a cover to the finished ground surface (the cover is bolted down to avoid unauthorized access). There are multiple companies that manufacture these outlet filter devices. These filter devices are typically the same and serve the same basic function, which is to help prevent solids from leaving the Septic Tank and entering the leaching system. A premature failing of the leaching system can occur when soilds and grease are allowed into the leaching system. The filter is simply inserted into the outlet tee.

This filter must be cleaned as part of your septic system maintenance.

Septic Tank outlet filter & Manhole Cover

 

The Massachusetts Sanitary Code requires the installation of a manhole access cover extended to the final ground surface over the outlet of the Septic tank when an outlet filter is installed. This manhole cover eliminates the digging & searching for the Septic Tank outlet. For safety reasons, these manhole covers are bolted, so you will need a wrench to remove the bolts before opening the cover.

How to clean the Septic Tank outlet filter

The septic tank outlet filter should be cleaned at least once every year and when the septic tank is pumped.

To clean the septic tank outlet filter, you will need rubber gloves, tools to open the manhole cover and a garden hose.

WARNING: this maintenance work will expose you to sanitary waste, so if you have health issues, hire a sanitary pumping company to do this maintenance work. ALSO, do not touch your face or eye when you are doing this job.

U044_PIPING_ASBUILT_2-5-13 004      Outlet filter with handle

                                                                    Outlet filter with handle

Are you ready?

1.   Put on the heavy rubber gloves and un-bolt the manhole cover. Remover the cover.

2.   Reach into the septic tankand grab the handle of the filter.

3.   Pull the filter up and out, keeping it above the open septic tank.

4.   Use the garden hose to spray wash teh scum off the filter and back into the Septic Tank.

5.   Reinsert the filter back into the outlet. BE SURE to have the arrow pointing toward the direction of the outlet pipe.

6.   Put the manhole cover back on (align the bolt holes) and tighten the bolts (don’t over tighten them!).

7.   Remove the rubber gloves (most people will throw them away and take them off by turning them inside-out to avoid touching the outside of the gloves). You should disinfect the end of the garden hose and then wash your hands with pleanty of soap & water

 Why do I need to clean the outlet filter?

The Septic Tank outlet filter blocks material from flowing out of the tank and into the leaching system. Eventually the filter device will collect too much material and the filter will plug up with solids. When that happens, the effluent water is prevented from leaving the Septic tank. If the water can not leave the septic tank, it will back-up into the house. Depending on your home plumbing, a Septic Tank back-up could cause a nasty mess.

My #1 Septic System maintenance Top —- Be sure to clean your Septic Tank Outlet Filter every year!

Top 5 Red Flag Warnings about Septic System Design Engineers

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

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Here are the Top 5 warnings why you should not hire an engineer to design your septic system:

#1. He will beat any other engineer’s price by $100.00!

#2. He has a contractor that will give you a combined price for the  engineering and construction and furthermore, that contractor will beat anybody’s price!

#3. He can do the job cheaper than any other engineer because he has worked in your neighborhood before!

#4. He gives you a very simple keyword outline fee proposal that does not actually describe the engineering services to be performed!

#5. His fee proposal is only for the septic system design and does not include the fees for work that he has to perform during construction!

Your septic system is having problems or it has failed. You have been told that you need to hire an engineer to design a new septic system.

international-symbol-label-sym6-a-smIf during this hiring process you hear any of these Top 5 reasons, consider it to be a Red Flag Warning!

You are about to be fooled into spending more money than necessary and adding a considerable amount of aggravation to an already stressful problem.

Red Flag Warnings?

#1. He will beat any other engineer’s price by $100.00!

Isn’t that great? You do not have to do any further searching for an engineer. You don’t need to know about his qualifications or what services are to be performed by him, because this guy is saving you money (well at least $100.00). Engineering design services are not like buying a bag of cement at Home Depot. The fee for engineering design services is based on the amount of time being used and the staff that is performing these services. How can he guarantee that his fee will be lower? What is he not doing? Maybe he is not doing a design that is best suited for your property? Maybe he is using his standard design regardless of the construction cost?

