Does Fecal Matter In Your Boulder Real Estate Part Deux

I’m in a seminar given my Mark Williams from Boulder County Public Health today, (8/8/8) learning more about the current status of the 14,307 Septic systems in Boulder county.

As part of the Boulder County SepticSmart Program, and following several years of public input, the Boulder County Board of Health adopted a property transfer regulation in February 2008 that will go into effect on September 1, 2008. The regulation requires that all homes in Boulder County have an adequately operating and approved septic system at the time of sale or purchase of the home, or a written agreement that the buyer will make any needed repairs within one year of the closing.

Of the 14,307 systems in Boulder county, 9,580 of those are considered aging systems and 4,727 are unapproved systems. The average age of existing septic systems in Boulder county is 23 years.

There are many concerns about these aging and unapproved systems due to improper construction and poor maintenance, the risk of groundwater contamination, and the unfavorable outcome: undrinkable wells, and impaired waterways.

What’s happening now, and why I’m in this seminar/class is that Boulder County is launching some new rules for Boulder county residents who have septic systems.  I want to be sure I can help you understand what you need to know when you endeavor to sell or buy property with a septic system.

One of the first useful things you can do is check with Boulder county to see the status of your septic system, or the status of a septic system on a property you’re thinking about buying. To do that, go to the Boulder County Website to look up a property by address. You can see on this site each approved and permitted system. and you can also find useful information on how the current system capacity matches with the existing structure.

Here are some highlights if you’re buying or selling property with a septic system:

You need a Certificate of Operation and a Property Transfer Certificate, which requires:

An approved system
Inspection is required at time of sale
There are established pass/fail criteria
Inspections must be performed by certified inspector (NAWT)
Certificate issued by BCPH

  • Unapproved systems will need to have major repairs
  • Repairs do not need to be completed prior to property transfer

The expected cost of the certification is $50. The certification processing time is expected to be about three to five business days. The assumption that unapproved systems will need major repairs is that Boulder County Public Health has determined that all systems that are unapproved are of an age that is well past the average ‘life expectancy’ of an average septic system. This point was discussed at the meeting, and it was expressed to the BCPH officials that some of these rules seem a bit ambiguous.

Plan ahead

find out if it’s approved

get the inspection done (deficiencies will require a repair permit)

Repair Permits Required for:

“Failing” systems

Systems that never had a permit (most un-permitted systems are around 50+ years old, which is twice the life expectancy of those systems)


-No PT (property transfer) Certificate of Operation is needed if:

-System is <10 years old

-System had a property transfer less than 4 years ago

-property transfer is to exclude / include a spouse (spouse to spouse)

-transfer is to a trust

Vault Systems

(Michael U., you’ll want to know this):

Vault systems are not going to be approved without a leech field type of addition for property with occupancy over 60 days per year. There are some systems in Boulder county that were built as limited-use ‘vacation homes’ for those week-end get away endeavors. Back in the 1970’s and certainly earlier, many of these homes and cabins had a simple vault system installed. BCPH will not approve a Certificate of Transfer without a system update that includes a leech field addition to a vault system.

Steps of the Certificate Process

Look for OWS approval and bedroom discrepancies (SepticSmart & Assessors)

Collect operation and maintenance records

Hire an OWS Inspector from BCPH list

.. don’t pump tank prior to inspection

.. owner must be home during inspection

Submit a passing inspection report to BCPH

BCPH issues a Certificate of Operation to owner

Boulder County Public Health has much more information on its website. If you think you’re about to buy or are considering selling a home in Boulder county with a septic system, you’d be wise to know the new rules and get some preliminary work out of the way before you move forward.


One Response to “Does Fecal Matter In Your Boulder Real Estate Part Deux”

  1. Michael U. on August 22nd, 2008 4:40 pm

    Thanks for the “heads up.”

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