Friday, May 8, 2009

Ahhh! The Joys of Sewage

So many obstacles must be crossed when purchasing land and building a home. One of the greatest obstacles is the perc test performed by your local environmental health department. Often people locate the "perfect" place to build a house but find the land is not suitable for a septic system. The problem is magnified if you are considering building more than one structure.

Of course you can circumvent this whole issue if you purchase land in an area with public sewage lines run to it. Sewage is being run in this area, but is still a couple of miles away, so that was not an option. When you purchase land with the intentions of building in an area that will require a septic system, often the purchase loan will be contingent on a valid perc test.

The land owner from whom we purchased had considered developing this land, so he had already done much of the leg work. He had hired a soil scientist to analyze the soil, and presented a report and map of the land showing where conventional septic systems could be used, where alternative (aka. more costly) septic systems could be used, and what land was unsuitable for septic at all. We were set. There were more than enough perc locations to accommodate the eight or nine homes we were intending to build in this community. We intended to cluster the homes close together, maintaining as much green land as possible, and utilizing much of the unsuitable land for farming.

Working closely with our county zoning and planning department, the soil scientist's map, and our surveyors, we outlined lots so that each lot would include some of the land ideal for septic systems. Then we waited for it to stop raining so we could go to the environmental health department and apply for our perc tests. It rained for weeks. Finally the rain ceased temporarily, and the county soil scientist was being sent to analyze our soil so we could get moving right along.

We had to dig at least three pits per lot, each four feet deep, and four feet wide. We dug 24 pits to start with. The soil scientist from the health department came out two or three times and told us he would be back in another two weeks with a man from the state environmental health office that was coming out just to analyze our soil. He wanted us to be ready to dig fresh pits while they were there. So Darrell took the day off work and dug some more pits while both of the soil scientists climbed in and out of the holes and discussed their findings.

The bottom line? They told us that the soil on this property is completely unique in this area. They have not found any like it in this county and in very few locations in this part of NC. They actually told us that it looked like someone had flown over and dropped loads of soil just on this field. They found a location that had perfect soil...down the hill and along the banks of the creek. You never find soil of it's type downhill or near water. Of course you can't place a septic system near a creek. The water at the top of the hill looked waterlogged. Water should be running away from it. It was insane.

They denied all eight of our applications. They did, however, find one location that would be suitable for septic...but it was not on any of the lots. It was on the area we had designated "community land". According to the soil scientist map we had from the previous land owners, it was a septic dead zone. The county would approve a septic system for a single house only if we reapplied with the entire acreage as a single lot. We were told that we would not be approved to build more than one residence unless 1) we purchased adjacent land and it would perc OR 2) sewage was run to this area.

????? be continued......


Nick said...

Sounds like someone needs to be fired...haha

egassner said...

Oh Natalie! I'm so sorry you have to deal with this! Ugg...those septic guys are the biggest pain we had when putting in our home (with an EXISTING septic).
But it sounds as if you have great land for farming!!

Michelle said...

Wow! I didn't realize what a headache building could be. We hope to build our dream home some day so I'm learning lots from you Nat! I hope everything works out and you can get your septic in. What does this mean for you so far?

koinonia community said...

You guys have no idea how much I have missed your words of encouragement. Thank you so much! Michelle, we are really making progress, but it is a bit of a long story. I'll share more later. Of course, it would have been more simple if we were simply building. But, of course, we frown on taking the easy road. =)