#2. He has a contractor that will give you a combined price for the  engineering and construction and furthermore, that contractor will beat anybody’s price!

They must be psychic! The size of the leaching system is based on the results of the percolation test and the number of bedrooms in the house. The amount of excavation depends on the depth of the “good” soil (determined by the deep hole soil evaluation) and how much sand (if any) needs to be brought in to construct the system. The groundwater also causes an impact on the elevation of the system and the high groundwater could add a pump chamber to the system design.  How can a contractor know how much the construction will cost without actually having the holes dug and the design plan prepared? As for beating everybody’s price, what corners are being cut to do this?

Also, when its the contractor who hires the engineer, who does the engineer really work for? Not you! When it comes time during the construction of the system and the engineer has to go out to the site to observe the contractor’s work to confirm that it is properly built, does he represent you if something is wrong? If he is teamed up with the contractor, he is not going to mess-up his deal for future work with the contractor. Can you say, “Conflict of interest”?

#3. He can do the job cheaper than any other engineer because he has worked in your neighborhood before!

Knowing where you live does not really change the amount of work that the engineer needs to do in order to design the septic system. Does this sound like the gypsy work crews sealing driveways who are in your neighborhood and happen to have extra materials that they can sell you cheap, since the neighbor already paid for it? If he has records for your property lines, then this information will assist him in doing his work. He may have worked in your neighborhood, but did his previous plan have any problems with its approval? Check him out at the local Board of Health office and take a look at his work. Ask the neighbor about their experience with him and did he ask for extra fees once the project started.

#4. He gives you a very simple keyword outline fee proposal that does not actually describe the engineering services to be performed!

We don’t need no stinking paperwork!  You have to give him credit for trying, when the scope of his services just states, “Design septic system”! Well? This is what you want him to do, right? Will that design include the soil evaluation & percolation testing, existing conditions topographic survey and determination if wetlands issues will require other permits, location of your existing system and elevation of the pipe leaving your house, determination of the best technology to use at your property and possible local upgrade approvals to minimize impacts and construction costs? How about the testing fee and plan review fee that is typically paid to the Town? What about the cost of the excavating contractor to dig the percolation test hole and the deep holes for the soil evaluation?

If you hire this engineer, you can be assured one thing, that you will be told, “Oh, that was not part of my scope of work and it is an extra fee.”

#5. His fee proposal is only for the septic system design and does not include the fees for work that he has to perform during construction!

If you do get a defined scope of work, be sure it includes construction phase services. During the installation of the septic system the engineer (in Massachusetts) is required by the State Sanitary Code to make multiple site visits to view several stages of construction and to make measurements necessary to prepare a plan of the constructed system (this is called an “As-built” plan). When the system is elevated above the natural grade or additional filling is needed for Sanitary Code compliance, a topographic survey is performed after the system is back-filled /covered. This is called a “topographic  as-built” plan. The final as-built plan is submitted by the engineer to the Board of Health with a document that states his opinion that the system was constructed in accordance with the design plan and the permit issued by the Board of Health. This step is needed so you can get your Certificate of Compliance. There is a cost / fee associated with these construction phase services. If you do not have these construction phase items as part of your agreement, then you know you are going to pay more, especially if he cut his fee for the design phase.

international-symbol-label-sym18-a-sm But I need to hire a civil engineer to design my septic system.

What should I do?

The best advice to follow is to spend a little time and understand exactly what services your are buying and what costs are associated with those services. It is only human nature to want to follow the easier path (have someone else do the work for you). When it come to a septic system repair project, you could end up spending much more that was necessary. A little time spent now could mean larger savings for you in the future.

  • Be sure that the engineer has a good reputation and the quality of his work is also good. The local Board of Health is a good source of information, especially about engineers whose plans are always being returned for corrections and revisions before being approved.
  • The internet is a good research tool. If the engineer has a web page, review the information on septic system design.
  • When you call the engineer, do you get to speak with him and if you leave a message, does he promptly return your call?
  • Be sure to talk with the engineer to discuss your needs and project completion requirements. Ask him to send you a complete proposal. Don’t be intimidated if it takes several pages to describe the services. Take the time to read it and call the engineer back to ask your questions. Even visit his office to go over the scope of services and fees. This visit will also give you the opportunity to see the office.
  • Ask the engineer about other septic system projects that he has designed in your town.
  • Ask the engineer about his design approach. Does he design each system based on the individual property conditions or does he limit his designs to a few types of systems.

