Restoration Process For Land That Won't Perk

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by brownthumb, Mar 10, 2007.

  1. brownthumb

    brownthumb Well-Known Member

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    Ok guys, I need some help. I know the old saying "you only get what you pay for" and "if it sounds too good to be true," but I am really tempted to buy a 25 acre parcel of land that would not pass a perk test. The land is level, 3/4 tillable and 1/4 woodland with mature trees. It has been on the market for over a year and had one offer that fell through when they couldn't get a satisfactory perk test. The Amish neighbors have been planting soybeans on it for several years. The realtor claims that if you are willing to truck in soil, sand, gravel etc and let it sit for 4 or 5 years that it should then pass a perk test. Is this true? Is there any estimate of how many triaxles of these I would need to make this work? I don't really need the land now but I am thinking it might be good idea if I could build a small retirement cabin on it in 5-7 years when I retire. I know very little about soil and septic systems but apparently this land wouldn't even pass for a sand mound so it must have very little topsoil. Is this a really bad idea?
     
  2. jennigrey

    jennigrey Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Does this mean you have a really high water table? Or is it to do with the composition of the soil?
     

  3. brownthumb

    brownthumb Well-Known Member

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    the soil is poor quality...not swamp but very clay based. It's in western PA.
     
  4. hunter63

    hunter63 Well-Known Member

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    Seems like a lot of expensive to get to questionable results.

    Believe it or not a lot of land that "used to" pass a perk, won't any more, the Reg's are getting tougher and tougher all the time. So even if you did do all that, it might not pass a perk in the future.

    Sort of ran into this at "The Place", the land was perked in 1987, and guaranteed a perk at time of purchase, some of my neighbors weren't so lucky, even though theirs was perked at the same time, they didn't have the guarantee, so they were sorta stuck.

    May want to just look into a "mound system". It's about double the cost, but completely legal and is what most areas want you to do anyway.

    Maybe this could be a bargining point on price.
     
  5. RLStewart

    RLStewart Well-Known Member

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    I have heard that trucking a bunch of gravel in will work. I don't know any details and I don't know that its entirely legal but I know people do it sometimes. We are in western PA so I know what you mean about clay soil! Around here people also wait for a real dry spell before they have their land tested and that makes it alittle more likely to pass.

    I guess for me it would depend on how good of a deal you can get on the land and if you can afford to take the risk. Also maybe think about not having a septic. I don't know anything about the regulations regarding that but it could be solution.
     
  6. The Paw

    The Paw Well-Known Member

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    I think a properly engineered mound system would be a safer investment. You could truck in endless fill, and not be sure if it will pass the test until the end.

    In northwestern Ontario, they are sitting on the Canadian Shield, bedrock with little or no topsoil, so virtually all septic systems have to be designed in this manner.
     
  7. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Have you considered tiling the area? If you could drain some of that water off, perhaps into a pond if you don't have a drainage ditch.
     
  8. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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  9. Rocky Fields

    Rocky Fields Failure is not an option.

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    Hey.

    This is a case for a septic holding system. Waste goes into a holding tank and has to
    be emptied out by a licensed septic guy. There is no drainfield involved. Fool around with waste and you may pollute your groundwater if your watertable is close to the surface. It's recommended to get the largest holding tank you can.


    RF
     
  10. The Paw

    The Paw Well-Known Member

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    I don't know about all jurisdictions, but I know in some areas septic holding tanks are no longer allowed. For instance, in Northwestern Ontario where there is extensive cottage country and numerous lakes, they started banning the holding tanks because some of the septic guys would do a midnight dump into a ditch, lake or stream rather than haul it to a treatment facility.

    I think speaking to a local septic contractor would be wise, they can tell you about local regulations as well as what folks generally do.
     
  11. tiogacounty

    tiogacounty Well-Known Member

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    The mound system you are refering to is the standard for PA on-site systems anymore. It has been in widespread use here for the last 20+ years. They represent the vast majority of new installations in many areas of the state. The issue here is that either the soil profile review or perculation test rates are unacceptable, regardless of what type of system is involved. It used to be acceptable to place suitable fill dirt in a location and allow five years to pass before retesting,Gravel would be a big mistake, it would have to be clean soil that doesn't drain excessively fast or slow, and a lot of it. A lot as in four or five thousand cubic feet minimum. That said, regulations change every few years and this may no longer be acceptable. There are alternatives available but they are more costly and have to be approved by the state and local juristictions. The buck starts and stops with the local Sewage enforcement officer, unless you are darn sure that he is either incorrect or attempting to deny you of what you are leagally entitled to. In that case you can appeal to the state and challenge his findings. You best bet is to schedule a meeting with the local SEO and ask where you stand on this issue, any opinion you read here is questionable since it doesn't reflect the latest DEP regs, or the opinion of the only guy that matters, the SEO having juristiction. Good luck. BTW, holding tanks are not allowed in this application.
     
