What You Should Know About Septic Systems

Top 5 Problems Explained

The Hudson Valley has many homes with their own waste water treatment - we call these septic systems.

Overall, private waste water systems account for 20% of homes in the United States. In the Hudson Valley, many homes have septic systems. It falls on homeowners to maintain septic systems so they function properly. Neglected systems can corrode, collapse, or fail, and even influence the well water nearby. These are expensive fixes.

We recommend that septic tanks are pumped before selling or buying a home. We can help coordinate this process. New York State recommends that the system be inspected and pumped out every three years. The good news is that these systems, when properly maintained, can last a very long time.


It is a system for managing the waste exiting a home. For many people this system seems peculiar or even foreign because they are accustomed to public sewers. If you are moving from New York City, for example, read further!

The private septic system has a number of components that are mostly hidden from sight underground. The main waste line exiting the home collects waste that is directed to the inlet. The holding or distribution tank collects waste, and the outlet sends fluids to the leach field. The overall goal is to allow waste to decompose over time. The system facilitates the natural process of decomposition. Water that is “leached” into the soil is filtered through the ground naturally.

What problems can occur with septic systems?

This is not an exhaustive list - by far - but when buying or selling a home consider the following:

  1. Septic holding tanks need to be pumped periodically and observed through the cap(s) (see diagram).

  2. Many systems are forgotten. Get proof that the septic tank was been pumped recently, or have it pumped before selling.

  3. Septic systems can contaminate drinking wells. Water quality testing is a must if there is a well.

  4. Septic systems are sometimes undersized, but this is hard to detect. If there are new additions or more people living in the home the system may fail. We “stress test” the system and use special dye to help identify problems.

  5. Tanks corrode and fail. If the home is old, then the septic tank may be metal (versus modern concrete tanks (shown below).

  6. (Bonus) Do not plant gardens, trees, or drive on the system. This is delicate stuff that is just near the surface. It can break.

Call us for your next inspection. Septic systems are no mystery to us. We can help protect you against expensive future repairs.