NORTHERN VIRGINIA SEPTIC SYSTEMS

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Northern Virginia Septic Systems

Northern Virginia Septic Systems
Northern Virginia real estate buyers considering homes in areas such as McLean and Great Falls may be encountering septic and well systems for the first time. While the magnitude of information may be initially overwhelming, it is important to understand the design and functionality of these systems as well as how to maintain them.
Northern Virginia real estate buyers considering homes in areas such as McLean and Great Falls may be encountering septic and well systems for the first time. While the magnitude of information may be initially overwhelming, it is important to understand the design and functionality of these systems as well as how to maintain them.
About Northern Virginia Septic Systems
Nearly 550,000 households in Virginia depend on onsite systems to take care of sewage disposal. Treated sewage is discharged into the soil or sometimes into various water bodies. Operating a septic system requires several state or federal permits. For Northern Virginia real estate purposes, the term “septic” refers to anaerobic bacteria that develops in the septic holding tank and breaks down the waste discharged into the tank. Septic tanks can be coupled with other on-site wastewater treatment units such as biofilters or aerobic systems involving artificial forced aeration.
Why Septic?
Why does some Northern Virginia real estate utilize septic systems instead of the public sewer system? A septic system’s purpose is to dispose of sewage on a private lot in lieu of pumping it to a waste treatment facility. This is done in areas such as Great Falls Virginia and parts of McLean Virginia which do not have access to public sewer lines, either because the properties pre-dated the sewer insteall and never connected when it became available, or because the properties are too far removed from a public sewer line to connect.

