8. Does a septic system have to be dug up for an inspection?

Household water flows into the septic tank, where heavier solids sink to the bottom to form the sludge layer and lighter solids float to the top to form the scum layer, with grey water remaining in the middle. These layers remain in the tank, and the effluent, or wastewater, flows into a distribution box, which distributes the water into the leaching facility. Perforated pipes in the leaching system then allow the water to flow freely and trickle into the ground, where a natural filtration takes place, creating groundwater.

The seller, as the owner/operator of the system is held legally responsible for the upgrade of a failing septic system. In some instances, the buyer and seller may work the financial issues out as part of the property sale. Although Title 5 does not require a system to be in passing condition prior to a sale, most lending institutions will not issue a mortgage until the failing septic system has been repaired.

4. How long does a septic system inspection remain valid?

1.How Does a Septic System Work?

3.Is the buyer or seller responsible when a septic system fails and needs to be replaced?

Frequently Asked Questions about Septic Systems

General layout of system components, including location of the sewer, septic tank or cesspool, distribution box, and leaching field; Type of use (residential/commercial), Title 5 design flow, and if facility is occupied or vacant; Analysis of Title 5 criteria that indicates system failure, and, for large systems, criteria which indicates a threat to public health and the environment; Water use records from the previous two years, if available; Description of tank, including condition, approximate age, and thickness of grease/scum layer; Characterization of distribution box and dosing tanks with pumps, such as condition and evidence of solids carryover or backup; Condition of soil absorption system, including signs of hydraulic failure.

Septic inspections are required as needed by the MassDEP or the local Board of Health, as well as when properties are sold, divided or combined, or when a change in use of a facility or an expansion occurs. Title 5 also requires periodic inspections for large or shared systems and condominiums. Septic systems in cities and towns with MassDEP-approved inspection programs must also comply with local inspection requirements.

At a minimum, the inspector is required to open the covers on the septic tank and the distribution box to inspect each component. Typically, the leaching facility is not dug up. When a system has leaching pits, chambers, galleys or a leaching facility inspection port, these components will need to be excavated for an inspection to take place.

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7.Is an inspection required for new construction?

5.What is included in a septic system inspection?

If a septic system is pumped once a year and has available records, an inspection is valid for three years. Inspections made in connection with a property transfer are valid for two years, and remain valid even if that property is sold more than once in that time period.

6. Who arranges for the Title V inspection?

2.When are Septic System Inspections Required?

No. The Certificate of Compliance issued upon completion of a new system or system upgrade for state and federal facilities and large systems excludes the system from inspection requirements for any transfer of title within the next two years.

The property owner or facility operator is generally responsible for arranging an inspection. However, prior to a title transfer, the seller and buyer may contractually assign responsibility for the inspection, provided that it occurs within the specified timeframe.