I'm interested in buying a plot of land and building something on it. I'll need plumbing and electricity on this plot of land and I think I found a perfect lot for sale, but one of the bits of information on the listing is:

  • County denied for a "conventional" septic system 12/15/15

I must admit I'm not really that familiar yet with this sort of thing, so if the county denies a "conventional" septic system does that mean that plumbing won't be allowed on this property? or that I have to pay for the system myself? Would I be able to hook up a shower, bathroom and kitchen?

As I said, I'm not familiar so some advice would be great! Thank you.

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    Welcome to SE. There are probably many reasons why this could happen, and they depend, to some degree, on where you are. I suggest a quick call to your local county office. – isherwood Mar 21 '17 at 13:42
  • My two first guesses are lack of space and proximity to wetlands or bodies of water. It could also be that the proposed design was poor, and other "conventional" designs would be acceptable. – isherwood Mar 21 '17 at 13:44
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    If your plot is in a drinking water collection basin the conventional leach field associated with septic systems will be prohibited. That means you either need a BIG tank or need to get it emptied frequently, or both. – Trevor_G Mar 21 '17 at 13:53
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    No, that isn't about money. Rarely do I say "hire a professional", but if this is all over your head, don't buy rural land til you get a stack of help and education. A real estate agent may be able to provide some of this. Or you can look at Youtube in the tiny-house, off-grid living and homesteading areas, IIRC the Youtube channel "Pure Living For Life" does not have functioning septic on their rocky hillside land. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 21 '17 at 16:45
  • @Trevor In that case, is there any profit to separating graywater from blackwater? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 21 '17 at 16:55

This is likely off topic on the site. You'd be better off talking to a real estate agent, or the local government.

My guess is that they did a Percolation test (perc test), and the results came back as a fail. This means that installing a septic system on the property is going to be a challenge, though they may have accepted alternative solutions in the area. If the lot has access to city/town sewers, you should be able to get hooked up to that.

Alternatively, the system may have been denied due to lack of space, too many other systems in the area, the system would be too close to ground or surface water, or some other local requirements were not met.

Depending on your area, you may be able to handle grey water without a septic system. This would mean that you could have a shower, sink, washing machine, etc. You just wouldn't be able to have a toilet. Well, you wouldn't be able to have a toilet connected to a "conventional" septic system (whatever they consider "conventional"). There are alternatives ways of disposing of human waste, and the county may allow an "unconventional" septic system. You'd have to check with the county, to determine what would be allowed.

At any rate... If you're buying unimproved land, you're going to have to pay for whatever is built/installed on the property (septic system or otherwise).

  • +1 Another factor is closeness to well water or protected wetlands or shorefront. – bib Mar 21 '17 at 15:16
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    @bib Is that not covered by "too close to ground or surface water"? – Tester101 Mar 21 '17 at 15:21
  • The ground water criteria is largely vertical. The well or shorefront issue is usually horizontal and directional. Surface water issue often does correspond to wetland or shorefront issues. – bib Mar 21 '17 at 17:11

Most of the comments above are pretty accurate. Where I used to live, if you were denied a "conventional septic system" you had to install what was called a "sand mound" system. Check with your local municipality or county, they have "codes" for everything. I have also heard of instances where septic systems of any type were not allowed. So people installed a large collection tank and had a "honey dipper" come and pump out the tank on a regular schedule.

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