My septic system (tank and dry well, no drain field) is about 60 years old and from the most recent inspection, it seems that the dry well is no longer discharging water to the soil. Is there any fix that we can do to restore the functionality of the dry well since our county won't allow septic repairs? They require us to connect to sewer if its near by (which it is and is very costly).

  • Thanks to everyone chiming in on this. We talked to the county and they said that since 50% of the homes on our street with septic have had a failure, they'll run the sewer from the county budget. Thankfully, there are clean water grants in our state that will pay 100% of the cost of sewer hookup. Just need to make it 3 years until that project is complete. I'll be pumping the drywell and seeing what cleaning can be done to help it get to that 3 year mark.
    – swaarley
    Jun 11, 2023 at 0:28

2 Answers 2


Anything you do to "fix" your issue would probably be considered a repair. Most likely the dry well has gotten clogged with sediment and debris over the years that's come out of your tank. Yes, most of the solids will get caught in the tank, but there will still be some that get past the tank, and will eventually clog your dry well area. Without clearing out that dry well debris to allow water to again drain, you're stuck.

If your system is 60 years old, it probably would be considered undersized by today's standards anyway, and they don't last forever. You'll probably just need to bite the bullet and connect to your county sewer if repairs are not allowed.

As an aside (as someone who lives with a septic system and well), I am of the opinion that septic and well end up being about the same cost in the long run as using city water and sewer service. The difference is that with city water/sewer you pay a moderate amount each month and can somewhat budget for it. But with the septic and well, you typically don't pay anything significant each month, but get very large bills when repairs/replacements need to be made every 20-30 years or so. The total cost over a long period of time is probably pretty similar, just the frequency/amount of payments.

  • It will depend on connection cost. You are probably right about the monthly costs of use.
    – crip659
    Jun 9, 2023 at 17:01
  • Thanks for the hard advice. We're actually under contract to sell this home, so it would probably fall on the new owners to come to this conclusion.
    – swaarley
    Jun 9, 2023 at 18:14
  • @swaarley, it depends completely on the sales contract as to who will need to pay for the connection. At least in my area of the USA, something like that is likely a negotiable item and would be justifiable cause for the buyer to back out of the agreement, since it wouldn't be termed something that is readily visible during an initial walk-through and materially impacts the value of the home and property. Now if the contract is for the buyer to buy the property as-is (which has become much more common in the recent housing crunch), then it's not your problem.
    – Milwrdfan
    Jun 9, 2023 at 19:07

I would argue that emptying the dry well is maintenance. Replacing bits would be repair. There is this distinction here in NZ. The septic tanks have to be inspected, and cleaned annually.

Ypu could phone your county anonymously and confirm.

Also, check with your county. Here some councils will put some of the cost onto rates, so you pay it off gradually.

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