It you have any reservations about hiring a particular engineer, then don’t hire that engineer!

Before making calls and talking with an engineer about your project, you may want to get a better understanding about the process of replacing a failed septic system.

A straight forward description of this process is available free to download and it is called, “Valuable Information on Title 5 Septic System Perc. Testing, Soil Evaluation & Design Engineering.”

Do you have any other Red Flag Warnings to add to this Top 5 list?

You can comment and add them to this blog for all to see.

 

How to design a Septic System – Understand the Sanitary Code

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Since the late 1970′s, as a Civil Engineer, I have been involved with the design of Septic Systems, including the training of other young engineers.

If I was limited to only one piece of advice, it would be:

Understand the Sanitary Code!

In Massachusetts, the Sanitary Code was issued in 1978 under 310CMR15.00 and commonly called “Title 5″. A major revision took place in the mid 1990′s with further revisions during the last few years. In addition to the Code changes, the State has been issuing “policies” that clarify the Code and allow for the use of various “innovative and alternative” systems and components.

I have never subscribed to the “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” mentality. As each Code revision is published, I and my staff of civil engineers become familiar with the changes and new requirements. As new technologies are approved (for both remedial and general use) we get technical data from these companies, including in-house demonstration seminars.

I can’t understand how a designer will insist on using a conventional pipe and stone leaching system when there are so many choices available that would reduce the cost of the system. Well, maybe I do understand, they either don’t want to change, or, they are cutting their costs & fee and limiting the time spent on preparing the design plan. Some people like vanilla, but there are other flavors available and while you might pay a little more, there are added benefits in the long term.

Think of this as a round peg in a square hole. Depending on the size of the peg, you might be able to make it fit. But one size does not always fit all!

Do you remember Mission Impossible? At the beginning of the program, the team is selected from the stack of available members. While the design of a septic system is not an impossible task, having the right “team” of system components should be the ultimate goal.

In order to select the “team”, you need to understand the Code!

What qualities do you look for?

Friday, January 15th, 2010

You have finally decided that it is time to replace your old septic system. You have been told by the local Board of Health that you need to hire a Civil Engineer and a bunch of other stuff that you forgot as soon as you left the office.

Your friends aren’t much help either.

What are the qualities that you are going to look for as part of your decision to hire a civil engineer?

Price?  Reputation? Knowledge? Recommendation? Local Firm?

Are you going to just hire a contractor and let him hire the engineer? oops! you may not want to do that, especially if you are concerned about the Price!

There is a regional furniture store that has a marketing jingle, “Quality, comfort and price, that’s nice”?

So tell me, what qualities do you look for?

“Do-it-yourself” Septic System Design

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Having trouble with your Septic System? Can’t take a shower and run the washing machine at the same time without having to clean-up a system back-up? You have a nice wet green area in your yard when the rest of the lawn is brown? Do you think it is time to replace the old Septic System?

Why not “do it yourself”?

While some of the following information could apply to other States, the focus of this Blog is to address residential septic systems in Massachusetts.

The first step is to understand what is a Septic System, which is also known as an on-site sanitary wastewater disposal system. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) maintains a website with lots of information. The trick is navigating through the site (link to the main DEP Septic System page)  to find the answers you need. In Massachusetts, the design of septic systems is controlled by the State Sanitary Code (310 CMR 15.00) which is also known as Title 5 which can be obtained at this MA DEP Septic Systems/Title 5 link . Each community can also establish local regulations that have to be followed. You should check with the local Board of Health office.

Before you get started using the Code to do the design, let’s become familiar with the basic septic system components.

