Due Diligence on Septic and Well Water

I am evaluating a few MH parks that are not on city sewer or city water, but have septic and wells.

What questions should I be asking about septic/well water and what kind of additional diligence is required? Anything in particular I should be looking out for?

1 Like

There are a lot of moving parts to these.

For septic make sure they’re permitted with the county, check the location of the drain fields to make sure they’re not under the homes and that you don’t see or smell sewage around them, check how many homes per septic (1:1 is best), and then there’s the environmental checks to make sure not causing pollution. Then you get 3 contractor bids for all these systems to understand how well they’re operating, repair estimates, and cost to pump the tanks.

Wells are similar. Get as much as the permitting data you can, pull reports from the State on the well to get the depth and soils report. Assuming these are for 15+ homes or 25+ people the well has to comply with EPA requirements for water quality and have regular testing. Get copies of 12 months of these to see any issues they’re having with compliance. Then get 3 contractors to come out and inspect the well and provide their opinion how its operating, any repairs or compliance recommendations, and then understand you know the running rate to keep it going.

If there are city services at the street you should look into the conversion cost of that for future references prior to purchase in the event something terribly wrong happens with those systems you have a well thought out backup plan.

There is more on these topics already in these forums, search and have fun. Also the MHU Due Diligence manual goes into this a bit as well. Good luck.


Talk to the residents to get a good picture of past performance of the systems and if there are any reoccurring issues.
Confirm that the present owner has done routine maintenance of the systems and in particular confirm they have done the necessary regular pumping of the tanks. When tanks are not regularly pumped solids will migrate to the septic field destroying it’s ability to function. Septic beds have a life expectancy of about 25 years but do last longer if properly maintained.
Confirm with residents that there is adequate water pressure at peek use times.

How old are the septic systems?

You’ll need to get them inspected by a septic contractor. Have the tanks pumped and check for back flow into the tank. Have the fingers checked. If possible I really recommend digging up one or more of the fingers for each system to inspect it and make sure they aren’t clogged with sludge

If systems weren’t pumped every 3-5 years (you’ll need to verify this) then the sludge that builds up in the tank will eventually be forced to migrate into the fingers, it has no choice as it has to go somewhere. This is the primary way septic systems die, lack of maintenance or poor design causing sludge to migrate to the fingers.

1 Like

I have heard installing a special aerator in a tank can clear the finger sludge slowly over time, but have not had to test this yet.

Not sure what others have seen for that specific item.

My park is on city services, so I’m certainly not an expert. But from what I’ve read here from various knowledgeable sources is, if YOU’RE not an expert on these issues, then you’d be well advised to steer clear. Several posts have discussed the fact that the EPA (I think) is changing the rules regarding septic, and it may be very expensive to modify the park into compliance. My brother owned a motel on well, and he had several frustrating and expensive episodes with it. I don’t even want a house on well/septic, much less a park. Research this like your life depended on it before you pull the trigger. Be exceedingly careful…

Regularity of pumping tanks depends on the number of homes per tank. I have 5 - 6 homes per tank with a average of about 8 persons. I could pump every 2 -3 years but chose to pump annually. The cost is small and the piece of mind worth the time and expense knowing I will not have issues.
Basic tank and septic bed systems are very easy to maintain and not an issue for myself in choosing to purchase a MHC. Simply insure you build into your purchase price the additional maintenance costs.


The aerators do NOT remove finger sludge. What they do is improve bacterial performance inside the tank so there is less buildup in the tank. There are basically 2 types of bacteria, aerobic and anaerobic. The aerators allow aerobic bacteria to survive and thrive. Kinda like when you see a football player on the sidelines taking oxygen to perform better.

1 Like

At one of our parks any new installation are using minimum of two tanks with 2 different motors for one home. The cost is $8500 per system plus needs electricity and cleaning of filters. We have a permit to put the system into operation. After 35 years of experience with new and more stringent regulations coming to septic systems you better have a really cheap price for that park. We have owners that are being refused by EPA to work on clogged lateral lines but need to put in a totally new system (might be just our neck of the woods) and that is very costly. On one park DEQ would not let us use a well at the park since a new well had to be at least 300 feet from any septic system and 500 feet from a highway so we placed a new wells one half mile away where that was no problem… Today the system may pass, but will it pass in 15 years or when you are ready to sell and a new buyer faces your present question and concerns. From the questions you are asking keep WALKING unless you totally understand wells and septic. As Greg says you might save money up front but their is a real cost to operating wells and septic–pay now or later!!!