The Septic System Explained

Septic Tank
A septic tank is an underground, watertight recepticle that holds waste products until solids settle, becoming sludge, and scum rises to the surface. Waste water exits the septic tank and flows to the drainfield, then through percolation into the soil where organisms perform the final step in purifying the waste water. Each time new water enters the drainfield, the existing partially-treated water is pushed further down for further treatment until it finally enters the groundwater level. The septic tank typically contains two chambers separated by a dividing wall with openings located about midway between the floor and roof of the tank. Wastewater enters the first chamber of the tank, allowing solids to settle and scum to float. The settled solids are anaerobically digested, reducing the volume of solids. The liquid component flows through the dividing wall into the second chamber where further settlement takes place, with the excess liquid then draining in a relatively clear condition from the outlet into the drainfield (also known as leach field or seepage field). Newer tanks have removable lids for easy access in cleaning.
Inlet Tee and Outlet Tee
Pipes running from the house to the septic tank and from the tank to an additional treatment component (screens etc) or to the drainfield.
Drainfield
Soil beds in which microbes in the soil digest or remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater. Some systems have alternating drainfields controlled by a flow diverter valve. Turning the valve causes the system to use the alternate portion of the drainfield, which extends the overall life of the total field. Suitable soil is necessary for successful wastewater treatment. If your property is severely sloped, if the drainfield is too close to groundwater or surface water, if there are too many conventional systems in one area, or if the soil isn’t suitable for a conventional septic system, an “alternative” system may be used. Some alternative systems rely on sand, peat, plastic media, or wetlands/lagoons instead of soil to promote wastewater treatment.
Other Equipment
Depending on grade, some septic systems also include a pump to move waste water through the system “Alternative” (non-conventional) systems have different components such as float switches, pumps, aerators, or disinfection devices, among others. The type of device depends on the system.
The EPA says:
Alternative Systems and Northern Virginia
Virginia has laws regulating the maintenance and legal operation of alternative septic systems. Any non-conventional system is considered “alternative”. Eco-Flow, Sandfilter, puraflo and Advantex are a few examples. These systems have been available to Northern Virginia real estate owners over the past two decades.
Alternative Septic System Laws
Required: Maintain an Operations and Maintenance Manual
2.
Required: Maintain a relationship with a licensed operator (service contract)
3.
Required: Assure that the licensed operator visits, collects samples and makes adjustments as needed for proper maintenance of system and to be in compliance with the regulations
4.
Required: Make the records available to anyone who purchases the property. In Loudoun County Virginia, an annual 1067 inspection is also required. The inspector must on the Loudoun County approved inspectors list.
COST
The system type will determine the cost of inspections and maintenance, however it should not exceed a few hundred dollars per year, about the same or slightly less than the annual cost of public sewer bills. *When hiring contractors, be aware that Virginia licenses are separate for installers and operators. Contractors may carry both, or just one. Northern Virginia real estate owners should make sure it’s the right one for their needs.
Questions to Ask About Northern Virginia Septic Systems
1. Does the seller have the drainfield plat from the county water & sewer authority? (If not, your agent can obtain one for you) 2. How many bedrooms does the system rating cover? This information is often not contained in the listing. 3. What type of system is in use? Conventional or alternative system? Does it have a concrete or steel tank? What is the tank size? Is there just a drainfield, or are there separate drywells or seepage pits? 4. Where is the equipment located? 5. Can the current Northern Virginia homeowner provide records for the service and repair/replacement history of the system? Maintenance/pumping records? If a new tank was installed is the seller still using the old drainfield(s)? 6. When was the tank last pumped? (Some time should have elapsed between pumping and testing of the system) Has the seller used any additives (such as CCLS)? *Consider the property’s age and the length of time, if any, the property has been vacant. Accurate testing requires the system to have been consistently utilized up to the time of testing
What Does a Northern Virginia Septic System Inspection Include?
Locating the system. Uncovering access holes. Flushing the toilets. Checking for signs of backup. Measuring scum and sludge layers. Identifying any leaks. Inspecting mechanical components. Pumping the tank if necessary. *Your Northern Virginia service provider should inspect for leaks and look at the scum and sludge layers in your septic tank. If the bottom of the scum layer is within 6 inches of the bottom of the outlet tee or the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the outlet tee, your tank needs to be pumped. Remember to note the sludge and scum levels determined by your service provider in your operation and maintenance records. This information will help you decide how often pumping is necessary.
Four major factors influence the frequency of pumping:
The number of people in your household The amount of wastewater generated (based on the number of people in the household and the amount of water used) The volume of solids in the wastewater (for example, using a garbage disposal increases the amount of solids) Septic tank size
Northern Virginia Septic System Tips
Inspect every 1-3 years Pump every 3-5 years at least Reduce water usage to extend the life of your drainfield. The more water a household conserves, the less water enters the septic system. Efficient water use can improve the operation of the septic system and reduce the risk of failure. Install high-efficiency toilets Keep plumbing in good repair. Average indoor water use in the typical single-family home is almost 70 gallons per person per day. Leaky toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons each day! Reduce the use of soaps and cleaning products. These kill the “healthy” bacteria that break down the waste in the tank. If you’re a heavy soap and cleaning product user, there are additives you can use to help balance the bacteria. This does NOT mean you do not have to pump as recommended. Check with your local health department before using additives. Commercial septic tank additives can be harmful to the system. Avoid disposing of harsh chemicals, fats and greases in the sink (for the same reasons as above) Limit tree growth near the septic tank and drain field – tree roots can create hard-to-detect damage just as they do with sewer lines Don’t run vehicles or heavy equipment over the drainfield. This compresses soil, inhibiting aeration Keep roof drains, basement sump pump drains, and other rainwater or surface water drainage systems away from the drainfield. Flooding the drainfield with excessive water slows down or stops treatment processes and can cause plumbing fixtures to back up. Rotate drainfields (if you have more than one) every six months.
Conserving Water
Fill the bathtub with only as much water as you need, or take showers Turn off faucets while shaving or brushing your teeth Run full loads in the dishwasher and clothes washer and use low suds/biodegradable detergents Use toilets to flush sanitary waste only (not kitty litter, diapers, or other trash) Repair faucet drips/leaks immediately and shut faucets off completely when not in use Install aerators in the faucets in your kitchen and bathroom Replace fixtures and appliances with new, high-efficiency models. Virginia State laws dictate that an application for a certificate has to be filed with the State Water Control Board (SWCB) and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) before any sort of sewage work or treatment is to be done. They, in consultation with the VDH, then decide on the merits of the application before granting the certificate. The Northern Virginia homeowner then has to apply for permission to construct the sewage system to DEQ. The next step is to apply for authorization to operate the system, again from DEQ. Permits have to be renewed every year.

