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September 27th, 2017

A Word of Caution is Warranted for Septic Design

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There are many steps that a property owner takes to properly plan a site design. When you're proposing a site for a septic system, for example, you could be tempted to use the first recommendation from a website or developer. However, not all sites are the same, and you might need a professional survey and an engineered designed septic system. Some sites have special drainage and saturation issues. Other sites have been previously developed or re-purposed. All sites are affected by surrounding lands and may have unique storm-water management issues. It pays to take your time and plan for the best design and locate it in the right position compared to the building structure. Rushing the process would be costly later, especially if your community experiences unusual amounts of flooding. 

In this post, we discuss a few drainage and saturation issues that can affect septic design.

3 Common Issues for Small Septic Designs

The types of issues your property could face depend on many factors relating to climate and soil and rock composition. Even two pieces of land in the same development could call for different septic designs. Imagine that one home site is next to a wooded preserve subject to flooding, while the other lot is landlocked on all sides and hundreds of feet from a small, man-made pond. They have different drainage plans. Each site is also influenced by the actions of previous developers. Imagine a suburban restaurant built on top of a parking lot under which a former occupant stored large oil and gas tanks. When you plan for septic design, it's best to have experts go out and survey the proposed site and surrounding areas to determine if it will work best for your wastewater disposal needs. 

Here are three common issues that can affect a residential or small commercial septic design. They may not be of import during the construction period but may compromise the septic system during its lifetime:  

1. Extensive root systems could grow into the septic tank, damaging it and causing wastewater to leak out and contaminate the soil. You can see evidence of potential leaks in your existing system like these: patches of very green grass, a strong and offensive sewage smell, or the pooling of wastewater above ground.  

2. Septic systems could experience a clogged drainfield. The site design must include an overflow or backup site for adding another drainfield in the event that the first one fails. New drainfields must consist of comparable materials. If you have a small piece of land surrounded by other homes or businesses in a highly developed neighborhood, you could incur liability for damages to their properties. 

3. Septic systems are not sited and installed properly or maintained over time, creating the need for a new setup on another part of the property. This is more costly than laying down a new drainfield. The larger a building is and the more water that its occupants will use (i.e. commercial laundry services), the larger and more efficient the site's septic system must be.

We recommend that property owners invest in proper surveying and design prior to the installation of any septic system. A company specializing in the installation of septic equipment may not have the qualifications to do a preliminary site analysis. As experts in septic design and storm-water management, we will take the time to ensure that you are positioning a new or replacement septic system on the best part of the property. You will also need a backup plan for where to site another system after the first one completes its lifetime. This will be a good selling point if you ever decide to transfer the property to new owners. 

Our team of architects and technicians understand the challenges of sites in our local community. We can help property owners like you understand the proper steps for site design. For details, please call us today.

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