Septic, Sewers, Wells, Tanks and Superfund Sites

Not every house is connected to City sewer and water. When wells and septic systems are on the property, buyer’s inspections are more important than ever.

Sewer and Septic Systems
Whether the property is connected to a city sewer, septic system or other on-site wastewater treatment system is important information. Even if the MLS data sheet or Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement indicate that the home is connected to the city sewer, the buyer should have their home inspector, or a licensed plumber, verify the connection and its condition. Real estate licensees are not licensed to do plumbing or septic inspections. If the property has a septic system or other on-site wastewater treatment system, the system should be pumped and inspected by a licensed septic system installer or other on-site wastewater treatment system professional, prior to close. Information about on-site wastewater treatment systems, and licensed installers and pumpers, can be found on the website for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at: http://www.deq.state.or.us/wq/onsite/onsite.htm. Buyers should check with the appropriate county department for specific information on a particular property.

If domestic water for the property is supplied by a private well, the seller is required by state law to test the well for total coli form bacteria and nitrates. Buyers may also want to have the well tested for contaminants other than bacteria and nitrates. Buyers should verify that the seller uses proper procedures when having the well tested. More information on this state law requirement can be found at http://www.dhs.state.or.us/publichealth/dwp/dwtfaq.cfm. State law also requires that all private wells, that have not already been registered with the state, be registered at the time the property is transferred. Real estate forms in use in Oregon often delegate to the buyer the responsibility for registering the well. For information on the state well registration program, visit: http://egov.oregon.gov/OWRD/GW/well_id.shtml.

Well Flow Tests:
If domestic water is supplied by a private well, the buyer should verify to the extent possible whether the well provides adequate water for domestic needs. It is strongly recommended that a well flow test be conducted prior to the purchase of any property that depends on a well for domestic water. Careful attention should be paid to any disclosures or representations by the seller. Buyers should review all available well records. More information on well logs is available at: http://www.wrd.state.or.us Buyers are advised to have well flow tested by a professional. While real estate licensees are not trained and do not have the expertise to test wells, they may be able to direct you to the appropriate well professionals. Even when wells are inspected and tested, it is impossible to guarantee a continued supply of water. Catastrophic events can and do occur that can change the well quality virtually overnight. Other events, such as development and drought, can affect the quality of an aquifer over time. Any test of a well is merely a snapshot in time and is not an indication of a well’s performance in the future. Any kind of well report should be viewed in this light. PROFESSIONAL INSPECTION, WELL LOG REVIEW AND FLOW TESTS ARE ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL IN DETERMINING THE CONDITION OF A PRIVATE WELL.

Underground Oil Storage Tanks
Buyers should be aware of potential problems associated with underground oil storage tanks. Although home heating oil tanks are not regulated, such tanks can cause serious problems if they have leaked oil. Advice on home heating oil tanks and the problems associated with them can be found at: http://www.deq.state.or.us/wmc/tank/ust-lust.htm. A buyer who knows or suspects that property has an underground storage tank should take appropriate steps to protect his own interests, including seeking information from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and, if necessary, consulting with an environmental hazards specialist or attorney. BUYERS ARE ADVISED TO HIRE APPROPRIATELY TRAINED ENVIRONMENTAL PROFESSIONALS TO INSPECT THE PROPERTY IF AN UNDERGROUD OIL STORAGE TANK IS FOUND OR SUSPECTED. Oil storage tank inspection, decommissioning and cleanup requires a special license from DEQ. A list of licensed providers can be found at http://www.deq.state.or.us/wmc/tank/hotsplist.htm or ask your real estate licensee for assistance in finding the proper professional.

Environmental Hazards
Buyers should carefully review the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement and any inspection reports available to determine if any of a number of potential environmental hazards may require further investigation. Environmental hazards include everything from expansive soils to landslides to forest fires, tsunamis, floods and earthquakes. Environmental hazards can also include indoor air quality (e.g., radon or carbon monoxide) and hazardous materials, like asbestos. Buyers concerned about external environmental hazards should check with the county in which the property is located. Oregon counties can be located at: aocweb.org. Flood plain maps and information are available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at: http://www.fema.gov/fhm/. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a great deal of information about indoor hazards on its website at: www.epa.gov/iaq/iaqinfo.html. Superfund sites are areas that have been listed by the federal government as contaminated. A wealth of information on superfund sites, including their locations, is available by visiting the EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/.

Information on Oregon superfund sites can be obtained from the Oregon Department of Human Services at: http://www.dhs.state.or.us/publichealth/superfund/sites.cfm. Real estate licensees are not trained, and do not have the expertise, to discover and evaluate environmental hazards. Buyers, therefore, are advised to hire appropriately trained environmental professionals to inspect the property and its systems or fixtures for environmental hazards.

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