The System Inspection Process

Arranging for the Inspection

The property owner or operator is responsible for arranging the inspection. The buyer and seller may change the responsibility for arranging the inspection prior to title transfer, provided that this change is put in writing and that the inspection still occurs within the specified timeframes.

The purpose of the inspection is to determine if the system in its current condition can protect public health and the environment. The inspection does not guarantee that the system will continue to function adequately, or that the system will not fail at a later date. This is particularly important if you plan to increase the flow to the system.

The inspection includes determining the location and condition of cesspools, septic tanks and distribution boxes. Often, this will not require extensive excavation.

Only MassDEP-approved individuals can conduct system inspections. The New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission maintains lists of approved system inspectors. System inspections conducted by any other individual are not valid for compliance with Title 5.

A System Inspector may not act as an agent of the Board of Health and also represent the system owner.

Reporting the Inspection Results

The System Inspector must use the MassDEP-approved inspection form. MassDEP and the local board of health will not accept reports in other formats as valid.

The inspection report must be submitted within 30 days of the inspection.

For most systems, the System Inspector is responsible for submitting the inspection report directly to the Board of Health. The buyer must also receive a copy from the seller of the property.

In some cases, inspection reports must be submitted to authorities other than the Board of Health:

  • Inspection forms for State and Federal facilities must be submitted to MassDEP instead of the local Board of Health.
  • Reports for large systems and shared systems must be submitted to both the local Board of Health and MassDEP.

The buyer or other person acquiring title to the property served by the system must receive a copy of the inspection report.

Inspections in connection with a property sale generally are good for 2 years. If a property is sold more than once in the 2-year period, the single inspection is valid for all property transfers.

If a system is pumped annually and the pumping records are available, an inspection is valid for 3 years.

Incomplete or Delayed Inspections

If weather conditions prevent an inspection before a sale, Title 5 allows the inspection to be done up to 6 months afterwards, provided that the seller notifies the buyer in writing of the need to complete the inspection.

If for some reason not all the system components can be thoroughly inspected, at a minimum, the cesspool, septic tank, and distribution box (if present) must be located and inspected. The System Inspector must also make reasonable efforts to locate and identify other components and features. If any component cannot be located or inspected, or if any determination cannot be made, the Inspector must state on the Inspection Form the reasons and the steps taken to complete the inspection. Section 15.302 of Title 5 provides examples of “reasonable efforts.”

CAPE COD SEPTIC SERVICES performs Title V septic inspections and can help with any questions or concerns about your septic system. 508-775-2825


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