Q: We are planning to buy a partly developed building lot. Do you need a perc test if there is sewer hookup at the road? Also, is there such a thing as a well test? — Jim
A: If you planning to tie into the municipal sewer system, then there is no need for a perc test. If you have the option of installing an onsite sewage system, and wish to do so for financial or other reasons, then you will need a perc test and soil test.
If you are tying into a municipal sewer system, there will be a cost to tie in, which can be steep in some areas. So it’s a good idea to check with the town for an estimate of the hookup fees. You may also need to pay for the trenching and piping to your house. The cost to hook up can vary greatly from one town to another.
Unfortunately, there is no similar test for a well other than to drill a well and then test the well yield and water quality. When drilling a new well, the contractor typically conducts tests right after drilling, before completing the well system and connecting the well to the house. For an existing well, the contractor will run the well for 48 hours or more to monitor its drawdown rate and sustained yield — that is, how much water it can continuously provide over time.
Experienced local well drillers can usually give you a pretty good idea of the typical well depth, yield, and water quality in your area. Wells in surrounding properties are a good indication of what you can expect. You can also pay a hydrologist for a more scientific answer based on his knowledge of the local aquifer and geology, and any groundwater maps that may exist for your area. You may also be able to get this help for free or a nominal fee from a local or state dept. of water resources.
In some areas, the availability of water is highly predictable, in others it is less so. In addition to evaluating the likelihood of finding good water at a reasonable depth, drillers and hydrologists can help you identify the most promising spots for siting the well.
You should make your offer contingent upon your getting satisfactory answers regarding water availability, yield and quality, and well depth. However, there are rarely guarantees given in the well-drilling business, only probabilities. If you are not comfortable with taking the risks associated with well drilling, then look for a parcel that already has a well in place. If the yield and water quality has already been tested and documented, then you are in good shape. Otherwise, you will want to make testing the well yield and quality a contingency of your offer.
Also, if you buy a piece of land with a “well installed,” you may still need to pay for the pump, well “development,” trenching, plumbing lines, and pressure tank. This process of completing the well system – which may cost as much as the drilling itself. — Steve Bliss, BuildingAdvisor.com
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