Is Well Water a Benefit or a Detriment to a Home?

An interesting topic came up in the comments on the Avondale Albatross update: If a home is on well water do most buyers consider that to be a desireable feature or something they’d rather avoid?


…why would someone build a 5,000 square foot house on well water, and why would someone pay $1,275,000 for a house on well water?

I’m seriously asking as it could be a shortcoming of mine, never having lived in a country home on well water. Maybe if it was a fishing cabin in North Bend. But a brand new 5,000 sf home in Redmond? Why well water?

Is that not a negative for most people?

Well by Flickr user Bart Bernardes


It is a plus normally because there is no water bill to pay! Unfortunately if something goes wrong you have to fix the well or the pump but normally not a really high cost when spread over the years of not paying water bills.

Another plus is for those that are concerned about the forced municipal contamination of the water with fluoride and other added contaminants. Good clean uncontaminated natural water is a plus and you might be able to sell it to neighbors or the county.

Having grown up in a house that was on well water, I actually prefer it. The mix of minerals in our water and lack of chemicals like flouride gave the water a unique taste that I preferred. We never had any issues with our pump and we didn’t need to use water softeners. Until this thread it never really occurred to me that some people might avoid a home just because its water was on a well rather than a municipal supply.

I’m curious to hear from more readers on this subject. Does well water fall under the “pro” or “con” column when you’re shopping for homes?

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    Basho says:

    Negative. The municipal water quality around here is generally excellent. Providing your own water is a hassle and the quality of the water is not guaranteed. Well water is not necessarily free of fluoride or pollution. Even if your well water is great at the moment, you have no guarantee that the aquifer will remain free of pollution or at the level of your well.

  2. 2
    Howard says:

    By Basho @ 1:

    Negative. The municipal water quality around here is generally excellent. Providing your own water is a hassle and the quality of the water is not guaranteed. Well water is not necessarily free of fluoride or pollution. Even if your well water is great at the moment, you have no guarantee that the aquifer will remain free of pollution or at the level of your well.

    How often do homeowner’s test their water and is a test done during a house sale? Was it even done when the well was drilled?

    Could have been fine 20 years ago..

  3. 3
    The Desponder says:

    I grew up on well water and generally prefer it, not so much for the type of water as for the type or property that often comes with a well. Our water was very hard, and a little sulfuric, but I liked the minerally taste, too.

    However, there can be serious downsides. For example, when the power went out, which was not infrequent in the winter, a generator was required to run the pump.

    Also, a neighbor of ours had their well fill in when the Nisqually earthquake hit. As they are located on the top of a steep hill, they were unable to find water anywhere else on their property and have had to install a rain-water catchment system.

    My grandparents lived outside of Melba, Idaho, which only gets about 7 inches of water a year. They bought property toward the end of a road that end at BLM land and had plenty of water until someone bought the property between their place and the BLM land to raise horses. Since the water came from the BLM land and it hits the horse farm first, there is little left when the water gets to where my grandparents live. In the last 30 years they have had to drill several wells, and replace many pump heads when the pumps start sucking dirt-water up. Their case is complicated by the fact that if they dig any deeper they will hit sulfuric hot-springs water, which isn’t good for anything.

    All this being said, I would definitely prefer a property remote enough that it requires a well, but I would want to know what it’s water source is and how far down the soil goes before hitting rock. I would also rather control my water source than just trust that municipal sources will always be what I want them to be.

  4. 4
    apartment boy says:

    RE: The Desponder @ 3
    You would enjoy the French films Jean de Florette, followed by Manon of the Spring. Your grandparent’s situation reminded me of these films.

    A good well is better than city water…but city water is a heck of a lot better than a bad well.

  5. 5
    redmondjp says:

    As has been mentioned, with a well there are no guarantees. Back in the 1970s, my parents bought “investment” lots for us kids on the north side of Red Mountain (the south side is now prized grape-growing land) in Eastern WA. We all sold back in the mid-1990s since we had moved here to the wet side (for school/work), with a net gain not worth mentioning.

    At any rate, our former lots are now mostly developed, with each property owner on their own well. Well wouldn’t you know it, the water table is going DOWN since there are now many more users of that underground water that may have taken eons to build up. And rainwater collection really isn’t an option in a semi-arid desert where one may only get 6-8″ of rain per year.

    The Pullman, WA area has also been experiencing a consistent year-over-year water table drop since consistent recording in the 1950s. The redeveloped golf course just to the north of campus isn’t helping this either!

    My grandmother’s farm down in Lewis County had (and still has) some of the best-tasting well water that I have ever had. I remember looking forward to visiting because of it. But nitrate contamination of well water is not uncommon down there either, for a number of reasons.

    The only thing about having a well is that you really don’t know what you are drinking unless you periodically fork over the $ for testing (and it can all go south very quickly if one critter gets in and dies). Municipal water is tested on an annual basis, and I get a nice printed brochure from the City of Redmond every year telling me all about it.

  6. 6
    WestSideBilly says:

    I grew up with well water that was awful, even after being run through a softener. I’ve had well water in numerous places in the country and it was never that great…

    Seattle’s water is among the best I’ve ever had. I don’t quite get why people buy water above and beyond the municipal supply here. A well is definitely not appealing, even if the water is just as good at first drilling.

  7. 7
    wreckingbull says:

    I live in the sticks and have city water. They had to bring it in in the ’80s as everyone’s wells got saltwater intrusion. I have a hand-dug well that I use for irrigation. I think I prefer city water, as it keeps your pipes and fixtures clean.

