Inspector Screening

Flickr: Natty Dread
Septic systems get far less attention than they warrant, considering how severely they affect our watersheds. Maryland delegates much of the monitoring and control of onsite sewage disposal systems (OSDS) to the counties. Calvert County's monitoring and control from the Public Health Department seems to be limited to checking installers, but they don't take measures to ensure or even encourage valid inspections. When I asked them for a list of inspectors, they sent me their list of installers. I called back to see if there was an inspector list and was told that all the installers are tested and are qualified to conduct inspections. I then called a random company on the list and asked about having a septic system inspection performed. The septic guy they referred me to told me that he had never done an inspection and seemed to think that many home inspectors do a decent job by flowing water into the tank and looking for evidence of seepage. That's the type of inspector the University of Maryland extension warns against.

It turns out that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) does keep a list of individuals who have taken a one day course in OSDS inspections. I can use this list in conjunction with the list of installers licensed by the county to pare down the candidates for my inspection. I will look for local inspectors who aren't installers, because I think there could be a conflict of interest that would push an inspector/installer to fail your system in the hope of getting some big ticket repair work.

Either way, the inspector to hire is someone who follows the recommendations of MDE on how to conduct inspections. They should also use a checklist like the one published by MOWPA. Screening on the phone should include finding out whether they dig to uncover the distribution box and drain tiles. It will be interesting to find out how many of the inspectors listed by MDE as trained actually measure up.

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