What does a technician look for during an operation permit assessment?

Many people watch the Technician when they are conducting an Operation Permit Assessment and wonder “What the heck are they looking for?” Sometimes it seems as though the technician conducting your assessment is wandering aimlessly around your property. In reality, they are looking for discharges that may be escaping your system such as a bleeder line or a discharge that should be going into the system such as laundry, sink or shower water also known as gray water. These illicit discharges are usually nowhere near the onsite septic system and there is a good possibility that the owner doesn’t even know they exist.

First and foremost the technician is looking for the obvious signs of failure, which is sewage or gray water on the surface of the ground. If these problems aren’t found then the technician moves on to assess how the system is operating and if all the components are in good working condition. If possible, the tank is located as well as the other parts of the treatment system. Electrical components are assessed and engaged if possible. Lids and risers are checked for structural integrity as well as the inlet and outlet baffles if access is available to look at them. Discharge pipes for effluent or curtain drains are checked to be sure they are free flowing and chlorinators are assessed for proper operation as well as structural integrity. Click here for examples of septic system failures and code violations.

Aerobic Treatment Units (ATUs), such as those manufactured by Coate Aer and Jet Inc., frequently have gravel filters following the main tank. These filters are assessed to determine if they are by-passing or will be soon. If the sewage is by-passing the filter the owner is directed to have the filter pumped and cleaned. Most manufacturers recommend doing this every six months and the Public Health recommends it at least annually. Click here for examples of ATU failures and repairs. 

So if you see a technician wandering around your yard, there are a large number of things that they are looking for, even though it may not seem like it to watch them. If it is the first time your system is being assessed there is the possibility that the Tech is actually looking for your system components. Past experience has taught us where to start looking, but in that situation, your help is a very welcome time saver. Please don’t be afraid to ask the technician if you can help them, they appreciate your help when it’s available. Sometimes, even with your help, the technician still won’t be able to find all the components of your system. In these cases as long as they don’t find any problems your system will be considered to be operating correctly.

If you have any other questions about the Operation Permit Program please contact us.