  8. 8
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: WestSideBilly @ 6 – Yeah, no doubt. Are you all aware of this project? This will be the largest in the U.S. Personally, I find bottled water to be a crime, as most muni water sources in our country are top-notch.

  9. 9
    DMac says:

    Grew up on disgusting well water, mostly because we were surrounded by farms with god knows how many chemicals seeping into the aquifer, and even though we had a softener it still tasted like metal. Never again.

  10. 11
    ARDELL says:

    Given so many are saying they have experienced well water in a home they have lived in, I decided to run some stats in the Zip Codes I live and work in to see what % of homes have wells.

    Total Sold in the last 10 years that have a private, individual well or a community or shared well. (The same home sold 3X in 10 years would show as 3) Not including manufactured or mobile homes.

    Kirkland 98033 – 11 homes
    Kirkland 98034 – 4 homes
    Redmond 98052 – 50 homes (the subject property is 2 of those sales)
    Redmond 98053 – 131 homes
    Bothell 98011 – 6 homes
    Bothell 98021 – 14 homes
    Bothell 98012 – 84 homes
    Bellevue 98004 – 4 homes
    Bellevue 98005 – 5 homes
    Bellevue 98006 – 11 homes
    Bellevue 98007 – 4 homes
    Bellevue 98008 – 6 homes
    Mountlake Terrace 98043 – 0 homes
    Seattle (all zip codes) – 8 homes
    Sammamish 98074 – 29 homes
    Sammamish 98075 – 24 homes
    Issaquah 98029 – 21 homes
    Shoreline 98155 – 5 homes
    Carnation 98014 – 14 homes
    Edmonds 98020 – 5 homes
    Mercer Island 98040 – 4 homes
    Duvall 98019 – 136 homes

    Interesting. Of all of the areas I frequent most, Duvall and Redmond which I associate with having flood zones, are more and most likely to have wells. I am careful in Redmond and Duvall to know if the property is in a flood zone. Does this “flood zone” feature have something to do with more available water to have a well? Sorry if that’s a dumb question. Just an observation.

    In 22 years I have only sold one property that used well water for the home, and during escrow I had to have the well dug deeper as a result of the psi test. That was many years ago and in PA vs WA. The other properties with wells were large parcels and the well was only used for washing cars or watering gardens, and not for the water inside the home.

    If there are only 4 homes in all of 98034 in ten years that sold on well water…wouldn’t well water be a negative influence on value? I’ll have to ask an appraiser if they make any distinction.

    (required disclosure: Stats in this post are not compiled, verified or published by The Northwest Multiple Listing Service.)

  11. 12

    RE: ARDELL @ 11 – Well water in the Seattle city limits? Where on earth would that be?

  12. 13
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Benjamin Lukoff @ 12

    Actually when I looked to see where in Seattle I found a house that was on “Individual Well” AND Public Water. So the numbers in my comment 11 are houses with functioning wells, but not necessarily as the ONLY source of water on the property.

    Seattle 98168 Public AND Well.
    Seattle 98136 Well Only – 2 homes
    Seattle 98178 – Skyway – 2 homes

    A couple of super expensive homes on big lots that have both Public Water and Well Water. One on Beach Drive the other one in 98177 up by Shoreline.

    One in 98115 with well only, but it looks more like a camper than a house…even though it says over 3,000 sf. :)

    One at 105th and Aurora with well and public.

    One at 92nd and Lake City Way…well only.

    So a few here and there in Seattle, some as an adjunct to public water and a few with well as the only water source.

    I don’t think a municipality can force you to use public water or sewer, unless your alternate method poses a health concern for you or your neighbors. They can force you to help pay for the infrastructure of the line running down the middle of the street, but I don’t think they can force you to connect to it.

  13. 14
    ARDELL says:

    RE: StillRenting @ 10

    That was me and let me see if I can find the actual property where I ran into that…

    130th and 87th. Interesting…the house never did sell. We cancelled on inspection and the people after us who went pending also cancelled.

    The homes on that street were all assessed a charge for the line in the street when the newer homes were built at the end on the turn. They couldn’t make the builder of those newer homes pay for access all the way up and around to 85th, so they had every home that passed on the way pay their share.

    As I understand it, the term is called “emergency sewer” but it doesn’t really mean that anyone is having any problem being on septic. Just that it made ZERO sense for those new homes to have to be on septic, and the smaller lots of those large homes couldn’t possibly be on new septic. So somehow they had to get that line from 85th to the new homes being built.

    Every house had to pay thousands even though after paying thousands…they would still be on septic and have to pay more thousands to hook the house up to it.

    So it would appear that the answer to your question is yes. If there is a huge development going in of new homes on smallish lots (which of course would not have septic) then I think the developer would pay to get the public sewer to it and to the houses. But in smaller shortplat new home build outs, the nearby homes can be forced to pay for the line that passes by to the new homes.

  14. 15
    ARDELL says:

    I think a may have an aversion to well and septic because I grew up a poor city kid and I heard the phrase “we may be poor, but we have running water and indoor plumbing” a few too many times. :)

    To me septic is for when you don’t want to pay the cost of connecting to public sewer…or there isn’t one to connect to. Wells are for washing cars and watering gardens so you don’t have to pay for water you use outside.

    I don’t view well or septic as “preferred” utility systems. It’s what you use when you can’t get better, or it is too costly to get better.

