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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Pick and Shovel (Septic) Inspection?

All septic inspections are conducted by either a licensed Environmental Sanitarian or Maryland Certified Inspector. Complete inspections follow Maryland Department of the Environment suggested guidelines and contain the following components:

Extensive homeowner interview (when available), record request from the local health department, and excavation and observation of the septic tank and related system components (the septic tank will not be excavated if observation ports are present). A complete inspection also includes surge testing the system with a minimum of 125 gallons of water to determine if the system is functioning hydraulically. Checking the baffles of the septic tank and solid level will also be completed. The absorption system will be checked and dye testing of the system will be performed.

The homeowner/buyer will receive a detailed report of observations of the septic system including all health department records available. Pictures will also be provided showing the location of the septic system. This service is available 5 days a week, and rush inspections can be requested.

What is a Dye Test?

The septic system will be dyed and slug tested with a minimum of 100 gallons of water. The licensed Environmental Sanitarian or Maryland Certified Septic Inspector will walk the property looking for evidence of sewage effluent on the ground surface and/or the presence of the overboard discharge pipes.

The homeowner/buyer will receive a pass/fail report from Clean Water Environmental. This service is available 5 days a week, and rush inspections may be accommodated.

We are getting a strong sulfur smell from the water?

Sulfur is a result of at least one of these 3 issues. It is either a bad hot water heater, the laundry machine, or the well is collecting either sulfur or iron bacteria.

If the sulfur was a result of the well, then we would expect the smell to be at every faucet in the home. If it was caused by the hot water heater, then we would expect the odor to be present every hot water faucet in the house, including the laundry. The last possibility is that the laundry machine is collecting bacteria and the by product would be sulfur dioxide.

Try running an empty load with a healthy amount of bleach. The manufacturer may also have cleaning instructions posted online. I know that the new front loading washing machines are notorious for having to be cleaned so often.

If this doesn’t work, then I might suggest calling a plumber.

Why is it advised not to pump a Septic Tank prior to the evaluation?

A septic pumping is not necessary for a septic evaluation; in fact, it adds no value to the evaluation itself. Pumping a tank prior to a septic evaluation prohibits us from doing a proper septic evaluation. Many clues that would indicate a troublesome or failing septic system are hidden when a tank is pumped. If a tank is over full or partially backing up, a pumping would remove any evidence of this. We also need to run water to the absorption area of the septic system. If the tank has just been pumped, we cannot do this as the water we run into the system will only collect in the septic tank and not overflow to the absorption area of the system. Part of our evaluation is to use a Sludge Judge and convey to you, the buyer, if the tank is currently due for cleaning. We suggest you ask the sellers to pump the tank if we find it is due for cleaning. If it is not due, you would be better off by using the seller’s money for other repairs or maintenance until the tank is in need of maintenance. Either way, we strongly recommend this pumping happen after our evaluation.

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