WOW! I found out another totally incredulous thing today where our State Legislators have dropped the ball again!
I recently inspected a home with an aerobic septic system with surface discharge (spray heads on the surface). The system did have issues that would have been caught if a proper annual maintenance contract was in force and the three times a year inspections were being performed and reported on. Since approximately 1988 the State of Texas has required that owners have an annual maintenance contract on these systems (as well as other specialty systems) with these 3X a year inspections. An option was if the owner took the required training they could maintain it themselves but still had to submit reports on their 3X a year inspections.
The reasoning behind this was clear that discharging the treated waste water on the surface (spray heads) can cause problems not only for the resident but also nearby residents and other natural resources nearby if the system was not properly maintained. Discharging these systems on the surface can mix with surface run-off and be carried for a long distance causing problems with neighbors, streams, lakes, etc. The simple fact is that a failing system can discharge raw sewage and cause a significant health hazard to nearby property owners as well. So the requirement for maintenance on these systems is, and always will be, important. Add to that if you are buying a property with one of these systems on it at least you could be assured there are some type of maintenance records available for it.
Well wouldn’t you know that the State Legislatures had to get their hands on this one and totally foul it up! I found this out by calling the permitting authority for this septic system which is located approximately 2000′ from a very large lake that is also a source of drinking water. The permitting authority told me they no longer require maintenance contracts or reporting on residential septic systems. WHAT! That couldn’t be true could it? So I called the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) who administers the On Site Sewage Facility systems program for the State (OSSF or septic systems). Sure enough apparently the requirement for maintenance contracts and reporting on residential systems was removed from the State laws. They further advised it is completely up to the permitting authority for septic systems if they will require any maintenance or reporting on the systems. Unbelievable but true!
So what does that mean for you? That means it is now more important than ever if you are planning to purchase a property to do the following two steps.
- Contact the permitting authority to determine if they do require any maintenance contracts and/or reporting on any type of septic system. You can find the name and contact for the permitting authority on TCEQ’s WEB page HERE . Also you need to keep in mind that if the permitting authority does not require maintenance contracts and reporting can you be sure that your neighbor next door is maintaining their system properly? If not you’re taking a chance that possibly could cost you some grief and other issues.
- Always, always have a professional septic installation/maintenance company perform a full evaluation of the septic system whether maintenance contracts and reporting are required or not BUT ESPECIALLY if they are not.
Remember the only one that is going to look out for your best interests is you and me (not necessarily all Home Inspectors would). So be safe, stay healthy, and avoid a big repair or replacement bill by having that septic system fully evaluated.
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