Eastern Connecticut
Home Inspection Services

Serving Eastern CT towns & cities including Willimantic, Mansfield, Windham, Tolland, Coventry, Willington, Chaplin, & Columbia

Committed to quality home inspection

(860) 450-1500

Well and Septic systems
Wells | Septic Systems

If you are considering the purchase of a rural home, often it will be provided with a private water supply (well) and a private sewage disposal system (septic tank and leaching field).


Water testing. In some cases you may wish to test the water supply in a house with water provided by the municipality. A test for lead in the water is recommended, for example, in an older home with lead water pipes. In a home with a well, testing the water when a home changes owners is always a good idea. ECHIS samples water in the home and delivers it to a state licensed water lab for analysis.

Standard Potability Test. A standard potability test evaluates water for bacteria, pH, color, odor, turbidity, hardness, and commonly found elements such as nitrates and nitrites, iron, manganese, and sodium. The test for bacteria is primarily concerned with fecal coliform bacteria, which indicate contamination by manure or other sources. The various items tested have Recommended Maximum or Maximum Allowable levels set by the State of Connecticut. Your water report will tell you if any item is higher than desirable. Some items may be high, but not cause the water to be unsafe to drink. A high iron level, for example, will not harm you if you drink the water, but it may make iron stains on your sinks and toilets, and cause your laundry to be not quite so white. In some cases, water treatment to reduce levels of certain minerals may be indicated.

Other water tests are available. Your water can also be tested for lead, radon, volatile organic compounds (VOC's), pesticides, etc. These tests are usually not recommended unless there is reason to believe that they might be present. If you have concerns about particular contaminants that may be present in the well, please discuss them with ECHIS so that we can arrange for appropriate testing.

Water Flow Testing. ECHIS tests water flow and pressure from the well by attaching gauges to a water faucet and monitoring flow (gallons per minute) and pressure for a minimum of one hour. Some fluctuation in flow and pressure is normal, but a well should be able to deliver an average flow of at least 3 gallons per minute for one hour.


Septic tanks and leaching pipes are subjects many people would prefer not to think about! However, some basic knowledge of how these systems work will keep them working right, and help to prevent a costly repair job. There are two main parts of a standard septic system: the tank and the leaching field.

The Septic Tank. The septic tank is usually made of concrete, but with older houses may be stone, brick or steel. It is a large space (typically 750-1500 gallons) which allows the sewage to become still, so that solids (called sludge) will settle out to the bottom. Bacteria and other microbes in the tank then go to work to break down the solids. The liquid material at the top, called effluent, flows out into the leaching pipes. Baffles in the tank also help to ensure that only liquid, without solids, passes into the leaching pipes.

diagram of a septic tank

Two Compartment Septic Tank

The leaching field. The leaching field is composed of perforated plastic pipes (or clay tiles in older installations) set in loose stone in trenches or pits in the ground. The pipes provide plenty of surface area for the effluent to be absorbed by the soil, where soil bacteria can process it and destroy harmful bacteria and viruses, which are found in raw sewage. In a properly functioning septic system, safe, potable water is returned to the ground water beneath the property.

What can cause a septic system to fail? There are several causes of problems with septic systems. The most common are:

  1. overloading the system with too much flow
  2. putting things down the drain which are harmful to the bacteria and
  3. failing to have the tank pumped periodically to remove built-up solids.
To keep your system in good shape, avoid excessive flow of water to the system all at once. For example, try to space out your loads of laundry, rather than doing it all in one day. Also, avoid putting large amounts of bleach, paint thinner or other chemicals down the drain which may kill the bacteria which are needed to process the solids in the tank. The best maintenance for a septic system is to have it pumped at least once every 3-4 years, depending on the size of the tank and the number of people in the household. When your tank is pumped, ask the septic contractor how often pumping is recommended for your system. Pumping is quite inexpensive, compared to replacement of the leaching field. If the sludge builds up high enough, solids begin to enter the leaching pipes and plug the stone and soil around the pipes, causing the system to fail.

The Septic Inspection. When you are buying a house with a septic system, the tank should be pumped and inspected. Often the contract that you sign with the seller will have the seller pay the fee for pumping, while you are responsible for the inspection fee and any labor required for digging up the cover or covers. In a typical inspection the inspector will observe the fluid level in the tank to make sure that fluid is not backing up from the leaching field (a sign that the field is getting plugged up). As the tank is pumped the tank, covers, baffles, and inlet and outlet pipes are inspected. A written report details the findings of the inspection, noting any concerns.

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Eastern Connecticut
Home Inspection Services LLC
(860) 450-1500