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Septic Tank Inspection

Good management is an important factor in the successful performance of any onsite wastewater system, such as a septic tank.

This includes regular inspections and pumping to ensure proper functioning. Factors such as tank size, water usage, and household practices all determine what frequency these inspections need to take place at.

Inspections are done to check the condition of the components of the tank, and if pumping is necessary. It’s key to have periodic assessments conducted in order to ensure a properly maintained septic system.

Who Should Complete the Inspection

An inspection of a septic system should only be conducted by a certified inspector, such as a local health department official or private contractor.

To start the process of arranging an inspection, contact your local health department to either oversee the inspection or refer you to a wastewater professional for assistance. Depending on the department’s policy, there may be a fee associated with the inspection.

The very first thing that needs to be done is to locate the septic tank; if available, refer to the record sketch from when the system was installed, otherwise use a probe or radio transmitter (which will need to be flushed down and retrieved) to track its whereabouts. Once located, uncover it in preparation for the inspector’s arrival.

Upon arrival, they will open up and assess what’s inside! Additionally, depending on requirements/circumstances homeowners may need to locate and uncover it themselves prior to inspection in order to cut costs and time.

Function of a Septic Tank

The primary function of a septic tank is to separate solids and liquids from wastewater in order for the solid waste to settle out. This process can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours depending on the amount of solids and liquid collected in the tank.

The maximum allowed level of solids in a septic tank should not exceed 1/3 of the liquid depth, and tanks which have exceeded this limit should be pumped as soon as possible.

The Sludge Judge instrument, which typically consists of a long plastic pole marked in 1-foot increments with one end stoppered off, is used by certified inspectors to determine the levels of solid waste and liquid in the tank. It is also important for this inspecting process to check that all components are watertight, as it is necessary to contain wastewater within the tank while preventing overfilling by avoiding groundwater contamination.


Septic tanks are constructed with a range of materials like concrete, plastic, or fiberglass. These tanks utilize either of two methods to promote quiet environment for solids settling – baffles or tees. A certified inspector will assess that these tees or baffles are fittingly linked to both the inlet and outlet pipes of the tank.

Baffles are made from the same material as the tank and are normally placed during manufacturing. In terms of a concrete tank, its concrete baffle needs to be investigated for corrosion and any existing cracks. If it’s concluded by the inspector that a concrete baffle is corroded or missing, instead of substituting it with a new tank, a tee would be attached to it. A tee is mostly composed of plastic, similar to inlet and outlet pipes.

Completing an inspection process on a septic tank includes visual examination of both the inlet and outlet pipes to check for any signs of water entering the tank, such as running water or disuse of plumbing fixtures.

Drain Field and Effluent Filter Inspection

Additionally, any trace of water draining back into the septic tank from the outlet pipe may indicate that there is a problem with the drain field and may require further investigation.

Furthermore, if present, an effluent filter should be inspected and properly maintained by using a hose to clean out its contents back into the septic tanks. Another point to consider is whether “manhole” risers have been installed – plastic risers covering manholes which when securely attached can enable easier access for future inspections.

Regular inspections are essential to ensure proper operation and maintenance in order to preserve your onsite system’s health.

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