Septic Tank & Pump Chamber

Septic Tank & Pump Chamber

Sanitary wastewater leaves the house through the building sewer and flows by gravity into the Septic Tank. In some instances, the design requires a pump to move the septic tank effluent to the leaching system (also know as the soil absorption system or SAS)

The effluent leaving the septic tank and/or pump chamber has to be piped to a Distribution Box (“D” Box) before entering the SAS. The Distribution Box  is designed to allow the effluent to be distributed evenly into the leaching system by gravity (there are pressure dosed systems that do not use a “D” box).

Gravity Distribution Box with a force main inlet pipe

Distribution Box with force main inlet pipe

Distribution boxes are typically made of concrete and are available with multiple pipe openings and sizes.

The SAS or “leaching area” allows the distributed effluent to pass into the ground.

There are multiple types of systems and components that have been approved for general use in the design of this system component. The decision to use a pipe and stone leaching field, pipe and stone leaching trench, chamber system or other type of system should be based on the specific site conditions and property constraints.

No Aggregate Chamber Field

No Aggregate Chamber Field

The MA DEP web site also published a series of technical design documents that are available at this Guidance and Policy link.

Now that you are more familiar with the systems components and have copies of the regulations, there are a few more steps that need to be accomplished before you can work on the design. You will need to prepare a plan of your property to show the existing house as well as the site features, such as the driveway, trees, swimming pool, etc. This plan needs to show your property line (your deed will describe your property and may even reference a plan that shows your lot lines). This plan also needs to show topography (your town may require the topography to be based on a national datum and not an assumed elevation) and spot elevations at certain locations.  It is also helpful to know the location and invert elevation of the building sewer pipe at foundation as well as the location of your water service and other utilities (gas, electric, CATV). If you or your neighbors have a well (drinking water and or irrigation well), then they (all the wells) also need to be located and shown on the plan.

Topographic / Existing Conditions Plan

Topographic / Existing Conditions Plan

Do you have wetlands within 100 feet of your property or where the new septic system would be installed? Then you will need to have the edge of the wetlands determined, located and shown on the plan. Some towns have local Wetlands By-laws & Regulations which are more stringent that the State Regulations, so it may be best to contact your local Conservation Commission office.

Now that you have your worksheet plan, you can determine what area is available to locate the new septic system. The Code has a list of set-back distances that need to be followed, such as 10 ft. off the property line, etc.

The next step will require the services of a MA licensed Soil Evaluator to perform the official soil evaluation and percolation testing. This testing is witnessed by the local Board of Health and typically involves submitting an application along with a fee payment. The testing will involve the excavation of several deep (10 ft. plus) holes in the proposed system location, so you will need a larger backhoe.  You (or your excavating contractor) will need to obtain a “dig-safe” number and a Trench Permit (issued by the town).

Soil Evaluation

Soil Evaluation

The soil evaluation will determine the depth and suitability of the soil, the elevation of the estimated seasonal high groundwater and the percolation rate. These items are all used in determining the elevation of the system components as well as the size of the SAS.

If you have a property that has high groundwater and the good soils are saturated (can’t perform the percolation test), then a soil sample can be taken to a State Certified Soils Lab to perform an analysis to determine the classification for establishing a percolation rate. This is only allowed for system replacement when no increase in flow is proposed.

Speaking of flow, the Code requires you to use a design flow based on the total number of bedrooms. If you have a house with more than 10 rooms, you are required to do a mathematical calculation to arrive at the bedroom count. The Code uses 110 gallons per day per bedroom with a three bedroom minimum design. Some towns require a higher design flow amount.

Now you can take all of this information and do the design for your septic system! The Code has a listing of all the items that must be presented on the design plan and some towns have additional content requirements.

In Massachusetts, the final design plans that are submitted to the Board of Health for approval must be prepared by a Registered Sanitarian or a Registered Professional Engineer.

Maybe the “do-it-yourself” method is not a good idea.

However, by knowing what is involved with this process and the multiple options for replacing a failed septic system, you can use this knowledge in hiring the Sanitarian or Professional Engineer who will work closely with you in preparing a final plan that is best suited for your property.

Septic Systems – What your Real Estate Agent should know!

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

By Michael E. Perrault, P.E.

How long has your house been on the market? That is a very common question, especially during this “economic slow down”.  Are you using a Real Estate firm to help you market and sell your property? What are you doing about your old Septic System?

