The ideal septic system is one you don’t have to think about beyond annual inspections and maintenance and occasional pumping. And one of the best ways to keep it off your mind (and out of your pocketbook) in the future is to include it in your site development plan early in the process. A viable, eco-friendly septic system design is crucial to your property’s value and usability (and your water’s safety) – now and in the future.
When a site is being developed, a septic system should be planned for and installed early on and then blocked off to keep the soil and drain field area free of damage. In addition to your main septic system, you also need to plan for your reserve area. Think of your reserve as “plan B” should your system ever fail due to aging, overuse, or neglect. Like the primary septic system area, the reserve area needs to be protected from traffic and the stock-piling of materials during the building process (and after).
So what can damage your septic system during site development?
In addition to keeping a driveway or structure from being built over the top of the most viable septic area, when a property is being developed, damage can occur in ways you might not think of. Vehicle and heavy machinery traffic and the stockpiling of construction materials or fill can disturb or compact the soil. Compaction can limit the soil’s natural ability to treat wastewater. (Did you know that even livestock can compact soil and make it useless for wastewater treatment?)
I have encountered painful situations when the septic and drain field was not installed until after excavation and construction had begun and the scope and impact of the septic system had not been considered. This lack of planning can result in costly redesign fees, more expensive treatment systems, and lengthy project delays. In the worst cases where no viable septic area is available, the owner has been forced to explore alternatives like a community system, requesting an easement from a neighbor, and possible abandonment of the property.
A little up front planning can go a long way toward saving you money and ensuring a long-lasting, hard-working septic system. In addition to making sure that you have a well-placed and well-designed septic system, I highly recommend that you consider building an enhanced site plan to ensure that these areas are well outlined and protected by contractors during site development.