  12. anniew

    anniew keep it simple and honest Supporter

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    tioga has it right. I used to be a perk tester, and if it won't perk, it means you can't have a conventional inground system or a sand mound.
    Bringing in soil must be of a certain type, not gravel which would perk too fast!!! That will fail also. There are no guarantees if you bring in the right type of soil. There are alternative systems such are irrigation, but they take up more space and are costly. I'd say "move on."
    You don't want to bet your retirement on something in 4-5 years that may not pass, plus the regs may become even more restrictive by then.
    PA is a PITA for this, and individual SEOs often are compromised.
    However, with the acreage you have, perhaps other sites might perk. That would be a possibility.
    Good luck, but don't base your future on a maybe. Either get a good perk someplace on the land or look for something else that will perk.
    Ann
     
  13. Rocky Fields

    Rocky Fields Failure is not an option.

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    Hey.

    I know parts of PA still allow septic holding tanks. I know they are allowed around Paoli,Brogue,Orangeville, and Centre Hall. Things are always changing, so it would have to be checked into with the local government for where the land is situated.
    It gets to be expensive having the tank emptied regularly. Might want to check into local law for building an outhouse.

    Get the local Amish take on it...talk to the neighbors...bring a pie with you;-)

    Here is the PA code for septic holding tanks:

    http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/025/chapter73/s73.62.html

    Here is the code for sand mound:

    http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/025/chapter73/s73.55.html


    RF
     
  14. pumpkinlady

    pumpkinlady Well-Known Member

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    What were the reasons it didn't pass the perk test? Did you get to see the results of the declined application? I would get a copy of the test and ask either the SEO who did the testing or I would contact the Township SEO where the property is as to what the problem was. Was it the holes, is there a creek or stream to close by, a well, etc.

    Ask them what they thought your best chance is to get the land to pass. Maybe you will have to haul in fill dirt and let the land sit for the required number of years. The land can be tested anytime you alter the land but you can't have any holes dug for the test where the land has been altered.

    A lot of W PA will not pass for conventional systems anymore. This includes sand mounds. Systems are starting to get costly.

    I would also check the original sub-division map of the land and see it it shows if the land was perked. Ask to see the DEP papers, planning modules, computations and if there is a non-building waiver on the property.
     
  15. Rocky Fields

    Rocky Fields Failure is not an option.

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    Hey.

    Better check with some local well drillers while yer at it. Drilling 1,000 feet or more thru rock can be expensive too.

    RF
     
  16. BasicLiving

    BasicLiving Well-Known Member

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    I agree. And I would look for something else. We had to get an alternative system on our property - a "drip" system. It was VERY expensive - and it is not THE most expensive out there. If you can't even perk for a drip system, you are looking at big $$$$$$. It will very likely surpass the cost of a "deal" on the land.

    I wouldn't chance it. But that's just my 1 cent worth.

    Penny
     
  17. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    My soil engineer /septic design guy told me that if I wanted to put in a septic at the exact spot where I wanted it to be. Then I should buy three foot of sand/loam onto the area and plant grass. After four years of sand/loam supporting grass, then to hire a new perc done, and it WILL pass.

    Or I could just put it where it passes now, and pipe it there from my house.
     
  18. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Don't listen to your Amish neighbor, don't listen to your realtor, listen to someone who is knowledgeable of your state's septic regulations! Hire yourself a reputable soil scientist and have him evaluate the soil on the property.
     
  19. Rocky Fields

    Rocky Fields Failure is not an option.

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    Hey.

    Regardless of what others say above, talk to the Amish neighbors. I don't know about the Amish in the Crosslake-Emily MN area, but my Amish neighbors don't have indoor plumbing or electricity. They are masterful in building outhouses...especially multiple holers. And if you read about all the neighbor problems in this forum, it's best you see how they are in advance. The local septic installer will often be the guy who will do your perk. All you have to do is tell them where it's at and odds are they already know the soil in that area, so they can advise you. Soil scientists are for farming.

    RF
     
  20. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    An eighth grade education makes the man an expert on everything? I think not.

    Septic system installation is NOT done by 'septic system design / soil science engineers'. The first is a site-work contractor with a crane and a back hoe [ie, no education]. The second is a degreed professional with a state license.

    In this area ONLY the engineer with the state license can approve the site where you can put in a septic system.

    In fact I can put the system in, it takes no training. I just have to follow the site design from the licensed engineer.