This past week I went on a septic inspection—not something I ever considered to be especially important in the grand scheme of due diligence, but what I learned will certainly be an important lesson for the future.
The property consisted of three buildings. The prospective buyer plans on utilizing the property to hold 120 people, five days a week, in a school setting. The number of people is actually a decrease in previous usage, when the buildings acted as a church some years ago.
There were a total of three separate septic tanks and drain fields on the property. At first glance, the septic system appeared to be adequate. However, we cannot judge septic use on the population alone; it involves use, and many other factors.
After the inspection was completed, I turned to the Florida Department of Health’s Administrative Code for Onsite Sewage Treatment to study permitting requirements. Upon reviewing the code, it turns out that the site’s septic system is severely undersized.
The total tank volume was only approximately 66% adequate, while the drain field was only approximately 25% of the required size.
These issues will require a massive renovation, which could possibly end the deal. This issue came to light not due to the fact that the fields or tanks are no longer serviceable, but that the size of each is not acceptable for a school.
The Lesson: A component of a commercial property that was acceptable in the past may not be acceptable now, and we as inspectors need to find these changes for our clients. Proper permitting is incredibly important when it comes to protecting a client.
-Colin Trotter, Project Engineer