New Hampshire Septic Inspection


  NNew Hampshire septic inspections. Including all of New Hampshire, Southern Maine and Eastern Vermont. Inspection includes, Stone and Pipe, Trench systems, Drywells, Chambered systems, Fabric Based systems, Large Diameter Gravelless Pipe systems, Eljen, Geotextile, sand filter and Aerobic Treatment Units.


Proper septic inspection method:

Evaluate the plumbing components inside the home:

I inspect all of the interior plumbing fixture for proper connections. I also make sure all the waste lines are properly discharging into an approved waste system. Water treatment systems can be harmful to septic systems and I evaluate where the discharge of these systems go.

Examine the inside of the treatment tank:

I open the tank and examine the inlet and outlet baffles and determine the volume of the treatment tank. I inspect the visible parts of the tank for cracks, water infiltration, corrosion, and leakage. I also take a sample from inside the tank with a sludge sampler. Similar to what is used in waste water treatment facilities. By examining the sample I can determine the amount of sludge, liquid level and scum layer. This allows me to understand whether the tank is healthy and if it needs pumping.

Distribution Box:

I inspect the distribution box for corrosion, leakage and cracks. I also make sure the D-Box is level to ensure equal flow to each pipe in the leaching field.

EDA, ( Effluent Disposal Area ) or leach field. 

I will determine the location and size of the EDA. Test hole's are hand dug in different locations throughout the EDA. This allows me to examine the condition of the EDA as well as how much saturation is present. A full evaluation of the EDA is critical in determining the overall condition of the septic system.

Vacant homes:

Septic inspections can still be performed on vacant homes. Sometimes a hydraulic load test will be done by running approximately 150-200 gallons of water into the system. Septic dye may also be used to determine flow.


My New Hampshire septic system report is comprehensive and easy to read. I include digital photographs for a better understanding of the system, components and condition.


Sample of septic system report #1


Sample of septic system report #2



Definitions of septic system components:


Treatment tank: Holding tank for all of the home's waste, Pumping is required.


Baffles: Inlet and outlet baffles are located inside the treatment tank to divert waste to the bottom of the tank.


EDA: Effluent disposal area, or commonly know as the leach bed. 


D-Box: Distribution box, distribute effluent to individual laterals in the EDA.


Sewer laterals: Piping used throughout the EDA to disperse effluent.


Dry Well: An underground pit surrounded by septic stones. Early version of an EDA 




    The following photo's are from actual New Hampshire


             septic  inspections that I have performed



Outlet Baffle/tank cover

Sludge sample from inside the tank

Tank cover removed

Overgrown EDA                                                                               View of a D-Box



 View of a invert/clear from D-Box



Two examples of systems that failed during the hydraulic load test and backed up through the tank

Both were caused by clogged filters in the outlet baffles, once cleaned the system functioned fine. 



  Example of a flooded EDA



Typical outlet baffle                                                                       Typical tank cover




Damaged D-Box                                                                 Example of a clean EDA




Typical New Hampshire drywell                                           Typical Maine drywell




Older inlet baffle/cover still intact


Example of a failed EDA                                            Example of a failed New Hampshire septic system





The following photographs are from a three year old New Hampshire septic system inspection. System installed was not what was called out for in the engineers design. Some of the problems I found with this system included, missing filter from treatment tank, sludge build up in D-Box, missing flow diverter resulting in flooding of the EDA in this area.


This is a good example of why every New Hampshire septic system should be inspected by a certified evaluator prior to purchasing a home, no matter what the age.



Missing filter in outlet baffle.                          Sludge build up in D-Box.                    Missing flow diverter.




 Flooded EDA, due to missing flow diverter                    Designers plan calls for 9 laterals, only 7 installed.





Is your septic inspector checking the interior of the home plumbing system? Is all of the plumbing in the home discharging into the septic?. Below are two pictures of a recent New Hampshire septic inspection where I found the homes laundry , laundry sink and backwash for the water treatment system discharging onto the neighbors property. The discharge pipe was buried under leaves and the whole area was completely saturated with grey water. Not only is this a pollution problem, but one for the septic as well. Since this grey water had been diverted away from the septic system for so many years correcting this will add an additional load to the present system which is already aging.


Anyone who does septic inspections should be doing a complete inspection of the homes plumbing system to make sure it's plumbed appropriately. Discharge of grey water onto the ground can be expensive to correct.


My approach to septic inspections is to look at the home as a system, This means I check not only the septic system, the plumbing, but also the well. I record how much the well produces, IE, gallons per minute (GPM) and pounds per square inch  (PSI), before and after the septic inspection, this gives you an idea on how well your water supply produces water and whether or not it can keep up with demand. I also conduct a hydraulic load test where I introduce a certain amount of water through the home's plumbing system. This also tests the home's plumbing drains where I check for leaks, or, in the case shown below, inappropriate discharge of grey water onto the ground.  


 Grey water discharge onto neighbors property                                                       Grey water discharge onto neighbors property 





Below are examples of how I test the well during my septic inspection. This gauge allows me to measure the gallons per minute (GPM) and the pounds per square inch (PSI). This is an important test that allows me to inform you how well the well produces over a given period of time. This is why I refer to my inspections as looking at the house as a system. Your water supply is just as important as your onsite waste disposal system.