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We expected an extremely stressful experience when we decided to sell our home of over 25 years and buy a condo, especially because we live nearly 3000 miles away, yet the Isaacs Team was beyond exceptional in their competent guidance, attention to detail, follow through, and simply doing what they said they would do. While other realtors said, "this is what you need to do;" this team said, "we can do this for you!" Our process was smooth and quick, and they designed a strategy and negotiated a sale well above our asking price; and a purchase price below asking - both in the same market. They are also a pleasure to work with in every respect. Please know that you can turn this difficult personal event over to true professionals and emerge with happy results and fast friends. We highly recommend this team in every regard.
Susan and Alex are superstar agents. There is no one else I’d want on my side of a real estate transaction. My wife and I first met Susan in 2010 when she helped us buy our first home, a condo. We were so impressed by her deep local knowledge, tenacious negotiating, 24/7 efforts on our behalf, and clear guidance on the home-buying process that we didn’t consider going with anyone else when we decided to buy a 3-BR in our dream neighborhood. We were not disappointed. After a few weeks, we found the perfect house at the perfect listing price. We knew it would be competitive, but Susan and Alex provided expert advice on how to make the offer, and in the end, we provided terms just attractive enough to end the process in our favor, but no higher than final appraisal and just above what their agent later admitted was their line. They also did a fabulous job of staging and selling our condo, which netted $30K over selling price after six strong offers during just two-days of being on the market. They get amazing results and are a blast to work with. 
In today’s market in this area, you cannot rely on luck to get you that perfect place or a great deal – you need to have an agent who knows the market cold, is aggressive, and effective – Susan is all of those things and more.
Susan is knowledgeable, friendly and very responsive–she got back to us immediately to answer any of our questions at any hour. Even as first-time homebuyers who could be somewhat indecisive at times, she understood what we were looking for in a home, didn’t hesitate to answer our questions and always had our best interests in mind. Her warm, welcoming attitude and confident guidance really took the stress out of a process that, before we met Susan, we had assumed would be overwhelming and beyond our reach.
My husband and I loved working with Susan and Alex. This was my 9th real estate purchase but the first time that I have used The Isaacs Team. They were the best agents I have worked with and I can not accurately describe how impressed we were! They were amazing and extremely detailed. They went over and above for us in neighborhood research, service, and contract negotiations. I found them to be extremely responsive, always available, and 100% competitent in their knowledge of the markets they serve. I was really impreseed by their extensive knowledge of the real estate contract. I must say that I was incredibly impressed. They made the process easy and held our hands through difficult negotiations. I will be their client for life!
Susan responded immediately and impressed me with her patience and almost supernatural ability to find the perfect place for me despite some significant constraints (time, location, finances). I was not an easy case, but she never made me feel like I was a ‘burden’ or ‘not her first priority’. Above all, she treated me with respect and honesty.
In today’s market in this area, you cannot rely on luck to get you that perfect place or a great deal – you need to have an agent who knows the market cold, is aggressive, and effective – Susan is all of those things and more.
Susan was an invaluable part of my new home purchase from beginning to end. She quickly understood what I liked, previewed properties and showed me homes that fit our criteria. She made herself extremely available through the process and worked with us through every aspect of the transaction. Susan was so much fun as an agent that she took the anxiety out of the home buying process. I would work with Susan again in a heartbeat.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Susan did the work of both the buyer’s and seller’s agent, spotting and solving problems using a powerful combination of intuition and experience. She brought her impressive professional network to bear on one problem to such great effect that the buyer’s lender gave me–the seller–a closing cost credit. When does that ever happen? 
Susan not only worked hard to help my wife and me find the perfect place, she was a dogged (and effective) negotiator on our behalf once we zeroed-in. She knows the market and knows the area, but best of all she knows how to play hardball and get things done—exactly what we needed in an agent.
When a property popped up in a neighborhood that she and I had scouted, Susan was there within the hour and insisted it was worth us leaving work to check out. If we had a less responsive Realtor, I am convinced that we would not have our amazing house now. Susan’s advice is invaluable. You need a Realtor that knows her stuff. And Susan does!
Susan and Alex are superstar agents. There is no one else I’d want on my side of a real estate transaction. My wife and I first met Susan in 2010 when she helped us buy our first home, a condo. We were so impressed by her deep local knowledge, tenacious negotiating, 24/7 efforts on our behalf, and clear guidance on the home-buying process that we didn’t consider going with anyone else when we decided to buy a 3-BR in our dream neighborhood. We were not disappointed. After a few weeks, we found the perfect house at the perfect listing price. We knew it would be competitive, but Susan and Alex provided expert advice on how to make the offer, and in the end, we provided terms just attractive enough to end the process in our favor, but no higher than final appraisal and just above what their agent later admitted was their line. They also did a fabulous job of staging and selling our condo, which netted $30K over selling price after six strong offers during just two-days of being on the market. They get amazing results and are a blast to work with.
Susan is a true client advocate who worked tirelessly on my behalf to ensure my purchasing goals were met. We hit some seller stumbling blocks along the way, and Susan used her experience and knowledge to ensure every box was checked on my behalf – She was my personal Bulldog. Her experience in the builder realm proved extremely valuable during the entire process.
Susan not only worked hard to help my wife and me find the perfect place, she was a dogged (and effective) negotiator on our behalf once we zeroed-in. She knows the market and knows the area, but best of all she knows how to play hardball and get things done—exactly what we needed in an agent.
Susan is sooo responsive–pretty much 24-7. She made what could have been a difficult situation very easy to navigate. I couldn’t have bought my property without her, I’m sure. I recommend Susan VERY HIGHLY. She is a delight to work with.

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