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  • Tranquil photo of Lake Tapps in early fall, with a view of Mt. Rainier and large clouds in the background.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Septic System Inspection Reminders

    We sent you a reminder to get your septic system inspected. Here are some answers to your questions.

    Septic System Inspections FAQs

    1. Hire a septic service company. Find a list of certified providers at tpchd.org/septicservicecompanies. We recommend you call at least 3 companies to compare prices.
    2. The septic service company inspects your septic system and pumps only if necessary and requested by you. They file their inspection report online at onlineRME.com. Look up your inspection report under “Report Search.”
    3. We update our records and send you another reminder when your next inspection is due.

    State and local law requires you to get your septic system inspected regularly. We are notifying you that your septic system needs to be inspected.

    State and local law require septic system owners to get their septic system regularly inspected, called routine inspections or operation and maintenance (O&M) inspections. (WAC 246-272A effective August 2010 and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Board of Health Resolution No. 2018-4560; Chapter 2 effective July 2018).

    • Every year if you have a complex system, like community, aerobic treatment or proprietary systems.
    • Every 3 years if you have a simple system, like gravity or pressure systems.
    • When you sell your house, no matter what type of system

    Financial resources are available. If you: 

    • Have money challenges. Email us at OMSeptic@tpchd.org to request a 1-year extension.
    • Need a loan for septic repairs and maintenance, see if you qualify for loan from Craft3: A nonprofit, non-bank community development financial institution.
    • Are a low-income homeowner in Pierce County. See if you qualify.

    Our financial assistance programs are only for routine inspections. You can’t use them for property sales. You may qualify for:

    • $125 off a routine inspection (required to receive other discounts below).
    • $125 of riser installation (inspection required first).
    • $200 off tank(s) pumping (inspection required first).
    • $500 off cost of minor repairs* (only available in certain areas).

    *Repairs are minor when they do not require an installation permit, like replacing a malfunctioning part or installing mechanical methods to reduce clogging the drainfield. 

    To apply, fill out the financial assistance form.

    Email your completed form to omfa@tpchd.org or call us at (253) 649-1421. We will verify your eligibility and email or mail the form back to you.  

    After you receive your returned form:

    1. Choose a certified septic system service provider from the list on your financial assistance form. We recommend you compare costs of several service companies and check online reviews.
    2. Schedule your service. Tell the service provider you are participating in the Financial Assistance Program.
    3. When the service provider arrives at your home, give them the returned form to receive your discount at time of service.

    The cheapest septic system you will ever own is the one you have now. Protect your investment. Regular inspections help find and correct problems before they become major. Save money and avoid costly repairs or system replacements.

    A septic system that needs repairs can impact water quality of streams, lakes, and Puget Sound. If your system has any of the issues below, contact your septic service provider to fix them immediately:

    • Surfacing sewage.
    • Broken or missing baffles.
    • Septic tank needs pumping.
    • Tank level too high.
    • Tank not watertight.
    • Pumps not working correctly.
    • Lids not secure.
    • Soil layers that have become impermeable.
    • A saturated drainfield.
    • Broken or disconnected pipes.

    An inspection is not the same as a pumping. Inspections include measuring water levels in the tanks, checking any pumps, and evaluating the drainfield.

    The Health Department’s Environmental Health Code, Chapter 2, Section 44, lists the parts of your system a certified septic professional inspects:

    • Septic tanks. Inspector checks:
      • Liquid level.
      • Amount of scum and sludge.
      • Whether the tank needs pumping.
      • The condition of the tank and its parts and structural integrity.
    • Pump tanks. Inspector checks:
      • Liquid level in the tank.
      • The amount of sludge.
      • The pump tanks structural integrity and condition.
      • All pump controls and electronics, note the drawdown, dosing, cycles and squirt test if possible.
    • The drain field area. Inspector:
      • Walks the drainfield area and looks for surfacing sewage and damage to the drainfield area.
      • Checks monitoring ports–if available–for ponded sewage.
    • Risers or access ports:
      • Inspector checks lids and caps to ensure they are secure and in good condition.
    • Sand filters:
      • Inspector checks if filter operates properly and is in sound condition.
    • Proprietary devices like pretreatment devices:
      • Inspector checks if device operates according to manufacturer’s specifications.

     The inspector files a report in the onlineRME database. We review reports and send you a letter if your system requires repairs. You can view inspection reports at onlineRME.com under “Report Search.”

    Yes. We notified different Lake Tapps neighborhoods in 2020 and 2021 and the Key Peninsula in 2021 and 2022.  In 2022, we notified neighborhoods in the watershed basins of North Fork of Clover Creek, Alderton Creek, Lynch Creek, Ohop Creek, Salmon Creek, Spiketon Ditch and Swan Creek. We will notify other neighborhoods in Pierce County based on environmental sensitivity and risk to human health. Eventually, we will notify all septic system owners in Pierce County.

    Visit tpchd.org/septicservicecompanies. We recommend you call at least 3 septic service companies to compare prices.

    Look up your septic system record drawing at edocs.tpchd.org. Type in your address or parcel number. Or contact our records request line at (253)649-1870.

    The timeline depends on the problem. If you take steps to resolve the problem and make progress, we will work with you. If you need more time, let us know.

    A typical routine inspection costs about $250-$350.

    It costs about $400-$500 to pump a typical septic tank. This is in addition to any inspection costs.

    Repairing or replacing a failing septic system can be expensive. That is why routine inspections are important. They can help detect problems early -with less expensive fixes- before problems become big.

    Costs can vary widely. They depend on:

    • The nature of the problem.
    • The property configuration.
    • Location and soils.

    The average cost for repairs is up to $1500, tank replacements can cost up to $5000, and system replacements around $20,000.

    Only a certified operation and maintenance (O&M) inspector should inspect your septic system. Find a list of certified companies at tpchd.org/septicservicecompanies.

    O&M inspectors need to receive education and pass an exam to get certified. They need to attend additional training each year to stay certified. The Washington On-site Sewage Association (wossa.org) certifies and trains O&M inspectors. We remove uncertified inspectors and companies from our list and follow-up on complaints about inspectors.

    Report any problems you have with a septic professional online at eco.tpchd.org/#/home. We will investigate and check up on any activities that seem unprofessional.

    • If you don’t get your septic system inspected, we will record a notice of non-compliance on your property title.
    • This recording can make it more difficult to sell, refinance, or develop your property in the future.
    • To remove the recording, you need to:
      • Get your septic system inspected by a certified inspector.
      • Pay the current rescission fee ($783 in 2022) to record a notice of compliance on your property title.