             Well production pre inspection                                                Well production post inspection





 The following pictures are from a recent inspection. This system consists of a 1000 gallon treatment tank, a 1250 gallon secondary tank used as a pumping station, a concrete D-Box with 3 outlets/laterals and a Elgen Geotextile Sand Filter. This EDA was comprised of 12 Elgen filters that measured 3'X4'X7''. This system is approximately 8 years old and is in complete failure. My inspection included uncovering the D-Box and digging four inspection holes in the EDA, all of which were completely saturated. 


These photo's are an excellent example of why it is so important to have your septic system inspected, not only for a Real Estate transaction but for homeowners too. A semiannual septic inspection will alert you to problems within the system before it fails, giving you time to plan for replacement.  



Treatment tank and pump station                                         Lush grass growing on EDA/sign of saturation




View inside pump station                                                            D-Box cover. Note wet soil surrounding it




Flooded D-Box                                                                          Effluent draining back into pump station








EDA flooded                                        Black material indicating failure               Flooded EDA




                      Flooded EDA/System failure                                   Flooded EDA/System failure                                   Flooded EDA/System failure                   



                     Flooded EDA/System failure                                        Flooded EDA/System failure 





Below are photographs of an inspection I did on a fabric based system. This system was in use part time and is 11 years old. As can be seen in the images this system was in excellent condition and will, with proper care, continue to service this house. My recommendation was to pump the tank in 6 months and subsequently every two years thereafter.




     D-Box cover                                                                                         Inside D-Box/flow diverters




    Inspection hole #1 Clean material                                                   Inspection hole #2 Clean material





 Here is a good example of a drywell type system. These systems were usually constructed using a concrete treatment tank with concrete blocks making up the effluent disposal area. This particular drywell was made up of cinder blocks positioned around natural boulders, it had a concrete cover and was still in use for the backwash of the water treatment system. These old drywell systems should be inspected semiannually as they tend to deteriorate over time and can become a safety hazard.



    Deteriorated wooden cover                 View inside treatment tank                       View inside drywell




   View inside drywell                              Outlet for drywell                               View inside drywell                         




                       Deteriorated covers                                                         Inside of treatment tank







 The following pictures are from a Barnstead New Hampshire septic inspection. This system was installed in 1962 and still had the 250 gallon steel  drum for a treatment tank in service. Part of my septic inspection includes a record search of the town and NH DES. I located a building permit at the town hall that indicated the drywell for this system was replaced in 1985. Although the system was functioning as intended the steel drum was deteriorated. Upgrade of this seasonal system will be difficult due to lot size and set backs.


This is a good example of a dangerous condition. This old steel drum, which is deteriorated, was located just 4 inches below grade and only 7 feet from the home. Collapse of this cover and personal injury is a very real possibility. The tank was approximately 4 feet in diameter and 6 feet deep.




                    Septic tank covered with debris                                                                      Steel tank cover located 4 inches below grade







                    Steel cover is deteriorated and could collapse                                               System is located just 7 feet from the home. 







Another example of a dangerous tank cover. This system services an old camp in Alton Bay NH and has not been maintained in many years. The deteriorated tank cover is 3 inches below grade and in the middle of the front walkway.  








  Old deteriorated tank covers such as the one shown above are a real hazards and exist in many older homes and camps in New Hampshire. It's extremely important that these tanks are found, evaluated and the proper covers installed on them for safety. The tank picture above was a 500 gallon concrete tank and could have been an entrapment hazard had I not discovered it during my NH septic inspection. Fortunately this system, although older, was working and no other problems were discovered during the evaluation. My recommendation was to pump the tank and install a new secured cover.





The following pictures are from an 1800's farm house in Effingham NH. Inside has been completely remodeled (no permits of course). Located the treatment tank just beyond the kitchen window and it was just below grade. Everything looked good at the tank so I moved on to find the EDA. I suspected a drywell given the age of the home and the terrain of the yard. It didn't take long to find and when I dug it up I saw the discharge pipe was laying in a pile of stones about 10-12 inches below grade.


Digging a little deeper I found the drywell and it had collapsed. Sometime around 2001 (according to the homeowner) they had a contractor come out to replace the tank (again no permits). Due to the poor condition of the drywell the contractor decided to just install a 90 degree elbow onto the end of the discharge pipe and pile a few stone around it. Owner had no clue and since this was a second home for them they only used the place a few times a year.
I failed the system due to improper discharge of effluent into a non approved EDA and recommend system upgrade by a licensed contractor. My guess is 10-12K depending on soil conditions. 


Tank location and cover in good condition



Effluent discharge just below grade


                                                                                                               Old drywell has collapsed









Here's another example of why it's so important to located and open the D-Box during a septic inspection. In this case I inspected a 30 year old stone and pipe system in Pittsfield NH. The treatment tank was in good condition as was the EDA. When I located the D-Box and opened it up I found it to be mostly deteriorated. The baffle inside was completely gone, there was about 3-4 inches of sludge in the bottom (which will migrate out into the EDA) and the sides were cracked.
Replacing a deteriorated D-Box is not that difficult and by doing so it may save the EDA.


        D-Box is deteriorated                                                                D-Box is deteriorated








Please feel free to contact me about your New Hampshire septic inspection, with or without a New Hampshire home inspection.



New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services video, Septic System Management for Homeowners.














Home owners guide to septic systems:

For more information, please call Russell Inspection Services
at (603) 740-4062 or email:
Also serving the communities of,   Portsmouth, Dover, Rochester, Manchester, Concord, Laconia and the North Conway area. Southern Maine and Eastern Vermont.