About the Inspection
The regulations allow for the inspection to be done in the least intrusive manner possible. As part of the inspection process, a cesspool must be pumped out and examined. A septic tank may be pumped, but it is not required—a leach field is usually not dug up.
If a system passes, the inspector is required to submit an approved system inspection form to the local board of health within 30 days, and the homeowner must provide a copy to the buyer. Prospective buyers and lending institutions may also require a copy of the approved inspection form.
If a system fails a required inspection, the inspector is required to submit the form to the local board of health within 30 days, and the homeowner must provide a copy to the buyer. The system must be repaired or upgraded within 2 years following inspection, regardless of whether the property is sold
However, In certain circumstances, DEP or the local board of health may approve a longer schedule in order to achieve maximum feasible compliance with TITLE 5. For example, commitments to extend municipal sewers or to install shared systems within 5 years combined with adequate interim measures and an enforceable schedule, may mean a property owner does not have to install a new system or upgrade the existing system within the next 2 year period. CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL BOARD OF HEALTH TO SEE IF YOU QUALIFY
If the defect to the system is minor, a conditional pass may be issued, whereby once the defect is repaired or replaced with local board of health approval, the system passes inspection.
Notes: The local board of health or DEP may impose a shorter period of time if a system presents an imminent public health hazard. Failure to comply with the requirements of the TITLE 5 could result in penalties.
Title 5 for Consumers
Improperly functioning sewage systems and cesspools are a major cause of the pollution of our coastal waters, rivers and water supply. As of March 31, 1995, the state environmental code governing septic systems, commonly known as TITLE 5 regulations, requires inspections of septic systems and cesspools before a home is sold or enlarged. Inspection results are reported to local boards of health. Most systems will pass inspection. Systems that fail must be repaired or upgraded.
In most cases, applications to install new systems or to upgrade existing systems submitted after January 1, 1996, will require that the soil evaluation test be performed by a DEP-approved soil evaluator. The regulations were revised on November 3, 1995, to encourage compliance with the regulations and to minimize financial hardships and delays for homeowners.
Homes that are not connected to a sewer system use septic systems or cesspools, both of which are regulated by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and local boards of health. A septic system has a tank, a distribution box, and soil absorption system commonly known as a “leach field.” A cesspool has a pipe carrying waste from the home to a pit which distributes the liquid waste.
Only inspectors and soil evaluators approved under the regulations can perform required system inspections and soil tests. A list of DEP-approved soil evaluators and system inspectors is available at your local board of health. Certified health officers, registered sanitarians, and professional engineers qualify automatically as system inspectors under the regulations, and their names may or may not appear on the DEP-approved list.
The price of an inspection is not regulated. On average, expect to pay $300 to $500 for a TITLE 5 inspection.
Tips to Comply with Title 5 in a Cost-Effective Manner
- If a TITLE 5 inspection is required, time the inspection so that costs of the inspection and necessary repairs or upgrades are determined before closing.
- Even if you do not intend to sell your property, consider having a voluntary inspection performed to assess the system’s condition. The results of voluntary inspections are not reported to the local board of health or DEP. Such an inspection may allow you to voluntarily correct a problem before in worsens; but first be sure to have any voluntary correction approved by the local board of health.
- Determine the physical location of your system and get all records, plans, certificates of compliance, past permits, inspection reports and water table and usage records pertaining to your system from your local board of health before hiring an inspector.
- Get a list of approved system inspectors and soil evaluators from your board of health or call DEP’s Title 5 Hotline at (617) 292-5886 or 1-800-266-1122. Only hire soil evaluators whose names appear on the list. Hire only inspectors from the list of certified health officers, registered sanitarians or professional engineers who are qualified automatically even though their names may not be on the list.
- To prevent an unscrupulous inspector from failing your system to generate repair business, consider hiring one person to inspect and another to design and install any repairs or upgrades.
- Avoid the quick fix; if a solution seems too expensive or too good to be true, it probably is.
- Get written estimates from several inspectors. One key question to ask is whether the price of the inspection includes pumping the system; often it does not.
- For repairs or upgrades, get more than one estimate. If costs seem excessive, talk to your system designer and local board of health to see if the design can be modified and still provide adequate protection of public health and environment.
- Before signing a contract for a repair, upgrade or installation, ask for references and consult them. Make sure the contract specifies exactly the work to be performed, the costs, the payment schedule, any guarantees, and that the contractor will obtain all required permits.
- Once the inspection is complete, make sure the person who signs the form is the same person who conducted the inspection.
- If you are selling or buying a home, be sure to negotiate and specify who will pay for the costs of the inspection and any necessary repairs or upgrades. Explore financing options. Consider consulting a lawyer who is familiar with TITLE 5.
- Once your system is in compliance, protect the environment and your investment by maintaining your system properly.
- A word about septic system additives: There isn’t one on the market that can make a failing system pass inspection. DEP approves septic system additives, but only to ensure that they will not harm your system or the environment. DEP does not evaluate the accuracy of claims manufacturers make about the effects their products will have on system performance.
- Remember that even the best-maintained system in the world cannot last forever. Like anything else, it will wear out over time, stop working properly and need to be repaired of replaced.
- Have your system pumped every 3 years, or annually if you have a garbage disposal system, and maintain all pumping records for future reference.