June 27

If you've recently bought an older home, there might be a septic tank on the property. This is true even if your home is connected to the municipal system now. At some point in the past, a previous owner may have abandoned the old septic system and connected to the city sewer when it became available.

There are regulations in place today for abandoning a septic tank properly, but years ago, it was common to just leave the tanks in place and forget about them. An old septic tank on your property is a huge safety risk, especially if you have kids, pets, or livestock. The solution is to have the old tank destroyed or filled in. Here is a general overview of this process.

Permits and Inspections May Be Required

Old septic tanks are such a hazard that local codes govern how they should be abandoned. They are hazardous because curious kids may pry open the lid and fall in. Also, old tanks can fail and crumble when someone walks across the surface. Falling into a septic tank can be fatal due to the toxic nature of the contents and because of concrete falling on top of you.

Many years ago, steel tanks were used for septic waste. This practice was discontinued because the steel would rust and make the tank vulnerable to collapse. Even concrete cracks and breaks down after years underground.

An old septic tank is like a small cave covered with a lid that could give way at any time. For that reason, abandoning the well is done according to local codes and followed up with a city inspection to make sure the closed tank is safe.

The Old Tank Is Crushed and Buried or Removed

Your contractor will decide on the best way to abandon your old septic tank. If it is made of steel, it will probably be crushed in place and buried. If it is made of concrete, the bottom or sides may be broken apart so the tank can no longer hold water, and then the tank can be filled with sand, gravel, or some other type of rubble and buried.

The soil on top of the tank is then compacted so the rubble doesn't shift and the sand doesn't sink when someone walks on it. Tanks can be completely removed or they can be destroyed and buried in place. The decision depends on if you plan to use the land for something else, such as a home addition or pool, and need the remains of the tank out of the way.

The Abandonment is Documented and Mapped

Septic tanks are sometimes hard to find even when they are currently in use since they're underground. Once the tank is abandoned, you may forget it exists. Future owners will have no idea it's there. For that reason, you may want to draw a map of the location of the old tank. Plus, your city or county will have the permit and inspection documents that prove the job was completed according to code.

This could be a selling point for your property if you can verify an old septic tank was abandoned properly, and the new owners will appreciate knowing huge chunks of concrete are buried underground before they go digging to build something in the yard.

Keep in mind, septic systems don't last forever, so it's possible you have more than one abandoned tank on your property. It may take some investigative work to uncover your property's history and learn what's lurking under the soil.

If you find out your property has an old septic tank that isn't in use, then call Total Enviro Services for proper tank abandonment procedures that comply with local codes and keep your family, pets, and farm animals safe from injury or death.

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