Septic Tank Inspector Training Pilot Program
After completing a successful Folly Beach pilot inspection program in 2002, DHEC staff organized a second pilot program to train private sector workers how to inspect septic systems using a standard professional method. DHEC sponsored the program knowing that without such a pool of qualified inspectors, it would be difficult to encourage cities and towns to adopt septic tank management programs.
DHEC’s Ocean and Coastal Resources Management (OCRM) office studied inspector training programs used by other states and organizations and settled on one developed and taught by the University of Rhode Island. A DHEC project manager spent several days training with the program.
With EPA funds, DHEC partnered with the Clemson (University) Cooperative Extension and the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium to set up a steering committee of DHEC staff, local realtors, S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation staff, and city officials from Folly Beach and Isle of Palms.
Survey Gauges Attitudes on Need for Training
The group conducted a feasibility study that included a survey of groups with a particular stake or interest in septic tank systems — coastal city and county governments, home inspectors, the manufactured housing industry, realtors, septic tank installers and pumpers, and utility companies. Among the findings from 185 respondents:
- Most said homeowners and buyers of homes with septic systems need to be better informed about the location and proper operation and maintenance of their system.
- Two-thirds said there was a need for a standardized septic tank inspection training program in South Carolina, and nearly 80 percent said such a program should require testing.
- Over 60 percent said they would consider requiring inspections if trained inspectors were available.
- More than half said that requiring inspections should be a state rather than a local requirement.
- Almost two-thirds said mortgage lenders should require septic system inspections prior to loaning money for a property sale.
Pilot Workshops Train Thirty Inspectors
The study led to three septic tank inspector training workshops in Charleston, Conway and Beaufort. Thirty home inspectors, septic tank installers, septic tank pumpers, and local government employees completed the two-day training, which included one day in the classroom focused on septic system operations, sewage pollutants, soils, regulations, safety, inspection protocol and documentation, and one day conducting supervised septic system inspections at local homes. All participants passed a written exam, and spoke positively about the experience.
The promising results were presented to the steering committee in May 2003, but representatives of the real estate industry were reluctant to wholeheartedly endorse continuation of the pilot. Instead, the committee recommended that DHEC continue to offer voluntary training as demand and funding allowed, and that DHEC develop a voluntary half-day workshop for realtors on septic system operation and the benefits of maintenance.
Some coastal municipalities have since expressed an interest in developing a septic system management program to protect the local environment and prevent the need for a centralized sewer system. And some mortgage lenders along the coast now require septic system inspections prior to issuing home loans.
For additional information, contact: (803) 898-4329 Fax (803) 898-4200