Septic 101: Septic System Inspections

Each state and local government will have different septic system inspections forms and regulations. For the purpose of this Septic 101 website and our business we will explain the basics of an inspection but also go into detail about Oregon and Washington state regulations.

A septic inspection is an in-depth report on the condition of a septic system and its working parts. An inspection is recommended every 3-5 years when a homeowner pumps their septic tank by most state guidelines. However, this process can be tedious for a septic service provider and costly for a homeowner depending on how detailed the inspection is. The benefits can outweigh the cost if your system is older and has not been looked at in a while or is one of the newer advanced systems. Like a tune up on a car every 100,000 miles, a septic system needs to have all its parts inspected at a certain point to make sure everything is still in good working order.

It’s not hard to understand why a system would need an inspection after years of use but it can be difficult to know what parts or issues to look for, especially if you are not a septic professional. Below is a quick list of what should be included in any septic inspection, the items bolded are items your septic service provider could even check when you just have your tank pumped. It should be noted your tank does need to be pumped for a most accurate look at all the working parts.

  • Type of system
  • Age of system
  • When the system was last pumped
  • Number of people using the system regularly
  • Who installed the system
  • Permits and paperwork for installation
  • History of back ups or repairs on the system
  • Condition of Inlet line or Access to Tank
  • Condition of Septic Tank
  • Levels of solids in the Septic Tank
  • Condition of the Outlet line
  • Condition of one or more of the distribution boxes
  • Condition of the drainfield
  • Condition of Effluent Filter, if applicable
  • Condition of Pump, if applicable
  • Condition of Dosing Tank, if applicable
  • Condition of Sand Filter, if applicable
  • History or Paperwork on past maintenance
  • As-built drawn to scale

Septic Inspections in Oregon have some of the most rigorous inspection forms we have seen. This is great news for anyone looking for information on a system, like a potential homebuyer. It can also be great for a homeowner who wants to know what’s going on with their system. The 8-page Existing Systems Evaluation Report (ESER), required by the Oregon DEQ, covers a lot of details including additional pumps and filters. In Oregon, you are not required to obtain a septic inspection when selling or buying a home, though it is highly suggested as this can be a costly investment if it fails after a sale. Beware, anything called an inspection in Oregon must use this ESER form and be performed by a licensed septic inspector. Make sure when you schedule an inspection in Oregon the inspector is using the ESER form and is licensed. To view an ESER form, click here.

Each Washington State County determines septic Inspections and the rules surrounding them. While there is no one document that Washington uses for inspections they do suggest you have your septic system inspected every 3-5 years. At Speedy Septic in Skamania and Klickitat counties, we use a comprehensive form based off of the ESER form. The Washington State department of Health provides a very detailed guide of what an inspection should look like and cover, as well as instructions on how to do-it-yourself. That video and checklist can be found here.

The Speedy Septic inspection process is probably the most comprehensive in Oregon and Washington. We start with a simple agreement form that includes some information on the home and the inspection, which is filled out and signed by the customer scheduling the inspection. And once that is returned, usually via email, we schedule the appointment for any day, Monday-Thursday. When we are on site we have a rule to not discuss issues or sell repairs so the technicians can complete their job and no delicate information is given during a real estate transaction. Once the inspection is done, we put together a folder including a typed up inspection along with all county records or permits, and a maintenance log with septic care tips for the current or new homeowner. This packet is mailed out the Friday after the appointment. We also email a copy of the report to provide fast information. Additionally we keep a record of these in case any current homeowner needs information on their system.