Homebuyer’s Guide to Septic Systems Part 1 – SepticSmart Week 2017

Part 1: Understanding your septic system

Are you thinking about purchasing a new home?  If so, do you know  where your wastewater goes or how it is treated?  If not, this is a question you will want to be able to answer.  To help guide you in better understanding if you are on a septic system and how to manage that septic system, I am using this guide found on the EPA Septic Smart Website to write a blog and share this information with you.

The New Homeowners Guide to Septic Systems provides information homebuyers need to know before purchasing a home with a septic system (also known as an onsite wastewater system), how a septic system works, and the importance of having it inspected prior to purchasing a home. In addition, this guide provides information on everyday, preventative, and corrective maintenance for when you are living in your new home.

For additional information, contact your local health department, real estate agent or visit http://www.epa.gov/septic

You can also visit our section on septic system education at https://owwbeaverlake.org/education/septic-system-management/


Does my new home have a septic system? How do I find it?

You most likely have a septic system if:

  • You are on well water;
  • The water line coming into your house does not have a meter;
  • Your neighbors have a septic system; or,
  • You live in a rural area.

You can find your septic system by:

  • Looking at the “as built” drawing for your home’s septic system, which you can request from your local (e.g., town, county, or state) health department’s records;
  • Checking your yard for inspection caps, lids, or manhole covers;
  • Working with a septic system service provider, who can help locate the system; and,
  • Asking the seller or realtor.

How does a septic system work?


  1. All water runs out of your house from one main drainage pipe into a septic tank.
  2. The septic tank is a buried, water-tight container. Its job is to hold the wastewater long enough for solids to settle to the bottom (sludge) while the fats, oil and grease float to the top (scum).
  3. For conventional septic systems, liquid wastewater exits the tank and is spread evenly throughout the drainfield, usually through a distribution box. Systems with more advanced treatment may have an additional component between the septic tank and drainfield.
  4. Once in the drainfield, the wastewater percolates into the soil, which reclaims the water for future reuse by naturally removing harmful bacteria, viruses, and some nutrients. This process may vary based on the site conditions of your property (e.g., soil type, proximity to water). A septic system service provider and your septic system’s “as built” drawings will be able to tell you what type of system is on the property.

Our next blog, released on September 20 will focus on inspecting and maintaining your septic system.  Click here to download the entire homeowners guide to septic systems