If you are not from New England, where it all began…you may not be familiar with Title V Regulation, Septic Tanks, Tight Tanks, Leaching Fields and so on. ‘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.’¹
Originating back to France this technology developed by John Mouras was brought to the new country as early as 1883 and used in many towns and cities. ² Most homes in New England that were built in the 1600 and 1700’s were farms, cabins, single family homes in the middle of nowhere and most people would have an outhouse of some form. In Cities, homes were able to hook up to public sewer systems. In the late 1800’s rural communities did not have the luxury of hooking up to public water and sewer because of their location so they relied on a private well for water and some form of a private septic system for disposal of waste. The most effective private system providing you have the acreage is the septic system that carries the waste away from the home in the form of a leaching field. The waste comes from the home via a PVC pipe and is delivered to a Distribution Box/Tank (D-Box), from here, the solids will settle to the bottom of the tank and the scum and liquids float to the top. The liquids are then channeled away from the D-Box into long perforated PVC pipes. Depending upon the design, a typical trench system can use drainage pipes as long as 100 feet. The length of the pipes is a direct correlation of how fast the leaching field will drain as well as how many bedrooms the system can handle. The liquid waste and lighter material is carried along these pipes and then dispersed along these holes to another drainage system of sand and rock. As this is biodegradable material, it will continue to break down, some will go back into the ground water, feed vegetation such as the plants or lawn. In homes that have no land or are built on a ledge or near bodies of water, a “tight” Tank may be installed. This is exactly that, a tank, everything from toothpaste, soaps and detergents as well as waste is contained. Once this gets filled up, it must be emptied of all its contents.
In today’s housing market, before selling your home, you must have your septic system tested by a licensed Title V inspector (The Title 5 regulation, 310 CMR 15.00)³. They will inspect the system to make sure it has proper drainage, all the parts in are intact and the soil in and around the system remains solid. A good system can last 20 plus years and can be repaired and updated as anything else in your home. To maintain your system and to have it pumped regularly will extend the life of the system.
Now, if for any reason your system fails this inspection, you may have a very costly project. Typically they fail because the land and soil are no longer breaking down the waste and it will no longer drain. A new system can be designed and built in some cases in the same location but in many will be moved to another location of the property. An Engineer and Board of Health will determine where the system can go and must adhere to local and state guidelines. A new system can be as little as $10,000 and up to $40,000. In a traditional sale of a home where a buyer obtains a mortgage, you cannot convey title (sell your home) until this system has a passing grade. However, there are mortgage solutions for this type issue that allow for holdbacks and special financing options to cover the costs of the repairs or new system.
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¹ Massachusetts Association of Realtors. Title 5. http://www.marealtor.com/content/title_5.htm