    That’s how I have always seen it. Both are OK if you can’t get better.

  15. 16
    whatsmyname says:

    By wreckingbull @ 8:

    RE: WestSideBilly @ 6 – Yeah, no doubt. Are you all aware of this project? This will be the largest in the U.S. Personally, I find bottled water to be a crime, as most muni water sources in our country are top-notch.

    I pee in the Skagit sometimes. Still, it won’t seem so bad if you’ve ever drunk the water in L.A.

  16. 17
    StillRenting says:

    Thanks for the info, Ardell! I hadn’t heard of that kind of expense before, so it’s good to know the possibility exists. Although, honestly, if you own a home you run the risk of the city, county, or state charging you some new kind of fee at any time, no matter what kind of services you have ;)

    When I lived in Florida my friend had her septic tank serviced in some way that required it to be dug up and opened (I can’t remember why). She said when they took the lid off thousands of white cockroaches climbed out. Never thought one way or the other about them before then, but that story was definitely a turn-off.

  17. 18
    David Losh says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 13

    OK, alrighty, this doesn’t really excite me as a topic, but our house has a wetland that is about 200 feet from Thornton Creek.

    Our neighbor up a block has a pond, year round. It’s possible to get ground water at some very shallow depths.

    A house we owned in Greenwood, down in the bog, had water down about 2 feet. We used that for watering, the lot was pretty good sized.

    There are a lot of places in Lake City that could have private water, but I don’t know that I would trust an in city well.

    Now my grand parents lived in Wyoming, and had two springs. The spring water was excellent. They also had a creek that they used you irrigation.

    My second wife’s parents lived in Centralia and had a well that went foul, and they hired a water witch after the engineer came up empty. I don’t remember what happened to the well, but I do remember my Republican father in law cursing the water witch who did find the spot for a new well. He kept calling the water witch voo doo, but did like the price of $250.

  18. 19
    ARDELL says:

    RE: StillRenting @ 17

    I fell in a septic once as a young mother with my small child. I was visiting a relative up near Boston. I had no idea what we walked into and everyone was laughing, but it wasn’t very funny. It was my first experience with “septic”. I don’t like them. :)

  19. 20
    ChefJoe says:

    I grew up in a midwestern state on well water. A city supplied tap wasn’t an option until well after I was born. For all the hassles of a softener system and the few times service needed done (testing for fluoride so we could stop taking fluoride vitamins and replacing the pump once) it seems a really small trade-off compared to the costs invoved in piping a city water supply to a remote location.

    Of course the homestead also had a septic system that worked great for 20 years and then became a nightmare for 5-6… resulting in a replacement that clogged followed by a replacement with some sort of diverter valve to switch beds as needed.

    A well done system is nothing to consider a negative. Not having random boil orders or your neighbors sewage back up into your home has its pluses. There’s still potential liabilities though.

  20. 21
    ChefJoe says:

    It’s not uncommon to ban the installation of new septic systems or wells when you’re in city limits. The local suburb described previously has actually made some careful “fingerlike” annexations around my childhood home for many years to avoid having to build out the sewage/water infrastructure. Of course, once annexed the city laws would prevent my parents from installing a new well or septic bed.

  21. 22
    Jonness says:

    Most people are ignorantly slapping on colognes and perfumes like they are going out of style and spraying their homes with fabreeze in order to make the homes “smell better.” Then they whip out the toxic cleaning chemicals and “clean” their homes. After which, they gorge themselves on pesticide laden fruits and veggies in between eating arsenic of chicken sandwiches accompanied by growth hormone laden beef stew. Then they slap down a couple of glasses of tainted milk and drink an inordinate amount of alcohol before retiring to the bed and perhaps even have a cigarette.

    When they get to be about 250 lbs, all this poison just sits in their fat cells interacting with the rest of the poisons, to make God only knows what molecules inside their bodies, which continually attack the weak spots on their DNA.

    They waddle back and forth to work where they spend large amounts of time on the toilet grunting away until they get hemorrhoids in an effort to push all of the putrefied waste from their systems. Then they slam a couple of beef intestine hot dogs into their faces and carefully let the wind rip between their thighs hoping those occupying the neighboring cubicles don’t notice the putrid smell.

    After all of that, it’s difficult to imagine how a little fluoride in their Kool-aid could possibly do further harm to their bodies.

  22. 23
    gardener1 says:

    Well water is risky for all the examples provided above, and more.

    How deep is the well? What is the source of the water? Merely ground water seep or a deeper aquifer? If it is aquifer, who else has access to it and what it the sustainable recharge supply?

    I have lived with a number of well water supplied homes and the problems have been numerous:

    1. Constant power supply to the well water pump.

    When the [electric] power fails, your water supply fails. Backup power is necessary. Diesel generator? How long can you supply a household water supply with a fossil fueled generator in the event of an electrical dysfunction? From where and how will these fossil fuels be hauled in order to supply such a generator? How long can you haul gas/diesel to the generator which keeps your water pump running? How much money have you got to pay for this boughten fuel? How will you move this gas/diesel? (you’d better have a truck, and some storage and transport tanks)

    2. Quality of well water supply.

    Drilled well, how deep? Hand dug well? I’ve lived with both, shallow hand dug wells contaminated by surface runoff, and deeper wells. The deeper aquifer wells were at risk as the aquifer water supply belonged to everyone/no one and was pumped out by everyone connected to the aquifer. No guarantee of a clean sustainable water supply into the future.

