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26 Mar 2012
What about private septic systems and private wells? A client recently asked me a very good question that comes up regularly for buyers from outside the Sequim area.
Question: “How much trouble is it to own properties served by private septic system and wells? We’re used to having city water and sewer and would, of course, prefer to continue with that. However, my husband really wants a larger lot and most of those are outside the city utility service area.”
Answer: Private septic systems have both advantages and disadvantages compared to public sewer systems. I have a private septic system myself and have had in several other homes. I also attend private septic system inspections regularly for my clients, and I’ve reviewed many septic reports and interviewed septic system designers and inspectors. The simple answer is that a private septic system is probably just as good as a public sewer system. A public system requires that you pay the city or the PUD (public utility district) a monthly fee, and that fee has a tendency to keep increasing. You don’t pay yourself anything to use your own septic system. But there’s more to consider.
Private Septic Systems Cost
If you’re building a home, installing a septic system can cost you anywhere from a few thousand to $18,000 for an expensive mound system. But if you amortize that over the life of your home (20 to 40 years), it’s reasonable when compared to paying to be on a public system. Now here’s an interesting scenario. If you build a home in the city limits of Sequim, you will pay roughly $20,000 to $24,000 for city permits, which includes your sewer connection fee. That’s extremely expensive. In that case, building a home with a private septic would be less expensive, and building permits are a fraction of that in the county outside the Sequim city limits. But if you buy an existing home within the city of Sequim that has a private septic, you basically get that septic system free, because it adds virtually no appraisal value to the property. It probably should, but it doesn’t. That’s a little like buying a home on 3 acres or 5 acres. The price does not increase for the additional 2 acres by much at all.
If you own your own septic, you will be responsible for the maintenance, and there is now a county requirement that you file an annual certification. I wrote an earlier article about how that works at Septic Regulations. And here’s another article about septic inspections when you purchase a home in the Sequim or Port Angeles area.
Conclusion: The new private septic systems are designed and built to far exceed minimum standards, and can last for 40 plus years. The actual maintenance is almost non-existent. I would suggest that a private septic system is equivalent to being on a public septic system, all other things balancing out. In other words, there is no great advantage to one over the other. [There are some exceptions, but that’s another article.]
You also ask about private wells. I prefer a private well to a public water system. You are in total control of your own water, the purity of your water, and not subject to increasing water fees. A health expert once told me, “Don’t drink public water without clorination, but whatever you do don’t drink water with chlorine.” Public health standards can actually be dangerous to your health. (Consider the dangerous drugs the FDA approves.) A private well has almost no maintenance, because pumps last for so many years, sometimes decades. And your electric bill to run a pump is almost nothing. I’ve written several articles about private wells and here are two: Are Private Wells Safe, Private Well Inspections.
My recommendation is that you find the ideal home and the ideal location with the acreage you desire, and whether the property is served by a private well and a septic system or a public utility system is probably of little concern when you examine all the advantages and disadvantages. Private septic systems and private wells are perfectly fine in the Sequim and Port Angeles area.
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