Septic System Inspection Reminders
We sent you a reminder to get your septic system inspected. Here are some answers to your questions.
I received a letter from the Health Department. What do I do now?
- Hire a septic service company. Find a list of certified providers at www.tpchd.org/septicservicecompanies. We recommend you call at least 3 companies to compare prices.
- The septic service company inspects your septic system and pumps only if necessary and requested by you. They file their inspection report online at www.onlinerme.com. Look up your inspection report under “Report Search”.
- We update our records and send you another reminder when your next inspection is due.
Why did I get a letter from the Health Department?
State and local law require septic system owners to get their septic system regularly inspected. In the past, the Health Department only notified owners of complex systems (like proprietary or community systems) about required inspections. We are now notifying owners of simple systems (like gravity or pressure systems) about required operation and maintenance inspections.
We track inspection dates in our database and will send you another notice when your next inspection is due.
What does the law say?
State and local law require septic system owners to get their septic system regularly inspected, called routine inspections or operation and maintenance (O&M) inspections. (WAC 246-272A effective July 2007 and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Board of Health Resolution No. 2010-4222; Chapter 2 effective February 2010).
What should be inspected?
The Health Department’s Code, section 44, lists what certified septic professionals need to inspect. Your septic system might not have all of these components.
Septic tanks: Inspector needs to check:
- Liquid level.
- Amount of scum and sludge
- Whether the tank needs pumping.
- The condition of the tank and its parts and structural integrity.
Pump tanks: Inspector needs to check:
- Liquid level in the tank.
- The amount of sludge.
- The pump tanks structural integrity and condition.
- All pump controls and electronics, note the drawdown, dosing, cycles and squirt test if possible.
The drainfield area: Inspector needs to:
- Walk the drainfield area and look for surfacing sewage and damage to the drainfield area.
Check monitoring ports -if available- for ponded sewage.
Risers or access ports:
Inspector needs to check lids and caps to ensure they are secure and in good condition.
Inspector needs to check if filter operates properly and is in sound condition.
Proprietary devices such as pretreatment devices:
Inspector needs to check if device operates according to manufacturer’s specifications.
The inspector will file an inspection report in an online database called onlineRME. We review reports and send you a letter if there are issues you need to get fixed. You can look up inspection reports at www.onlineRME.com under “Report Search”.
I can’t afford my inspections or pay for my septic repairs. What are my options?
- Get a $100 discount on the inspection through our TappsWise Septic Care Incentive Program. Funds are limited.
- Craft3: A nonprofit, non-bank community development financial institution can provide affordable loans for septic repairs and maintenance.
- It’s a great idea to save money each month for future inspections and pumping. $15 a month is a good start!
How does the septic incentive work?
The septic incentive is for inspections of gravity and pressure systems within the Lake Tapps watershed. It is not valid for property sale inspections. Funds are limited.
- Verify you live within the Lake Tapps watershed on this map.
- Schedule service with a company on the incentive form.
- The septic company provides service and gives you a $100 discount at time of service (for inspection only).
How often does my system need to be inspected?
- Every year if you have a complex system like a community system, aerobic treatment unit or other proprietary system.
- Every 3 years if you have a simple system like a gravity or pressure system.
- When you sell your house. This applies to all types of systems.
How do I benefit from getting my system inspected?
The cheapest septic system you will ever own is the one you have now. Protect your investment. Regular inspections help find and correct problems before they become major. This can save you money long-term by avoiding costly repairs or replacing your system.
You can help keep Lake Tapps’ water clean and healthy for you and your family to enjoy. Failling or malfunctioning septic systems can impact the water quality of Lake Tapps. If all septic system owners keep their systems functioning and address issues immediately, Lake Tapps will improve as a safe place to swim, water ski and boat.
Why should I get my system inspected?A septic system that needs repairs can negatively impact water quality of Lake Tapps. If you have any of the issues listed below, contact your septic service provider to fix them immediately.
- Surfacing sewage.
- Broken or missing baffles.
- Septic tank needs pumping.
- Tank level too high.
- Tank not water tight.
- Pumps not working correctly.
- Lids not secure.
- Soil layers that have become impermeable.
- A saturated drainfield.
- Broken or disconnected pipes.
Bacterial pollution from failing septic systems can enter Lake Tapps directly or through stormwater runoff into ditches, creeks and streams.A failing septic system can impact your drinking water if your well is nearby. It can lead to unsafe Nitrogen levels. The risk is high when the surface seal on your well has deteriorated.
Will other communities be notified as well?
Yes. We will notify different Lake Tapps neighborhoods throughout 2020. We will notify other neighborhoods in Pierce County based on environmental sensitivity and risk to human health.
Where can I find a list of certified septic professionals?
Visit www.tpchd.org/septicservicecompanies. We recommend you call at least 3 septic service companies to compare prices.
How do I know what type of septic system I have?
Look up your septic system record drawing at www.tpchd.org/asbuilt. Type in your address or parcel number. Or contact our records request line at (253) 798-6577.
If the inspectors finds a problem, how long do I have to fix it?
That depends on the problem. If you take steps to resolve the problem and make progress, we will work with you. If you need more time, let us know. We want to help you fix the problem.
How much does an inspection cost?
A typical routine inspection costs about $200-$250.
How much does pumping a tank cost?
It costs about $400-$500 to pump tanks. This is in addition to any inspection costs.
How much do repairs and replacements cost?
Repairing or replacing a failing septic system can be expensive. That is why routine inspections are important. They can help detect problems early -with less expensive fixes- before problems become big.
Costs can vary widely. They depend on:
- The nature of the problem.
- The property configuration.
- Location and soils.
The average cost for repairs is up to $1500, tank replacements can cost up to $5000, and system replacements around $20,000.
How are inspectors certified?
Only a certified operation and maintenance (O&M) inspector should inspect your septic system. Find a list of certified companies at www.tpchd.org/septicservicecompanies.
O&M inspectors need to receive education and pass an exam to get certified. They need to attend additional training each year to stay certified. The Washington On-site Sewage Association (www.wossa.org) certifies and trains O&M inspectors. We remove uncertified inspectors and companies from our list and follow-up on complaints about inspectors.
How do I know the inspector I hired is giving me good service?
Report any problems you have with a septic professional online at https://eco.tpchd.org/#/home. We will investigate and check up on any activities that seem unprofessional.
What are the penalties for not inspecting?
If you don’t get your septic system inspected, we will record a notice of non-compliance on your property title.
This recording can make it more difficult to sell, refinance, or develop your property in the future.
To remove the recording, you need to:
- Get your septic system inspected by a certified inspector.
- Pay the current rescission fee ($555 in 2020) to record a notice of compliance on your property title.