There is a reason the Health Department checks a proposed new lot in the winter rainy season to see how fast the perc is before approving it as a building lot. A perc test is very simple. Dig a hole one square foot deep, pour a gallon of water into it and time how long it takes to drain away. The lower the ground water is, the faster the water drains out of the hole. And the better the septic system will work.
This year otherwise working septic systems have not been passing – because of high water tables. As we know, this past winter was very wet. We had more snow than usual and many hard rain storms. All this contributed to very high ground water. Some areas of the county have ground water so high you can see it ponding in the backyard, and that is often where you will find a failing septic. Naturally the septic tank and the drain field cannot work if they are under water; so if the septic inspector finds those conditions, the septic system fails.
If you are looking at a home in an area that does not have high ground, look around the house for ponding water in the yard. If you find it, check more carefully because it may be a signal that during heavy rain seasons the septic may be in trouble. When buying a home with a septic system, it is always wise to have a pick and shovel inspection. Then the ground is opened and one can look into the septic tank, the distribution box and the drain field to see if it is under water. It is very obvious if the ground water is too high.
Don’t be afraid to purchase a home with a septic system. Knowing what to look for ahead of time might save you some grief. Just because the ground has some water standing on it doesn’t necessarily mean the septic is in trouble, it just means you need to be alert. Have it inspected as part of your contract.
Life is good and getting better!