If you have a septic system and live in Massachusetts, you are obligated by law to have your septic system inspected when you are selling your property. Before 1995 this requirement did not exist and typically only a token observation was performed. Opening the cover of the Septic Tank and proclaiming, “looks good to me” does not constitute a thorough inspection.

With the changes in the Massachusetts Sanitary Code since 1995, a licensed septic system inspector must follow the Title 5 Code requirements and document the inspection using the standard State forms. A copy of this completed form must be submitted to the local Board of Health office, the seller and a copy must also be provided to the buyer.

When you lsited your property, did your Real Estate Agent tell you about the need for the septic inspection? Did you have it done right away or are you waiting for a buyer?

Over the last 18 months I have been travelling to various real estate offices in Southeastern Massachusetts and presenting a brief seminar on septic systems. This seminar was pre-arranged to be made during the monthy meeting of the brokers, agents and sales staff and would take about 1/2 hour.

The focus of the presentation was on the need for the inspection of the septic system early in the sales process and what to do when the inspection results in a failure.

Septic System Inspection

Septic System Inspection

An important part of my presentation is the question and answer session.  One common question that is typically asked is, “My client’s septic system failed the Title 5 inspection, when do they need to replace the system?”

My advice is to have the work done sooner than latter.

What makes one property more attractive than a very similar property in the same neighborhood?  If both houses needed to have their septic systems replaced and one had all the engineering design completed and plans available for the buyer to review, would that make one house more attractive to a potential buyer?  Showing of the property would include telling the potential buyer exactly where the new septic system would be going and if it would involve building a large “hump: in the yard. What if the house had the system installed and the lawn restored. Would the completion of the work make that house even more attractive? The showing would simply indicate the location of the installed system and that there would be no delays due to the need to install a new septic system.

New Replacement Septic Tank

New Replacement Septic Tank

Some property owners simply do not have the money to pay for the design and installation of a new septic system. My advice is to suggest, as a minimum, getting the soil testing and desgin engineering completed as soom as possible. Once the design plans are completed, the owner can obtain actual construction cost estimates. The cost for replacing the septic system will play an important roll in establishing the acceptable price for the property.

As for the installation of the system, Banks and Mortgage Companies typically do not want to hold back funds at the “closing” to pay for the installation of the septic system. When they do agree to holding back the money to build the system, the amount is typically 1.5 times the bid estimate.

There are contractors that will work with sellers to install the replacement septic system when the sale documents are complete and the “closing”  has been scheduled, pending the installation of the septic system. These contractors are typically listed on the “closing documents” and are paid from the funds generated by the sale of the property.

Not all real estate professionals know about these options, have the contacts to get the engineering completed in a timely manner, obtain legitimate construction quotes or arrange for the “pre-closing” construction.

I hope that my “septic system seminar” for real estate professionals provided a little more knowledge. One other “tool” that was provided to these professionals was a copy of the brochure “Valuable Information on Title 5 Septic System, Perc. Testing, Soil Evaluation and Design Engineering”. This brochure clearly outlines the steps that need to be followed in replacing a faied septic system. This brochure can be downloaded for free from the www.pmpassoc.com web site landing page.

Economic Stimulus Package

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

P.M.P. Associates, LLC has created their own, non-taxpayer funded, economic stimulus package!

On January 17, 2009 a series of e-mail blasts were sent out to over 400 Real Estate Professionals and Business Contacts outlining our approach to stimulating the economy.

The e-mail announced that, until July 1, 2009, the Massachusetts licensed septic system inspectors in the P.M.P. Associates office would perform a free preliminary Title 5 Septic System Inspection for qualified property owners in the Towns of East Bridgewater, Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, Halifax, Hanson, Middleborough and Easton. These towns are within a reasonable driving distance from the P.M.P. office.

Typically, a Septic System Inspection would cost about $250.00 plus the cost for pumping out the septic tank or cesspool. In Massachusetts, you must have your septic system inspected before you sell your property. Older types of septic systems, such as cesspools, typically fail their inspection. A preliminary inspection can usually determine if the system will not pass the inspection without having to perform the full inspection procedure and then add the cost of the pumping on top of the inspection fee. (See my blog, “12 steps to replace a Septic System“)

The offer to perform a free preliminary Title 5 Septic System Inspection did require the need to arrange for an inspection appointment.  The appointment requirement allows our office to coordinate the inspections with the other project engineering work schedules.