1 Like

Per Carls comments. In my neck of the woods if you currently are operating a septic system that doesnt meet the NEW regs as long as the system doesnt fail you can continue as you are but the moment you fail… leech lines plug, tank cracks… you have the privilege of complying with all the new regs. Min tank size is 2 times daily flow (they tell us that daily flow for mobile is 250 gallons). Alot of systems are way under sized and will need to double or triple their current tank volumes.

Nitrate removal for waste water is here to stay in Oregon and Washington. Next five years should be interesting for the sub 100 lots systems as they phase this in for Oregon. Washington is already there. Nitrate removal will spread across the country… Better have a plan and a budget that is 5 to 10 yrs ahead of where the EPA is going.

Phillip I concur presently where we are in the Midwest all new installations have to use a nitrate reducing system and that is one reason we sold a park with over 60 septic tanks that will be a beast to comply with the new standards and possibly the viability of the park could be in question. When one of the old septic system fails their goes $8500 and the park has over 100 mobiles. I thought the EPA would look the other way on septic systems but IF you have a problem there only solution is a NEW expensive unit, PERIOD! My legal installer will not touch or fix a failing system since it is currently against the law–that is news I did not know 6 months ago. The bottom line do not walk but RUN if it has septic tanks–one of our parks has septic tanks but will change the use of the property IF EPA pushes for operating old systems to be replaced due to keeping the environment GREEN!!!

1 Like

@RLM , as per your question:

  • “Due Diligence on Septic & Well Water”

I concur with @jhutson:

  • “Check how many homes per septic (1:1 is best)”

With Septic Systems you want to have the following:

  • One Septic Tank Per Mobile Home
  • Very Low Housing Density Per Acreage
  • Well Drained Land
  • Correct Drainage Lines Per Septic System
  • City Water

My Husband and I currently own a MHP with Septic Systems (1:1 Ratio) and City Water.

We would buy another MHP with Septic Systems and City Water with no problems.

Personally, I would be weary of Septic Systems and Wells (as in some situations you are draining your waste into the area that your well is located).

We wish you the very best!

1 Like

Kristin I concur with most of your statements BUT who sees the magic list the EPA has planned for the future. Do you understand the nitrate issue that is being forced on parts of the USA or do you even have knowledge of the subject. As I mentioned 6 months ago we had no knowledge or the new regulations from EPA but in Iowa and other states it is a very big issue and wells contaminated with nitrates are unsafe for human drinking water and the COST to remove such is great. The State and Federal labs are using more and more very sophisticated tools to analysis contaminants that 10 years ago where not on their radar and with myself having a degree major in biology is very challenging. The scary news is that septic tanks gives off nitrates and the EPA is trying to find some ways to control that problem and I ALWAYS assumed that we would be fine with septic tanks if they are working–but now we find EPA wants the nitrates negated. An intelligent person with information can now see where we are headed–thank you Obama!!! I challenge anyone to tell me what EPA’s regulations will be in 15 years when you want to sell a park; from the present direction good luck on septic systems in the USA. As I have said one park we have is on septic tanks and we are looking at alternatives.

1 Like

@carl, As per your statement:

  • “…but in Iowa and other states it is a very big issue and wells contaminated with nitrates are unsafe for human drinking water…”

I am not advocating Septic Systems and Wells.

Personally, I will not consider purchasing a MHP with Septic Systems/Well Combination.

However, what I am stating is that in South Carolina not every parcel of land has the ability to be connected to public sewer.

Thus, South Carolina has provided the ability to develop properties with the use of Septic Systems. In South Carolina there are specific laws (DHEC) concerning Septic Systems that should be followed.

As per SC DHEC Rules - (75 Feet To Private Well & 100 Feet To Public Well):
The area of the lot or plot of ground where the onsite wastewater system is to be installed shall be of sufficient size so that no part of the system will be:
(1) Within five (5) linear feet of a building, or under a driveway or parking area;
(2) Within seventy-five (75) linear feet of a private well (less than 1500 gpd sewage flow), one hundred (100) linear feet of a receptor (greater than 1500 gpd sewage flow), and within the Department’s established minimum distance from a public well;
(3) With in one hundred (100) linear feet of a public well;

I am by no means an expert in Septic Systems.

However, for Septic Systems we have received SC permits; have installed; have repaired and have removed Septic Systems in South Carolina by State Licensed Companies by following DHEC’s Rules.

It is my understanding that the expert in Septic Systems is:

Perhaps @Coach62 could further explain the “nitrates” issue?

