As a longtime fan of the humorous writings of Erma Bombeck, I've always been able to relate to her stories and frequently get a real belly laugh out of them. One of her books was titled The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, and I can tell you that while I really enjoyed the book, the reality isn't quite as amusing.
I recently sold a home to a buyer client that had never been hooked up to public sewers. It's an older home (50 years) that was part of a farm. Now it's almost completely surrounded by subdivision homes, but it isn't close enough to the sewer tap in to make it convenient. Anyway, as part of the inspection process we found that the septic tank was completely full and overflowing. The grass was DEFINATELY greener, if you get my drift. The seller had it pumped out, but we had a devil of a time finding a contractor, expert, or government official who was even willing to look at it, let alone inspect it or give an official opinion on whether the system was working or not. The buyer hired a contractor who said the leach lines were "probably" blocked, but he wasn't certain of it. The seller hired another contractor who said it looked fine to him, although since it had just been pumped out it was hard to say what would happen when the water reached the leach line level again. The county official in charge of septic systems was very hesitant to stick his neck out, but he finally came out and said the tank was fine, but offered no opinion or suggestions on the leach lines.
Now the buyer has lived in the house for one month and guess what? The tank is overflowing again, and he's the only guy around with a green lawn--at least in one spot. Now the county inspector who pronounced the tank "fine" a month ago has presented my buyer with a notice that he has 30 days to get a new system, which is not cheap, since this one is now classified as a public nuisance. Obviously the leach lines are indeed clogged.
I'm so frustrated I can barely see when it comes to this issue. Our phone book is full of listings for contractors who claim to service septic systems, but nobody wants to inspect them or stand up and say whether they work correctly or not. All they seem to be able to do is pump out the tank and maybe sell you a new one. How the heck are you supposed to inspect a property thoroughly before buying it when there are no qualified inspectors?