The DNR has combined two long standing sources used to locate well construction reports, into one web site. As long as the well construction report was filed (years ago not all reports were filed and some were filed in the wrong location), Pump Installers and Well Drillers can utilize this web site to locate the original well construction reports.Assuming the information was filled out accurately, useful information such as the well driller, date of construction, depth, casing material etc. can be added to the well inspection report.
The most important determination made during a well inspection is code compliance. From the perspective of the person paying for the inspection, when observing the inspection of a fully code compliant well system, one may question the value of the inspection. Even though the result of such a water system may not reveal any issue, the knowledge needed to accurately make the compliance determination and accurately understand and relay the water test results, is significant. Personally, I have been licensed since 1994 and throughout those years have gained invaluable hands on experience, coupled with hundreds of hours of continuing education required to stay updated on the latest requirements.
Once at the well property, we observe the well and well components for code compliance. While the term can be abused, “grandfathering” is at play during a well inspection.For example, current code requires the well casing to be a minimum of 12” above finished grade.However, if the well construction date is proved through locating the original well construction report, the well height may be as low as 8” above finished grade and still be compliant.The example shows the importance in finding the well construction report.The well construction report may also be difficult to locate as the property owners name on the report at the time the well was drilled, is often not known by the inspector.
If conditions allow, we often like to take an amp reading with the pump running to try to determine if the pump is working harder than expected.If an accessible sampling faucet exists where the water first enters the home, we like to draw water to try to determine the gallons per minute (GPM) the water system is producing for the home.
Water samples must be drawn as part of a proper well inspection in Wisconsin.As of October 1, 2014, the minimum water sampling must include bacteria, nitrates and arsenic.Bacteria is either safe or unsafe.If an unsafe result comes back for coliform bacteria (the most common), the lab must also distinguish if fecal matter and ecoli are present or absent.If the bacteria result is safe, it is safe for all 3.Even if the unsafe result is only for coliform bacteria, the State recommendation is to chlorinate (“shock”) the well and re-test.
The safe range for nitrates is 0-10 parts per million (ppm) for all ages.The safe range for arsenic is 0-10 parts per billion (ppb).
Many other minerals and environmental issues can be tested for at an additional cost.Please see a list of these, including pricing, at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene website.Please be aware, any testing beyond the basic testing will need to be known well in advance of the onsite portion of the inspection so the proper testing sample bottles are brought onsite including any special handling (i.e. some require being packed in ice).
We start by contacting the county to try to obtain a copy of the original septic paperwork, before the onsite inspection begins. By obtaining this information the original installer, tank size, system type and other valuable information can be discovered and added to the inspection report (assuming the forms were filled out accurately).
The most important determination made during a septic inspection is code compliance.From the perspective of the person paying for the inspection, when observing the inspection of a fully code compliant septic system, one may question the value of the inspection.Even though the result of such a septic system may not reveal any issue, the knowledge needed to accurately make the compliance determination is significant.Personally, I have been licensed since 1994 and throughout those years have gained invaluable hands on experience, coupled with hundreds of hours of continuing education required to stay updated on the latest requirements.
Once at the property the overall system will be observed for code compliance. If reasonable to view the tank at the manhole opening, the baffle(s) will be observed, the effluent (liquid) level will be observed, if the tank has a filter, the filter will be checked to see if it needs cleaned. If the system has a pump, the effluent (liquid) level in the pump chamber will be observed and if possible, the pump will be observed in operation. If the leach field is located and if the observation/vent pipes are intact, it/they will be observed for possible liquid inside the system and if the system is not overgrown with vegetation, the ground surface will be observed for any sign of surface ponding which usually indicates system damage or failure. Differences in vegetation color can also be observed in the warmer months which can help detect if the system has a leak spot (could be a damaged pipe) or even possibly failing. All of these items will be reported accordingly.
(40) “Ponding” means the presence of free liquid over an area of 4 square feet or more, visible 2 hours after application of the septage. An example of a 4 square foot area would be an area 4 feet by 1 foot.
(4) Failing private on-site wastewater treatment systems. The department shall establish criteria for determining if a private on-site wastewater treatment system is a failing private on-site wastewater treatment system. A failing private on-site wastewater treatment system is one which causes or results in any of the following conditions:
(a) The discharge of sewage into surface water or groundwater.
(b) The introduction of sewage into zones of saturation which adversely affects the operation of a private on-site wastewater treatment system.
(c) The discharge of sewage to a drain tile or into zones of bedrock.
(d) The discharge of sewage to the surface of the ground.
(e) The failure to accept sewage discharges and back up of sewage into the structure served by the private on-site wastewater treatment system.
A septic inspection is more difficult during the winter months. Snow cover and/or frozen ground can prevent access into the septic tank. Snow cover makes observing the exposed portion of the leach field difficult if not impossible.
If a property has been vacant, an occasional occupancy or a single occupant and as an example, a family of 6 moves in, the septic system may react differently than it did on the day of the inspection.
Septic inspection reports are still hand written and any pertinent information is often added at the end of the home inspection report, possibly including pictures.