Times are a changing and 300 feet is now the normal distance for wells from septic systems again and we are in a very rural area…We are putting in new systems and recently wells so it is not what was done in the past but working with present laws and NEW REGULATIONS My very grave concern is EPA will find a way to test (presently approved systems) but will need to be upgraded so there are NO nitrates expelled by septic systems. Our knowledge is only because we have recently put in new wells and now new septic systems. Kristin you writings indicate a very nice and caring persons–I pray the testing for nitrates will never happen on old systems but the winds are blowing in the negative direction–think GREEN ENVIRONMENT!!!

I find this conversation interesting as @carl was once a very big proponent for wells and septic for how little they could be operated on a year over year basis.

My impression is that all these changes are an upgrading of standard as our country has learned more about sanitary health and groundwater contaminants over time, and less about simply screwing everyone with existing septic installations. I think the existing operators will get screwed having to upgrade systems as they die off - but new installations will meet the new requirements and hum along meeting the new requirements.

Gas Station operators go through this all the time for their Underground Storage Tanks (and it puts them out of business in 20 year cycles due to EPA and State requirement changes - tanks must be removed and upgraded with the newer model less likely to leak and blah blah blah) - I guess it was just a matter of time before septic tanks were the next target.

Would I run because a park is on septic and well? Probably not, but I would have a plan to make sure that my system was in tip top shape and that I did absolutely everything possible to make sure the tenant usage and maintenance on them is priority so that they do not fail.

Maybe lagoons are more preferable than septic now? :wink:

Yes I was: times change and so do opinions–lagoon are being questioned in Mo and other places. and as dairy farmers learned the hard way–they need to be lined and only evaporation is used thus need less rain fall than evaporation since an outflow is a no, no! I thought jhutson was sending me some parks to look at that he passed on. The one park that is still on septic tanks has more value fortunately as a stand along commercial property than a trailer park. I spent 8 hours today working on DEQ’s NEW revised total coliform rules which entails new regulations for wells, site plan, sample sites with primacy update check list. PWS develop a written siting plan that identifies the system’s sample collection schedule and all sample sites (10 different sites) for routine and repeat monitoring, that is just a small sample for people with wells we are presently dealing with. The plan notes paper work is being overseen by regional EPA–interesting where that will lead. I totally agree with the statement keep everything involved with septic systems and also well in tip top condition–people are watching and some are just looking for ways too----!!!

  1. That was when he was trying to sell a park with well and septic. They were the best things ever until after he sold it.

  2. Absolutely not

There is a lot to this, I’ll reply when I have more time. Septics are but ONE OF MANY sources of nitrates/nitrites. Leaky well casings and farmland runoff are huge contributors. To blanket blame Septics is just wrong. What is the primary component of fertilizer? Nitrogen.

I’m quite sure this will vary across the country, but I’ve tested thousands of wells in Indiana and FL and I’ve had almost none come back with elevated nitrate/nitrate levels (they are usually tested together ).

And Kristin is right, the general standard for most of the U.S. is 100 ft distance, the older standard was 75’. Now for larger commercial systems it can be whatever the engineer specs. Those are standard residential standards.

1 Like

Agricultural use of nitrogen fertilizer is and will always be the # 1 source of nitrogen but waste water from animals or humans is #2.

Im in the drinkjng water and waste water treatment business and as coach says the amount of wells with high nitrates is low. However I can tell you where the problem areas are. Intense farm areas with shallow (less than 150ft) wells that were put in in the 1970s or older. Sometimes its the aquifer sometjmes the well seal has failed ir was never there. Nitrates can be removed from drinking water relatively easily but the point is to remove or reduce the cause.

Farm nitrogen fertilizer use is not likely to be regulated. So that means animal (diaries/feedlots) and human waste water gets the blunt of the EPA.

The septic tank and drain field system removes basicly no nitrates.

It is really not all about nitrates. The bottom line is your system will fail. The rules will become tighter.
Do you have the area in your park to replace it to the new regulations (now or in 20 years)? Do you have the cap reserves setside?

Learn, plan, save

Phillip Merrill

Coach, have you put in a New well recently that meet ALL the EPA regs-- we have put n two! Why would we be forced to use 300 feet if 100 feet was EPA NOW compliant? We live in a (so-called) backward state that we are finding the state of OK. .is not the problems but EPA is pushing the agenda. The nitrates are not cheaply removed as per some Iowa and Ohio communities are finding out and in the process cities are suing county commissioners and farmers–using field tile seems to bring the problem to a new level since excess chemicals so easily enter the watershed. Why are we forced to do nitrites/nitrates sampling of our wells if nitrates/nitrites are no problem? I am only explaining our personal experiences not some handbook or hearsay that we hear from a quote professional or expert. Just trying to explain what is happening in our neck of the woods–if that is not what YOU are experiences fantastic and gives thanks. Presently under contract parks that have city services.