The intent of this offer was not to eliminate the need for an official septic system inspection, but to help a property owner save a little money when they know that their septic system is marginal and would like to have it pre-inspected.

12 Steps to replace a Septic System

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

For those non-city folks that rely on a septic system instead of a city sewer, having a failed septic system is a major headache. It is amazing to hear the horror stories, as well as, the vast amount of mis-information being circulated about septic tanks, leaching systems, septic system repair costs, etc.

With over 30 years of experience in the design engineering of subsurface sewage disposal systems, commonly called “Septic Systems”, I’ve prepared this easy to follow 12 step outline as a guide in replacing a Septic System. There is one very important pre-qualification before you start, you need to retain a qualified professional civil engineer or registered sanitarian. I have to stress the word “qualified”, unless you want to enjoy being the leading role in the next release of “Horror Stories from the Leaching Field”. Take the time to do a little homework, such as going to your local Health Board office and asking what civil engineers are designing septic systems in your Town and whose design plans are typically approved without having to be sent back for corrections and revisions. Once you get a few names, do a little research on the web, Better Business Bureau, etc. Then you should contact these civil engineers and talk with them about your problem septic system and ask for a written proposal that will outline the tasks and costs. Just like you wouldn’t eat a rotten piece of fruit, if you don’t have a good feeling about a particular civil engineer, then do not hire him!

Now you are ready to go forward with the 12 steps.

  1. A test application is submitted to the local Health office (some States, like Rhode Island, control the testing, etc. so the application would have to go to a State agency.)
  2. You hire an excavation contractor to dig the test holes. If you do not know a local excavating contractor, then your engineer should provide you with a few contact names. (FYI – by hiring a contractor for the test holes, you are not making a commitment or obligation to hire him to install the replacement septic system.) This excavation contractor will need to follow local / state safety regulations (such as obtaining a “dig-safe” number and having the underground electric, telephone, CATV, gas, etc. located before the test holes are dug.
  3. The engineer coordinates with the Health Agent, excavating contractor and you (the client) to set the testing date.
  4. The engineer performs the official deep hole soil evaluation and associated “perc” percolation testing. Soil samples may have to be obtained and taken to a lab for further testing. The engineer prepares the official forms (soil logs) and submits a copy to the local health office and to you.
  5. The engineer performs a limited existing conditions topographic “topo” survey of your property where the replacement septic system is proposed. (FYI – Unless you have a small lot or do not know where your lot lines and/or lot corners are located, you typically would not need to have your property line surveyed.)
  6. The engineer uses the results of the soil evaluation, perc. testing, topo survey in combination with the current and anticipated building use (number of bedrooms, garbage grinder, etc.) and State / Local Sanitary Codes to design a replacement septic system for your property.
  7. The formal design plans (with the original seal and signature of the professional civil engineer) and construction permit application are submitted to the local Health Agency for review and approval.
  8. The engineer provides you with additional copies of the design plans for you to submit to licensed contractors to obtain a price quote / bid.
  9. Once you have selected a contractor, he coordinates with the local Health Agency (to obtain the permit) and the engineer, prior to starting the work.
  10. The Health Agent visits the construction site as the work progresses to observe and confirm Code compliance.
  11. The engineer, in most States, must visit the construction site to observe the critical construction stages, make measurements and prepare a formal plan showing the completed “as-built” septic system. The engineer submits a copy of this plan to you and the local Health Agency along with a signed compliance statement. Some States also require the contractor to sign and submit a compliance statement.
  12. The local Health Agency reviews the “as-built” plan, etc. and issues a “Certificate of Compliance” which signifies that the replacement septic system as installed is in compliance with the State and Local Sanitary Code.

One other item, if you have wetlands on or near your property and the anticipated work will be within 100 ft. of these wetlands, then additional permitting will be necessary before you can have the replacement septic system installed.