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Inspecting & Financing Your Septic System Under Title 5

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Pumping-out your septic tank or cesspool is probably the most important thing you can do to protect your system from failure.  If the buildup of solids, sludge and scum in the tank is excessive, the solids will be discharged to the leaching field and the system will become clogged and fail.  Regular inspection and pumping is the most cost effective way to make your septic system last many years and also to avoid costly repairs.

What is Title 5?

Title 5 is that portion of the State Environmental Code that governs the siting, design, construction, inspection and expansion of on-site sewage disposal systems.  Although Title 5 was developed by the Department of Environmental Protection, it is administered by local Boards of Health.

When do I need a Title 5 Inspection?

When you sell your home, you are required by law to have your septic system inspected.  You may also be required to have an inspection for certain home remodeling and renovation projects.

I need a Title 5 inspection.  What should I do?

You must hire a professional engineer or a licensed system inspector.  The Board of Health can provide you with a list.  Call more than one – their fees vary.  The inspector must submit a copy to the Board of Health within thirty (30) days of the inspection.  The Board of Health Department will review it and then either accept it, reject it, or send an enforcement order.

What does a Title 5 Inspection involve?

The septic tank, distribution box if present, or cesspool must be located and inspected.  Cesspools must be pumped out for inspection.  The inspector should try to locate all the system components.  He will examine the ground in these areas for signs of hydraulic failure. He must also make a determination of where the high groundwater elevation lies.  His report will include the design flow of the system.  Sometimes an inspector will ask the homeowner to check and see if “as-built” plans are on file with the Board of Health.  The homeowner may also be asked for copies of water and pumping records for the previous two years.  The inspector needs these items to complete the inspection report.

My system passed – Now what?

Your report is good for two years –three if you pump the system annually.  No further action will be taken by the Board of Health.  If the inspection was for sale of your house, you must share the report with the buyer.

My system failed – Now what?

As long as your system is not posing a public health threat, you will have two years to complete the work.  You will be required to hire a licensed engineer or sanitarian to do soil testing and design a new septic system.  

My cesspool has failed.  Can I make it comply?

No.  State law does not permit you to repair a cesspool.  Those that pass all criteria can remain as they are.  Once a cesspool exhibits signs of failure, you have to replace it with a conventional system (a septic tank with a leaching field).

Can I have my system inspected and not report it to the Board of Health?

Property owners have the right to have their systems inspected solely for their own information and without reporting it to the Board of Health.  However, if a system is inspected for home sale purposes, the Board of Health must receive the report within thirty (30) days of the inspection.  Once that submission is made, and the Board of Health determines that any part of the system has failed, the system must be repaired or replaced whether or not the house is subsequently sold.

Is any help available for financing the repairs to my system?

As of this writing, several local banks are providing loans to low income homeowners at discounted interest rates (generally 5%).  Contact the Board of Health office for a current listing.

Our town depends on relatively shallow wells for our drinking water.  Protecting the water supply from residential and industrial contamination is of paramount concern to the Norfolk Board of Health. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance to help you in doing your part to protect Norfolk’s water supply.

Please note: The Board of Health requires that any private water supply well be tested for appropriate quality and quantity prior to sale of a property.  Please call the Board of Health office for more information on well testing regulations.