If you are from an urban or suburban area and looking for land in the country, you’ll need to get up to speed on wells and septic systems. For city folks, water magically appears at the tap and wastewater just as easily flows off to somewhere far away. In rural and semi-rural areas, however, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to handle one or both of these vital functions literally in your own backyard. Problems with either the well or septic systems can pose serious health risks and lead to big repair bills. It becomes the homeowner’s job to ensure that there is an adequate supply of clean drinking water and a well-functioning septic system.
HOW A SEPTIC SYSTEM WORKS
In areas without municipal sewage systems, each home must treat its sewage on its own land using an “on-site sewage disposal system,” more commonly called a septic system. A typical system consists of a waste pipe from the house, a large concrete, fiberglass, or plastic septic tank, and a leach field. The most common type of leach field consists of a series of perforated distribution pipes, each set in a gravel-filled absorption trenches read more
SOIL AND PERC TESTING
Traditional septic systems only work if the soil in the leach area is sufficiently permeable that it can absorb the liquid effluent flowing into it. Also, there must be at least a few feet of good soil from the bottom of the leach pipes to rock or impervious hardpan below, or to the water table. The specific standards vary from town to town, but any of these characteristics can prohibit the use of a standard gravity-fed septic system read more
ALTERNATIVE SEPTIC SYSTEMS
If the lot does not pass the perc test, some municipalities may allow you to build an alternative engineered system. Where the problem is soil that is too dense (or in some cases, too permeable), too shallow (over bedrock or hardpan), or the water table is too high, a “mound” system is often the first choice as it is works much the same as a standard system, only with the leach field raised. The mound uses a series of small distribution pipes set in a layer of gravel on top of layer of sand, typically one to two feet deep read more