    The shallower hand dug wells although not shared with neighboring properties, were subject to drought and surface contamination. No rain=no water. Surface contaminants like agricultural debris and herbicide and pesticide residue easily contaminate shallow hand dug wells. Ok for laundry and showers, but no good for cooking spaghetti or percolating morning coffee.

    Unless I have unlimited personal finances and resources, give me municipal water seven days a week.

    It’s about time Americans started concerning themselves with potable water supply. It is a crucial resource. You might like to have fossil fuel on which to run your car to make life easier whilst on shopping trips to Costco, but~~you can’t drink unleaded gas~~nor brush your teeth with it nor wash your dishes in it.

    Water is the resource war of the future. Good clean drinkable water is a valuable commodity wildly underestimated in America.

  23. 24
    whatsmyname says:

    RE: Jonness @ 22
    mmmm, but don’t forget; They are the envy of a thousand generations.

  24. 25
    Peter Witting says:

    I have enjoyed Seattle muni water – tastes great, very expensive. Now living on well water in south Skagit County – no muni water is available anywhere near my place. It’s an 180′ drilled well, with a softener system and backup generator, that produces wonderful, sweet water. We test it each year.

    However, just like anything in life, there are no guarantees anything will later forever. My assessment is that muni water is a more reliable source, but the benefits of living in the boonies are greater than the drawbacks of a well water and septic system. It’s part of country living.

  25. 26
    hinten says:

    First thing I think when I hear well is:
    no cable TV
    No Internet access
    no city maintained infrastructure (electricity, water, sewer) from the road to the house

    Might be my ignorance and certainly my preference but I like hard lines coming in from the road to my house whether it is water, TV or Internet.

  26. 27

    By StillRenting @ 10:

    I have a related question that also pertains to the comment/discussion that was posted here a little while ago about the King County sewer capacity charge. Somewhere in that discussion I think I remember somebody (maybe it was Ardell) saying that if the county runs a new utility line to your development or past your development you can potentially be assessed an extra charge to pay for it, even if you don’t want to hook up to the new utility. I guess the reasoning is that your property will benefit from having access to the line, even if you don’t take advantage of it. Is this something to think about when buying a house on well water or septic in a non-rural area.. that you might one day receive a huge bill from the city or county when they expand their utility line?

    If the line was put in as a LID then there could be charges against the property prior to being hooked up. I’m not sure how common that is.

    The other thing you might be thinking of is I probably said that there are some areas where they will start charging you for sewer usage (but not the connection charge) regardless of whether you hook up or not. The given rational is they want to encourage you to hook up to sewer, which I think is a questionable rational. But the main benefit of being on septic is avoiding that monthly charge on your bill, and that policy takes that advantage away entirely.

  27. 28

    By ARDELL @ 19:

    RE: StillRenting @ 17

    I fell in a septic once as a young mother with my small child. I was visiting a relative up near Boston. I had no idea what we walked into and everyone was laughing, but it wasn’t very funny. It was my first experience with “septic”. I don’t like them. :)

    Huh? How could you possibly fall into a septic tank? They should be covered except when being serviced.

    Also, how could you know know what you’d walked into? The smell should have been overwhelming if you were actually swimming in it.

    On the laughing, you’d have to cut them some slack. As a kid a friend of mine jumped on a peat bog, thinking we could just walk out on them. He was immediately swimming in muck, but I was laughing so hard if he had started to drown I probably couldn’t have saved him. Walking home he looked like he had jumped in a septic tank. And since peat moss doesn’t smell too good, he didn’t smell much better than if he had jumped in a septic tank.

  28. 29
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 27

    I think the “official” name for it was “a cesspool”. They did have a lovely garden and plenty of fresh home grown vegetables…and they knew where NOT to walk when admiring the gardens or picking the tomatoes. It was in N. Andover Mass.

  29. 30
    willynilly says:

    Oooh the scary well water! Our shared well get tested every year and is of exceptional quality. We are adjacent to the King County watershed so the occasional coyote wee is not a major long term concern. How much do all you muni water lovers pay per year, $900? The county tried to get us all to connect to muni water a few years ago – so they could collect an additional $8500. Their threat was that we were consuming scary tainted well water. Thanks but no thanks we are happy with our $180

  30. 31
    sally buttons says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 27 – agreed. How is it done? Pry off lid. Unsealed septic odor would suggest big stench. Lids come off for servicing and service guy is septic’s only urbane + scheduled visitor.

  31. 32
    ARDELL says:

    RE: willynilly @ 29

    But for a brand new 5,000 sf house on a VERY busy road costing $1,275,000 in Redmond? Would your opinion be the same?

    If you were custom building that home for yourself, would you be asking the builder to dig a well, or to connect to the existing well of a tiny tear down home, or expecting the builder would connect to public water?

    If you are comparing this home to another home…is there any $ adjustment for well water vs public water, and if yes…how much? I think the discount is the cost of connecting it to public water + a tad for the inconvenience to convert it if and when needed.

  32. 33
    Haybaler says:

    RE: DMac @ 9
    I’m amazed at the general ignorance about water displayed by almost all of these 30 comments above me.
    But this one by DMac ices the cake.
    There is an entire consumer industry built around water supply and water treatment.
    Water is tested for Iron, Potassium, Manganese, and Sulfur. Minerals. Some taste and smell unpleasant in heavy concentrations. They come from the earth depending on where the water travels underground.
    If you are shopping for a home on land in the countryside water is one of the critical features that affects the value of the property. Having “good” sweet water is a plus adding value. Some areas have heavy Iron (red stains) concentrations and some heavy Manganese (black stains) and some have heavy Sulfur (rotten egg smell). For folks with heavy mineral concentrations the solution is to purchase a private water treatment system (“softener” for example)…. a small version of the public system.

