Board of Health

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Mandatory inspections of septic systems or cesspools

Title 5 requires inspections:

  • Within 2 years before the sale of a home or transfer of title (different rules apply for “shared systems” and condominiums), or
  • In certain inheritance situations; for example, when a child inherits a house from his or her parent; or
  • In certain insolvency proceedings; for example, sometimes in bankruptcy, tax taking or foreclosure, or
  • When the use of the home is changed; for example, from residential to commercial use, or
  • When the footprint of the house is changed, or
  • When the home is expanded and a building or occupancy permit is required: for example, a bedroom is added to your home.
  • If weather prevents an inspection at sale or transfer, the inspection must occur as soon as weather permits, but no later than six (6) months after the sale or transfer.

NOTE: All septic systems and cesspools must meet the TITLE 5 requirements, but they must also comply with local board of health ordinances which can be more stringent than TITLE 5. Even if you sell or transfer title to your home..

Title 5 does not require inspections when:

  • A mortgage is refinanced, or
  • The system was inspected within 3 years before the sale and you have records proving that your system was pumped annually since the inspection, or
  • Title to the house is transferred from one spouse to another or placed in certain family trusts, or
  • The local board of health issued a certificate of compliance within 2 years before the time of transfer or title, or
  • The community has adopted a comprehensive plan approved by DEP requiring periodic inspections and the system was inspected at the most recent time required by the plan, or
  • The homeowner has entered into an enforceable agreement, binding on subsequent buyers, with the board of health requiring an upgrade of the system or connection to the municipal sewer system within the 2 years of transfer or sale.

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Signs a septic system or cesspool may fail a title 5 inspection

  • Backups of raw sewage
  • Discharges of raw sewage to the ground surface
  • System requires pumping 4 or more times per year
  • The cesspool or leach field is below high ground water elevation
  • System located too close to a drinking water supply, unless the local board of health says the system is adequate to protect public health and the environment
  • System has a metal septic tank more than 20 years old

Note: Title 5 imposes stricter requirements on cesspools and privies.

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Title 5 inspectors

Only inspectors and soil evaluators approved under the regulations can perform required system inspections and soil tests. A list of DEP-approved soil evaluators and system inspectors is available at your local board of health. Certified health officers, registered sanitarians, and professional engineers qualify automatically as system inspectors under the regulations, and their names may or may not appear on the DEP-approved list.

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The regulations allow for the inspection to be done in the least intrusive manner possible. As part of the inspection process, a cesspool must be pumped out and examined. A septic tank may be pumped, but it is not required—a leach field is usually not dug up.

If a system passes, the inspector is required to submit an approved system inspection form to the local board of health within 30 days, and the homeowner must provide a copy to the buyer. Prospective buyers and lending institutions may also require a copy of the approved inspection form.

If a system fails a required inspection, the inspector is required to submit the form to the local board of health within 30 days, and the homeowner must provide a copy to the buyer. The system must be repaired or upgraded within 2 years following inspection, regardless of whether the property is sold

  • In certain circumstances, DEP or the local board of health may approve a longer schedule in order to achieve maximum feasible compliance with TITLE 5. For example, commitments to extend municipal sewers or to install shared systems within 5 years combined with adequate interim measures and an enforceable schedule, may mean a property owner does not have to install a new system or upgrade the existing system within the next 2 year period. CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL BOARD OF HEALTH TO SEE IF YOU QUALIFY
  • If the defect to the system is minor, a conditional pass may be issued, whereby once the defect is repaired or replaced with local board of health approval, the system passes inspection.

NOTES: The local board of health or DEP may impose a shorter period of time if a system presents an imminent public health hazard. Failure to comply with the requirements of the TITLE 5 could result in penalties.

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Inspection costs

The price of an inspection is not regulated. On average, expect to pay $300 to $500 for a TITLE 5 inspection.

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Office Hours: Mon. - Thurs: 9AM to 3PM

Phone: 413-566-2152
Fax: 413-566-2010

John Flynn, Chair
Richard Green
Duane Mosier
Jane Budynkiewicz, Clerk