Country and rural village properties have a distinct charm but they also come with special risks. It is essential to include a property inspection provided by a Registered Home Inspector in your offer to purchase a rural property. Rural homes range from new construction to century log to wood foundation or stone construction. Expect anything and everything from basements with dirt floors, four legged friends in the basement or attic to innovative energy systems. Many rural homes have alternate heating and/or energy systems such as wood, pellet, wind, solar or photovoltaic. Most rural properties have a septic system and well. (Ground-source heat pumps may require an additional well.)
It is better to inspect septic systems when the ground is soft from late spring until frost in fall. Make sure your septic system inspector is qualified by Ministry of Natural Resources as an installer and inspector. Most “Conservation Authority” offices have a list of qualified inspector installers. Try to not have the same person who has been pumping the septic tank do your inspection as here maybe a conflict of interest. Having the septic tank pumped at the time of the septic inspection will aid in the complete review of the septic system and may reveal problems with the tank or upgrades that could be made.
At the minimum you should test well water for bacterial contamination and have the septic system checked by a qualified installation inspector. The local health unit offers this service and can provide testing bottles and instructions. There more extensive tests available which will give you an overall greater appreciation of the substances that are in your well. We suggest at the time of the well inspection you also get a flow test to ensure the possibility of a dry well in mid/end summer is reduced. You may also want to include a full spectrum analysis of the water which will give you a more complete break down of the components in the water.
If members of your family are taking medication, i.e. chemotherapy, the discharge may harm or kill the useful microbes in the septic system, reducing it’s effectiveness. If you wish more detailed testing, you will probably have to go to a private laboratory. Also, if the home has a water softener, you should ensure that there is an untreated supply for drinking water for testing. Discharge from the water softener should not connect to the septic system as the salts may damage the primary concrete septic tank and diminish the ability of the microbes to break down the organic matter in the septic tank.