  33. 34
    ARDELL says:

    RE: sally buttons @ 30

    Could it have been “the drain field”? …it’s all “septic” to me. Not a fan of keeping your waste on your property. Like the old saying “You don’t shet where you eat” …and get it as far away as possible, as soon as possible.

  34. 35
    Passed Doo says:

    “22. Jonness
    August 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Permalink”

    Congratulations. You have come up with the Perfect Metaphor for the bulk of the US semi-retarded adult population.
    With your permission, I’d like to insert:

    —while counting the days until the next phony welfare payment arrives and planning the subsequent Wal-Mart food run, grunting away until they get hemorrhoids (poetry), rocking on a loose extra small condo-size toilet, staring at the wall-mounted, eye-level chinese-made flat screen tv bought on a 28% interest credit card, simultaneously talking on the latest iScam to another doomed gomer while rooting for mindless pro sports or worse, NASCAR -boogity, boogity —

    What a country full of idiots. It’s hard to believe.

  35. 36
    Howard says:

    If I lived in a million dollar 5000sqft house, I would expect to have a fancy shower with 6 sprayers and a rain head. That would easily gulp down 15gpm of water.

    I am no expert, but most wells, even with a large storage tank would have trouble keeping the pressure up… hopefully no one in the house flushes while you are taking a shower.

  36. 37

    RE: ARDELL @ 34
    That sounds right. You wouldn’t notice walking on a drain field unless it had issues. You’re such a city girl. You get the septic tank pumped every five years, and everything’s fine for a long time. I live with septic. I like it. We don’t need to water the grass above the drainfield.

  37. 38
    sally buttons says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 34 – Respectfully, reads misinformed albeit opinionated. If I knew so little about a common residential waste system, I might read up. Okay?

  38. 39
    redmondjp says:

    By Howard @ 36:

    If I lived in a million dollar 5000sqft house, I would expect to have a fancy shower with 6 sprayers and a rain head. That would easily gulp down 15gpm of water.

    I am no expert, but most wells, even with a large storage tank would have trouble keeping the pressure up… hopefully no one in the house flushes while you are taking a shower.

    On one piece of property that I looked at east of Duvall a few years back, they had this issue (a low-flowing well). The solution employed was a covered surface reservoir (which looksed like a small backyard shed from the outside). The well pump filled the reservoir, and a second pump drew out of it. I didn’t like it at all, as it seemed far too easy for the water in the reservoir to become contaminated by small rodents who fall in (seeking water) and die. Opening the door and ‘checking the pool’ a few times a week didn’t seem like something I wanted to do either.

    Here’s a relevant article discussing what’s happening to midwestern wells right now:

    I lived in Indiana during college for a couple of years, and the municipal tap water where I lived was not at all good (taken from and then returned to the river, downstream of dozens of other towns doing the same) and I could not drink it. I had friends outside of town who were on a well that they had dug 300ft deep “to get to the ‘good’ water.” I brought some back to my apartment in a jug, and the sulphur smell from that water when I opened the lid was something I will never forget. I bought distilled water at the grocery store to drink after that!

  39. 40
    RobLL says:

    Res wells and septic tanks. It all depends. We first lived in a place where the well water was iron heavy (red stains), septic tanks tended not to work. The coming of a community water source was a great relief. Friends have had wells with greatly limited water production. Currently we are in a country place, not far from the first, have lots of great water from a 120 foot well, and a septic tank that has never been a problem.
    If you are looking at a house with well water and septic do some researching. And make it specific. Hill top, hill side, valley; soil type; applicable regulations etc.

  40. 41
    Brad says:

    If you have a well, you can water your plants and lawn even when the rest of the city can not. In that instance, you learn which neighbors are snitches because they will call in a complaint if they don’t know you are on a well. Assuming you do all the testing and know the well is good, it can be a great deal in the long run. The advantage is more noticeable when you are retired and on a fixed income in a city where utility costs consistently drastically outpace inflation. Personally, the idea of having independence from water, power and heating costs is pretty appealing.

  41. 42

    By Ira Sacharoff @ 37:

    RE: ARDELL @ 34
    That sounds right. You wouldn’t notice walking on a drain field unless it had issues. You’re such a city girl. You get the septic tank pumped every five years, and everything’s fine for a long time. I live with septic. I like it. We don’t need to water the grass above the drainfield.

    With the addition of “malfunctining” in front of drain field, that probably would explain it. Properly functioning and you usually don’t even know where a drain field is located, although sometimes it’s obvious by the lack of trees in a certain area.

    Ardell earlier mentioned parking on a drainfield. I earlier mentioned REOs and LIDs. A couple of years ago I came across an REO listing on septic, and talking to the neighbors it was previously a rental and they had a ton of people living in it. The house was only a 1 bathroom house, so the septic was presumably a low capacity system. In addition to having too many people, the tenants parked a lot of cars (and maybe something heavier) on the drainfield, and the prior year they were all out in their front yard scooping dirty water off the lawn into the street. The combination of way too many people and driving on the drain field apparently ruined it.

