Merri Ann Simonson Gives The 411 on Septic Systems

Posted March 25, 2021 at 5:00 am by

Contributed Photo. Merri Ann Simonson.

By Mer­ri Ann Simon­son, Man­ag­ing Bro­ker, Cold­well Banker San Juan Islands Inc

As real estate agents, we are con­stant­ly learn­ing and then shar­ing our knowl­edge with our clients. We must even expand our knowl­edge into some relat­ed indus­tries that are not com­fort­able dis­cussing with a client, such as sep­tic sys­tems and their functions.

The real estate indus­try is not just cars and con­tracts; it includes oth­er real­ly inter­est­ing stuff as well.

Septic Design and Installation

The process starts off with unim­proved land.

A prop­er­ty own­er or buy­er must find out where on their site they should install the sys­tem and what type of sys­tem will be required by state reg­u­la­tions. There are var­i­ous types of sys­tem options to select from. The lat­est tech­nol­o­gy includes sys­tems that are con­sid­ered mini sewage pro­cess­ing plants.

Those man­u­fac­tur­ers claim that the efflu­ent is near­ly potable by the time it is pumped to the drain field. I am not con­vinced to that lev­el but my opin­ion is based on the “ick fac­tor,” not science.

The sys­tem selec­tion process includes hir­ing a licensed on-site design­er who will com­plete a site and soil analy­sis and sub­mit a design to the coun­ty for their approval and per­mit. The per­mits have a valid­i­ty peri­od of five years and the cost is around $2,000-$2,500, but add $500 if a back­hoe is need­ed for the holes. A full list of approved design­ers is avail­able on the San Juan Coun­ty web­site at

If the par­cel is under a pur­chase agree­ment, the design and per­mit process is typ­i­cal­ly done by the buy­er as part of the fea­si­bil­i­ty con­tin­gency, which is processed pri­or to closing.

Anoth­er aspect of the fea­si­bil­i­ty study is to con­firm that the prop­er­ty is not locat­ed in an arche­o­log­i­cal sen­si­tive area such as Indi­an Mid­den or near a ceme­tery. If the prop­er­ty does con­tain sen­si­tive mate­ri­als, you need to know where they are locat­ed. To con­firm this infor­ma­tion, you need to con­tact San Juan Coun­ty at 360–370-7585 and fill out their “Crit­i­cal Area and Archae­o­log­i­cal Review” form. They will email you a response in a very time­ly manner.

Being locat­ed in an arche­o­log­i­cal sen­si­tive area will add thou­sands to the cost of installing a sep­tic sys­tem as reports must be obtained and an arche­ol­o­gist must be present dur­ing installation.

All new sys­tems are required to have a reserve drain field area in the event the first drain field fails. This can be dif­fi­cult on small­er lots that have oth­er restric­tions such as being on the shore­line. Fur­ther, some lots are unbuild­able due to the inabil­i­ty to install a sep­tic sys­tem, and they become buffer or recre­ation lots. Their val­ue is typ­i­cal­ly 50% of the market.


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Categories: Real Estate

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