Washington State Department of
to Work Group Questions
1. Does the state law or regulations define what is meant by an “inspection”? What
exactly is required?
The term “inspection” is not defined in the rule. However, some general guidance is
provided in section -0270, Operation, monitoring and maintenance—Owner
(1) The OSS owner is responsible for operating, monitoring, and maintaining the OSS to
minimize the risk of failure, and to accomplish this purpose, shall:
(a) Obtain approval from the local health officer before repairing, altering or expanding
(b) Secure and renew contracts for periodic maintenance where required by the local
(c) Obtain and renew operation permits if required by the local health jurisdiction;
(d) Assure a complete evaluation of the system components and/or property to
determine functionality, maintenance needs and compliance with regulations and
(i) At least once every three years for all systems consisting solely of a septic
tank and gravity SSAS;
(ii) Annually for all other systems unless more frequent inspections are specified
by the local health officer;
(e) Employ an approved pumper to remove the septage from the tank when the level of
solids and scum indicates that removal is necessary;
(f) Provide maintenance and needed repairs to promptly return the system to a proper
(g) Protect the OSS area and the reserve area from:
(i) Cover by structures or impervious material;
(ii) Surface drainage, and direct drains, such as footing or roof drains. The
drainage must be directed away from the area where the OSS is located;
(iii) Soil compaction, for example by vehicular traffic or livestock; and
(iv) Damage by soil removal and grade alteration; (h) Keep the flow of sewage to the OSS at or below the approved operating capacity
and sewage quality;
(i) Operate and maintain systems as directed by the local health officer;
(j) Request assistance from the local health officer upon occurrence of a system failure
or suspected system failure; and
At the time of property transfer, provide to the buyer, maintenance records, if
available, in addition to the completed seller disclosure statement in accordance
with chapter 64.06 RCW for residential real property transfers.
In addition, DOH is working on a document that will be called “Recommended Standards
and Guidance for Monitoring, Maintenance and Troubleshooting of Onsite Sewage
Systems”. This work is not complete, but is anticipated to be finished before July 1, 2007.
It will contain specific items to be monitored and interpreted during and inspection. A
sample outline of the draft in attached.
2. Are there any stipulations on who can be an “inspector”? Does an inspector need to
be licensed? Can any homeowner do it themselves?
WAC 246-272A-0340(2) says, “Local health officer may establish programs and requirements for approving maintenance service providers.” Some local health
jurisdictions have a process for certifying O&M providers. Some even go so far as
requiring and providing training for system owners to do their own inspections. Other
than this there is no requirement in state rule about who can inspect.
3. What happens if a County does not complete the required OSS plan? Are there any
WAC 246-272A does not specify any consequences for a LHJ not completing the OSS
plan. Neither does 3SHB1458 (now RCW 70.118) state any consequences. However,
continued funding, implied by 1458, would not be granted to LHJs not completing their
plan. In all likelihood, DOH will work with LHJs to complete their plans, and any tardy
LHJs will receive extra attention to accomplish the task.
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Monitoring, Maintenance and Troubleshooting
Items that could be in a general section
? System owner / system user needs to receive initial and refresher training on their role
(do’s and don’ts) for preserving and protecting the onsite system.
? Soil, design and as-built information from the LHJ, designer and installer to provide
background, location and initial settings for the system.
? A copy of the comprehensive owner’s manual (if required as a part of the design), that
includes the system installation manual, operation and maintenance manual and
troubleshooting and repair manual. [See 4.3 of RS&G for Proprietary Treatment Products]
? State and local rule requirements for the system (permit conditions, required reports,
renewable permits, fees, notification, etc.)
? Product-specific training and certification if required, for the person performing MM&T.
Questions to be answered when performing monitoring
? Does the waste water ever back up into the house?
? Do the toilets ever flush slowly?
? Does the liquid level in the septic tank appear abnormal? Are there signs that it has risen
above the invert of the outlet? (Stain rings above the normal level, up into the riser, etc.)
? Is the appearance and odor appropriate for a properly functioning septic tank?
? Is there a thick scum mat on the surface in the septic tank?
? Are the baffles for the tanks intact?
? Is the effluent baffle screen clogged and in need of cleaning?
? Does the scum or sludge level in the septic tank indicate a need for pumping?
? Are there signs of large animals, cars, ATVs, etc trampling the SSAS?
? Are there signs of inappropriate vegetation, lack of vegetation or erosion on the SSAS?
? Is there standing water in the observation tubes in the SSAS?
? Are there spongy spots on the top of the SSAS?
Monitoring and Maintenance Steps
? Interview the system user to determine the following:
Have they noticed any problems with the system?
[ ] Odors
[ ] Effluent surfacing from any of the components?
[ ] Fixtures backing up in the house?
[ ] Sluggish drains?
When do they do their laundry?
What kind of laundry detergent do they use?
Do they use a garbage grinder?
Is there anyone in the house using long-term antibiotics or a home kidney dialysis unit?
Is there a water softener?
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Do they know where the components of their system are?
? Locate all the components of the onsite sewage system. Use construction records drawings, homeowner interview or other materials that are available. Make accurate
measurements from at least two permanent objects to each monitoring point of the system.
Alternatively, take GPS readings. Record the measurements and readings on the record drawings.
From this point on, record all observations and measurements on a permanent record.
? Make a quick walk-around check of all the components looking for obvious signs of problems or items needing attention.
? Septic Tank:
Inlet baffle clear and intact? Clean and repair as needed.
Crossover baffle clear and intact? Clean and repair as needed.
Outlet baffle/screen clear and intact? Clean and repair as needed.
Tank contents look and smell normal? If not, proceed with trouble-shooting as outlined later in this document.
Scum depth: At least 3 inches separate the bottom of the crossover or baffle and the bottom of the scum layer in both compartments? If not, have all compartments of all tanks
Sludge depth: At least 12 inches separate the top of the sludge and the bottom of the crossover or baffle in both compartments? If not, have all compartments of all tanks pumped.
Evidence of liquid level rising above the outlet invert? (stain rings high on the septic tank walls, on the walls of the riser, etc.) If yes, proceed with trouble-shooting.
Liquid level below the invert of the outlet? If yes, proceed with trouble-shooting.
Any signs of liquid leaking in or out of the tank (other than through the inlet)? Check especially the joints around the inlet and outlet pipes) If yes, proceed with waterproofing the tank.
Access lids are secured from entry by children?
Cover vegetation is appropriate for the mound?
Signs of erosion, animal traffic, vehicle traffic or other damage?
Liquid accumulating over the SSAS?
Liquid in the observation ports? If yes, how deep?
? Only after a pump cycle? Normal-no action needed.
? 2” or less? Record with system service record and note to compare with depth at
? More than 2”? This is a warning sign. Investigate for hydraulic and/or organic
overloading. Also, were there orifices clogged (will result in higher residual pressure in
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Warning: Do not enter the tank or chamber. Never enter a septic tank or dose chamber without special equipment. People have
died in septic tanks and dose chambers. They contain toxic gases and little or no
oxygen. Homeowners do not have the necessary equipment or the experience to enter tanks safely.