    The neighborhood was about the only place in Kent proper without sewer lines, and that was because the owners wouldn’t approve the LID when asked. The sewer line was only about 150 feet from the property, but when I asked the city what it would cost to extend it, they said something like $50,000, part of which would be repaid if and when other neighbors joined in. And that didn’t include whatever it would cost to run the line to the house or the King County Connection charge.

    The house next door had a mound type drainfield, which was probably fairly new. Based on that, the area probably wasn’t very good for septic, and the owners really made a mistake not approving the LID.

  42. 43
    ARDELL says:

    RE: sally buttons @ 38

    There are only two things in real estate I made a conscious decision not to be an expert on. One of them is septic tanks and septic systems. The other was how to put the “roll” of paper into the fax machine. The latter is no longer an issue.

    I also try not to work in areas that are predominantly on septic systems and only when the buyer is buying a large parcel of an acre or more. That is why I say my mantra is “I am not (and will never be) The Septic Queen.” Anyone buying a house on septic is taking a risk, IMO and needs to take full responsibility for knowing about that septic system and the long term maintenance of it. Anyone who doesn’t want to do their own “reading up on” septic systems, should not be buying a house on septic, is my position and a conscious decision.

  43. 44

    RE: ARDELL @ 41 – And in Ardell’s defense, septic can be a high risk issue for sellers and agents (both buyers’ and sellers’ agents).

    I had a sale flip on septic earlier this year, and when I was there at the inspection the listing agent said she seldom sees buyer’s agents attend the inspection. I found that shocking.

  44. 45
    ChrisM says:

    Ardell – I was on a historic farm somewhere in Maine a few years ago, where they had the essentially open cesspool. My in-laws in the Missouri boonies have something similar. I doubt they’re allowed any more… You’re right – unless you knew it was there you’d have no idea (assuming it was functioning properly).

    Here in Clark county, I live in the sticks with septic, well, and a year ’round fish-bearing stream. I much prefer it to the monthly muni bills!

    By contrast, the city of Portland is in such bad financial shape that they’ve jacked up municipal water rates to astronomical heights to pay for various boondoggle projects:

    To echo another commenter, the Portland water rates are so outrageous that a garden is really not economically viable.

    A couple of years ago I rented a house in the suburban county, surrounded by the mediocre city of Vancouver WA. The neighborhood was on septic, but the city had run sewer lines and wanted everyone to convert over. A lot of resistance, and finally one poor guy was found to have an inadequate septic. He was not allowed to replace it. Instead, he not only had to hook up, but since he was downhill of the sewer line, he had to drop 5 figures to pay for a pump to pump his *** upstream!!!

    Up until last year, the state of Washington officially treated cisterns and rain barrels as illegal, since their position is the water does not belong to one person. I know one person who buried a huge (20k gallon) tank on his property and uses winter rain water to irrigate. Nowadays Washington officially permits rain barrels, but the official position on cisterns is still up in the air. I believe they want to control large ones, but haven’t defined “large.”

    In preparation for the zombie apocalypse, my preference is to be as self-sufficient as possible, so I view wells/septic/natural sources of water as a big plus.

  45. 46
    ARDELL says:

    RE: ChrisM @ 45

    Thank you ChrisM. Yes, I thought the “illegal to collect rainwater to water gardens” a bit odd when I saw that. A large majority of my clients, most of them in fact, are not from “The Pacific Northwest” and expectations are quite different than local or “country” people.

    The culture of Seattle Area (unlike any other area I have lived and worked) is to NOT water the grass. For someone who just bought a brand new house with perfect sod…and new sod that NEEDS to be watered at least until the roots take firm hold, it is hard to explain the local culture as to the pros and cons of watering lawns and yards.

    I recently asked a builder how many of the buyers of the new homes opted for a sprinkler system, and the answer was only 5%. But looking at developments that are 2 to 5 years old you can see the consequence and damage to the landscaping. Some builders put sprinkers in the front only. The cost of a sprinkler system per zone is high, and the annual cost of running a system with more than 3 zones is pretty high.

    The general thinking and culture of watering lawns in the Seattle area is not conducive to new homes with perfect lawns and landscaping. People look at those who are watering as if they are criminals who are “wasting water”. I would think if everyone is on a well with underground water being a limited resource, the complains from neighbors might be higher? Especially with shared wells?

    Whether there is a well or not, frequent watering of lawns to keep them pristine year round, is not common here and yet an expectation of buyers of new homes who come here from other States and other Countries. They want the home to stay looking the way it did when they bought it, when and if possible.

    It’s part of the “old house or new house” debate. Rarely does an older home in this area have a pristine and frequently watered lawn.

  46. 47

    By ARDELL @ 46:

    It’s part of the “old house or new house” debate. Rarely does an older home in this area have a pristine and frequently watered lawn.

    I think it depends on the neighborhood. Fairwood Greens was built in the late 60s and 70s, and most the lawns are watered, at least on the streets I go down regularly.

  47. 48

    I just realized, maybe I should add “King of Septic” to my Trulia profile. Maybe “Prince of Septic” would be safer. ;-)

  48. 49
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 44

    One of the reasons I don’t get personally involved with septic systems, even though I am a very hands on agent, is I think every buyer of a home on septic should be prepared for the expense of replacing it, same as a roof. Just because it is OK today…is somewhat meaningless for a 30 to 50 year old house.

    Anything nearing the end of its life expectancy or passed the end of it’s life expectancy needs to be replaced. In other words the buyer has to buy it expecting to replace it, whether it is working great on the day of inspection or not.

