QUEENSBURY — The first three septic systems have been inspected under the new town law to keep water bodies safe, and all three failed.
But none of them needed to be completely replaced.
Each had small problems that were not easily diagnosed before the systems were dug up. But those problems were pouring raw sewage into the ground.
“The owners had no idea it was going on,” Dave Hatin, town building and codes director, said.
One system was near Lake George, one by Glen Lake and one on the shore of the Hudson River.
All houses that sell in the town’s waterfront zones must have a septic inspection under a new law that went into effect Jan. 1. The goal is to get the system checked at a time when money is usually changing hands, which reduces the financial hardship if a major repair is needed.
So far, none of the repairs have been costly, though they have been critically important to the health of the water bodies nearby.
In one, there was a broken pump line.
“It’s pumping raw sewage from the house to the septic tank,” Hatin said. “It was all staying underground instead.”
The sewage would probably have made its way to the surface eventually, leading to the discovery of that broken pump line, he said.
Another turned out to have been built wrong.
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“We found a distribution box that wasn’t level,” Hatin said. “Only one of the seepage pits was getting affluent. The other was bone dry, just the way it had been when it was installed.”
The system was 25 years old.
In that case, the fix cost about $10.
“We put in speed levelers to level the distribution box. Two were needed. They’re about $5 apiece,” Hatin said.
The big cost to owners right now is that they’ve had to pay to have their systems dug up in the middle of winter, when the ground is frozen.
One owner had to pay $2,000 for the excavation, Hatin said.
“In the summer, it would probably be half that,” he said.
He is encouraging owners to dig before the frost hits, or put in a deposit and wait until spring. At least four sellers have put up deposits against possible repairs after a spring inspection.
Owners who are considering a future property sale could schedule an inspection in advance, Hatin added.
“Then do it in summer,” he said. “The inspection is good for three years. That gives them a three-year window.”