Septic Re-inspection is a mine field for municipal government to introduce. It is costly to run. Residents are concerned if their system is found to be deficient it will cost them a lot of money to repair, or even replace. However, people do not have the right to pollute the water that their neighbours depend on. We cannot pretend this problem does not exist. What we can do is control the cost of the program and educate all residents of the benefits.
Costs can add up quickly. Postage cost to mail information package to residents. More postage costs if residents complete a paper survey. Unless you have online forms connected to a database with access to the internet then some aspects of data capture will be manual. Manual steps = cost. Then there is the actual manpower costs of the inspection itself.
Who Does It?
One of the big questions always is who does the actual inspection? Is it the same person or group that does the inspection for a new septic system. These people are well trained but expensive. Is this a summer project where you hire summer students and train them. Will they have sufficient skills to detect malfunctioning systems?
No thanks. Not only do you have the challenge of scheduling with one person, but to further reduce costs you will want to organize a full day of visits in the smallest possible area to reduce driving time and gas costs.
Open the lids
A meaningful inspection requires that the septic tank lids are removed and the tank inspected.
The costs of not doing a septic re-inspection is bigger. If the water table becomes polluted how do you fix that? If a neighbour gets sick, perhaps seriously sick, what price do you put on that? No-one has the right to pollute water that other people depend on. It is often lake associations that champion and push for septic re-inspections but lack of clean water impacts everyone. Education is the key to overcoming emotion on this sensitive issue.
Start to Finish review
A thorough review of all the steps in the process, from start to finish, looking at every manual step is required in order to reduce the cost as much as possible. A 5 minute manual step repeated for a thousand systems would take 83 hours, if the person earned $15 an hour this would be a cost of $1,245.
Where do you keep the data?
If the answer is an Excel spreadsheet or a MS Access database then your process will involve manual steps. If you consider the Cloud it opens the window to easy access as well as automation.
Communicate information via email, and receive data via online forms which feed directly into the septic database.
When your inspector arrives onsite they can just verify the information entered by the resident via the survey. If it is correct then great, if it needs updating they update it. Once the inspector verifies the information the data is locked and the resident can no longer update it.
Once the inspector completes updating the system information with their inspection results the resident can view these results online.
It is no longer difficult to select a group of residents based on their GPS locations or street address range, and send them all emails suggesting a certain day for their inspections. Allow them to sign up online for the day and time of their inspection.
Both of these factors are no longer an issue if the septic hauler is the one doing the inspector as part of their regular septic pump out service.
They have years of experience with septic systems – they can easily tell when something isn’t right.
Work with your existing inspector responsible for new septic systems and come up with a list of visual assessments (baffles, tank and tile bed in good shape) along with some measurements (perhaps scum and sludge levels) that could be done by the hauler in about 10 minutes or less. Of course the hauler would charge this extra time as part of his bill but the savings, compared to having someone else do it, are enormous. There would also be the option of having a summer student ride along with the hauler if the number of measurements needed were significant.
Fields include rollnumber, address, GPS co-ordinates, original permit number, well info, tank type and size, baffle condition, effluent filter, bed type and size, pump out frequency, clearances between water body, well and septic, dwelling size, # of bedrooms, sinks, toilets etc, grey water, holding tank and privy info as applicable.
The inspector may decide to take several relevant pictures. These could be uploaded and attached to the septic record as well.
Allow these reports to derive an email distribution list – e.g. send an email reminder to all those residents who have not had their septic systems pumped out in the last 5 years.