    Anyone buying a home on well and septic in an area where most homes are on Public Water and Sewer should be considering the cost of converting to Public Water and Sewer when determining what they will pay for that house.

    That the system works well is not the defining moment…on the day of inspection. Buying a 30 to 50 year house on septic means you need to be prepared for the day it will not be working well…or don’t buy that house. Telling them “it’s all good!” is misleading in that regard.

    “A steel septic tank more than 15 or 20 years old is likely to have already rusted to the point of having lost its baffles and perhaps having a rusted-out bottom…”

    “A concrete septic tank can last 40 years to nearly indefinitely, though poor quality concrete or acidic ground water may result in deteriorated baffles or tank components.”

    “… if I know nothing but that there is a conventional septic drainfield or a raised bed system and it’s 20 years old, I consider its forward life not predictable and advise owners to budget for its replacement at any time.”

    I know more about sewer pipes than septic tanks for a reason. It’s working OK is rarely good enough and new is always better than old. At 30 hears old…it’s on borrowed time.

  49. 50
    sally buttons says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 43RE: ARDELL @ 43 – I read SeattleBubble in order to LEARN sumthin. Just an idea: humility.

  50. 51
    wreckingbull says:

    If anyone here is trusting their real estate agent for septic advice, you have a stinky future ahead of you. The only way you become the king or the prince is when you install, repair, and maintain them. Sally, do you go through every day with such a bitter disposition? It must be exhausting.

  51. 52
    ChrisM says:

    Also, septic tanks that have been used by a person undergoing chemotherapy may have significant issues. Not sure a septic inspection would catch that.

    A year or two ago (before Fukishima) I saw a map of the Seattle area showing radiation detected from a plane (DOE study?). Their equipment was sensitive enough to be picking up houses who had people on chemo and hospitals.

  52. 53

    By wreckingbull @ 51:

    If anyone here is trusting their real estate agent for septic advice, you have a stinky future ahead of you. The only way you become the king or the prince is when you install, repair, and maintain them.

    I would agree. The comment was a joke, playing off both Ardell’s and Losh’s recent comments.

    In many areas the role of the real estate agent is to advise the client when to get expert advice, not to be the expert. Septic is one of those areas where experts are needed. Even so, the role of the agent would be to express any concerns about the property prior to the time the client makes an offer, conducts a regular inspection, and then attends the septic inspection. If it’s a unique house, maybe the client will be more inclined to make an offer and go through the inspections, but if not, they probably would be well advised to walk, depending on the circumstances. As I mentioned before, the situations I warn clients about on septic include when the client is intending to buy as a rental investment, and when the property has been unoccupied for a long time (e.g. most REOs). That would be at or prior to showing, or even prior to searching (for many clients septic is excluded from the searches). In addition, the role of the agent can include investigating the cost of hooking up to sewer if and when the septic system fails.

  53. 54

    RE: ChrisM @ 52 – The one I worry about is meth lab, both the prior lab or a future lab if the property is to be rented.

    One septic guy told me about a place where the tank was full of hypodermic needles, and they got into his truck causing him all sorts of troubles with disposal of the waste, or maybe he refused to pump it due to that concern–I don’t remember.

  54. 55
    joe dirt says:

    A house in an urban area like that with a well or septic is a big negative. Like places heated with a wood stove, it’s just primitive.

    In this area the public water is very good anyway and monthly savings is not offset by the risks of something going wrong, which you alone assume.

  55. 56

    RE: ChrisM @ 52 – On the radioactive comment, one of my old cats was hyperthyroid, so he had the radiation treatment. He had to stay away from the house for 5 days or so, and then he wasn’t supposed to sleep on the bed or have extended other contact with me for another week.

    After that I met someone who went through that treatment as a human. She was able to come home right away, and to sleep in the same bed as her husband, but they weren’t supposed to use the same toilet for X days. Seemed rather odd.

  56. 57
    Looked Here says:

    Interesting that no one has mentioned perhaps the biggest benefit of having a well. You can use it as the heat sink for a ground-source (a/k/a “geothermal”) heat pump, which will completely remove the need for an oil or gas furnace, thereby saving 50%-70% on heating and cooling bills.

    If the house roof has a southern exposure, you can add solar panels to generate some of the electricity to run the pump that circulates the antifreeze through the PVC pipe that runs into the well. WA State has an outrageously generous subsidy program for solar panels.

    These systems have been used in Eastern Canada for many decades, and are responsible for about three-quarters of the HVAC in Scandinavia. You see “geothermal heat pumps” a lot more at the home shows these days. They go perfectly with wells.

    As far as septic goes, as long as the system is well designed and well maintained, there’s nothing wrong with being on septic. I had lived in a place with septic for several years. No problem at all.

  57. 58
    Peter Witting says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 37 – As my mother used to joke, “the grass is always greener over the septic tank”..

  58. 59
    Peter Witting says:

    Country living (and by that, I don’t mean a house in Redmond right on Avondale Road, but really out there) has benefits and drawbacks compared to city living.

    For example, I raise horses on my property and can walk down to the barn any time I like to visit them. However, rural areas also mean septic systems and well water. Like anything in real estate, you have to do the research to minimize the chances of an unpleasant suprise.

