In our last post, we began speaking about the issue of faulty septic systems and the potential threat they pose to public health and the environment. The extent of the problem is not miniscule. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 29,000 miles of streams have been confirmed to be threatened or impaired due to sewage infiltration. That number is almost equal to the number of stream miles affected by sewer overflows and wastewater treatment plants.
Septic system failure is a problem that is slowly becoming better known, and there is little doubt that a lot of work needs to be done to address the problem, especially in areas where maintenance of septic systems is particularly lax. One of the things homeowners need to be aware of is that, because they are responsible for maintaining their septic systems, they can potentially be held responsible when they fail and cause problems.
One way a faulty septic system can become a liability for a property owner is when the failure is noticed by a buyer after the fact. In such cases, the former owner may be targeted for fraudulent concealment of septic defects. The best policy is for a seller to fully disclose information regarding the status of the septic system to ensure they avoid liability. Another possibility, though less likely, is that a septic system failure could lead to leakage onto neighboring property requiring cleanup. In such cases, the property owner responsible for the leakage could be held responsible for nuisance.
Although state and local governments are responsible for regulating individual septic systems, the EPA does regulate large capacity septic systems, system discharges to surface waters, and disposal of biosolids and domestic septage. Problems in these areas could result in federal intervention.
Those who want to understand their options for recovering from harm due to a faulty septic system should first contact an experienced environmental law attorney to have their case evaluated and look at possible avenues to pursue.
Circle of Blue, “America’s Spreading Septic Threat,” Oct. 16, 2015.
Environmental Protection Agency, “Septic (Onsite/Decentralized) Systems,” Accessed Oct. 26, 2015.