News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 7, 2011

Workshop for real estate professionals set for Aug. 19

Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — On Aug. 19 a Septic Workshop will be conducted at the Department of Natural Resources-Division of Reclamation offices in Jasonville. The workshop is targeted towards Realtors, housing inspectors, lending agents, appraisers, and others associated with the real estate industry, including Departments of Health responsible for permitting and inspection of private septic systems.

The workshop is presented by a partnership of the Clay, Greene, Sullivan, and Vigo County Soil & Water Conservation Districts, the West Central Indiana Watershed Alliance (Watershed Alliance), the Indiana Onsite Wastewater Professionals Association and features speakers from Purdue University, the Indiana Department of Health, Rural Development, and the local financial industry.

“Private septic systems are large contributors to problems with have surface water quality,” said Lisa Holscher, Watershed Coordinator for the Watershed Alliance. “Statewide, nearly 30 percent of the streams that have been classified as impaired were listed because of E. coli issues.

“Locally, we see the issue time and time again,” Holscher said. “When we pulled water tests after a rain event this spring — before temperatures were up — E. coli levels were literally off the chart. We can’t say all of the loads are sourced from private septic. But, based on land uses and locations, a signification percentage was probably related to septic issues.”

Septic system failures are often related to their age:

•  Houses over 35 years old often have a tank plus a tile which runs to a ditch. That type of system is illegal. When discovered it must be replaced.

•  Houses that are 15-35 years old were usually installed to meet minimum standards of the time. Compared to modern systems, old systems often have small septic tanks and absorption fields. Although they should have been pumped and inspected every 2-5 years (depending on the system size and number of people in the household) — they rarely were — and now are probably in some stage of failure.

•  Houses less than 15 years old are sized better for our current lifestyle, but again, they are often neglected. Unmaintained tanks can see a sludge build up, that left unchecked can flow into the fingers of a system — where it can plug pores in trenches and keep water from being absorbed.

The group organizing the event felt that Real Estate professionals could play a significant role in addressing septic issues. “It’s hard to sell a beautiful lake-front home if the lake is sometimes closed because of E. coli levels,” said Deborah Lynn, Greene County SWCD Coordinator. “By helping to identify problem systems during routine appraisals and inspections, the following through with financing plans for repairs or replacements, this group can help us make changes for the better.”

Workshop topics include:

•  It all starts with the soils — Is the tract you are listing suitable for a traditional septic system?

•  Don’t be surprised by sewage in the backyard — Inspection methods that are /are not adequate.

•  Becoming a good advocate for buyers and sellers — What you need to know to insure systems are in good working order.

• Tools to close a sale on a property with a failing system — Escrow planning and Government Loan Programs.

Continuing Education Credits have been applied for. The workshop is limited to 30 paid registrants. First-come, first-served by date payment is received. For more information, contact Jan Came, Vigo Co SWCD at (812) 232-0193 ext. 3 or at

Individuals interested in alternative systems may wish to attend an Aug. 18 field day at the Southwest Purdue Agriculture Center in Knox County. The field day highlight includes installation of a private septic system with a secondary treatment unit and drip irrigation dispersal field on a 30-35 percent slope. More information and registration may be found at