  59. 60
    Tim McB says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 49

    Agreed but the same is true for a sewer hook up to the street. When we bought our house we scoped the sewer line out to the street. Based on an expert they suggested that it would last another 5-10 years. We took the gamble and bought anyway and 3 years in so far so good. But we have an emergency fund set up to cover the cost in case it breaks/collapses. Estimated repair cost 10-12k for a 100 foot line out to the street. As I understand it a septic tank replacement is in the same ballpark (which to me is ridiculous, by the way).

  60. 61
    Kevin says:

    RE: Howard @ 36 – Yep, you are no expert. A system with a well can provide plenty of pressure for as long a shower as you could want.

  61. 62
    willynilly says:

    RE: joe dirt @ 55

    I love our “primitive” heat using wood. Our 10k super high efficient heat pump still costs big money heating half of the year. Supplemental heating with wood (only after 5pm) saves us around 1k per year.

    I love my wood stove(s)

    I love my sweet well water

    I love my septic system

    Now I just need to figure out how to generate my own electricity, refine gasoline and generate medical insurance. Unfortunately home brewing has no cost savings.

  62. 63
    David Losh says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 53

    Leave me out of your ridiculous comment strategy.

    My commnet was a story about a water witch.

  63. 64
    Jonness says:

    RE: Passed Doo @ 35 – Absolutely Hilarious! :)

  64. 65
    joe dirt says:

    RE: willynilly @ 62

    This is the 21st century and the last thing I want to do is go out and chop wood to heat my house. If you can’t afford to heat a house then don’t buy one. Due to the pollution and global warming, I really question whether it should be legal to burn wood. At least I don’t have to smell it in my neighborhood.

  65. 66
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: joe dirt @ 65 – Modern wood stoves (i.e. those that are legal to buy in this state) make no smoke with properly seasoned wood, just as your oil or gas burning furnace makes no smoke. As far as global warming is concerned, there are conflicting studies, but my take-home is that it is about the same other hydrocarbon-based heating methods.

    If your hands are too soft for that kind or work, might I suggest:

    As far as affording to live in a home, have you priced out a good wood stove recently?

  66. 67
    David Losh says:

    I was talking with a buddy from Montana yesterday, and he’s concerned about fracking screwing up the water tables.

  67. 68

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 53 – BTW, one other thing I do on the septic issue is I use special contract terms I drafted to extend the time to review the county information. In Snohomish County it’s often not a problem, because they have records on line. But in King County they’re slow, often don’t respond at all, etc.

    I have similar language for the capacity charge in King County, because there they don’t want buyers requesting the information directly, and in any case they are also slow.

  68. 69

    RE: joe dirt @ 65 – Yes, even with the better wood stoves the air pollution would probably be out of control.

    Many years ago I remember Lake Forest Park was mentioned as a place for bad pollution due to so much burning of wood and so many valleys.

  69. 70

    By wreckingbull @ 66:

    RE: joe dirt @ 65 – Modern wood stoves (i.e. those that are legal to buy in this state) make no smoke with properly seasoned wood, just as your oil or gas burning furnace makes no smoke.

    No smoke is different than no pollution. Apparently certified stoves are only required to reduce emissions by about 60%

    Natural gas would be much cleaner.

  70. 71
    pfft says:

    “Another plus is for those that are concerned about the forced municipal contamination of the water with fluoride and other added contaminants”

    ha ha. I wish I had read this earlier.

  71. 72

    RE: pfft @ 71 – General Ripper?

  72. 73
    Peter Witting says:

    RE: joe dirt @ 65 – “…the last thing I want to do is go out and chop wood to heat my house.”

    Exhibit A of “Why Americans Are Fat and Diabetic”….I’d rather spend an afternoon chopping woods than watching NASCAR, belching up tacos and cheetos and weak Lite Beer while wrapped in a snuggie.

  73. 74
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Peter Witting @ 73

    I’d prefer to have gas heat from a newer furnace and burn off calories helping old or invalid people weed their gardens, edge and mow their lawns or with other chores. But…pretty soon I will be one of “the old people” who can no longer do that. Still…I won’t be chopping wood either. :)

  74. 75
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 70 – C’mon, Kary. Did you think I was saying that wood stoves are pollution-free? I was merely responding to the ridiculous notion that they they should be banned, and if one chooses to heat with wood, they have no business owning a home. You know, not all of us have natural gas at the curb, just like not all of us have water/sewer at the curb. The point is that wood-burning stoves can be a reasonable and clean way to supplement the heating of a home. You are burning wood which is already dead. That CO2 will wind up in the atmosphere anyway, and new trees pull it back out. You can’t say the same about natural gas. BTW, I have never encountered a planning department that allowed wood heat as the sole heat source.

    Also,as the Loshman points out, we may be paying for natural gas in other ways we never imagined, such as contaminated water supplies.

    Hey Peter, I chop wood in a snuggie. An electric blue one.

  75. 76
    David Losh says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 53

    As long as I’m at it.

    The reason most agents would never engage in this discussion of wells, or septic is because they are an area of sever liability since Windermere lost a lawsuit over a septic system that was not properly disclosed:

    Item three on the Demco title “One False Disclosure” gives you the highlights.

    Yes, agents need to refer clients to people with experience in septic, or wells, but it does no harm to tell stories.

  76. 77
    whee says:

    Septic is a red flag in areas where everyone is typically on sewer, but it’s neutral if it’s an area where a significant minority or majority of people are on septic rather than sewer.

    Well water is neutral in most of Puget Sound. People flailing about how horrible well water is in this region are quite silly.

  77. 78
    Peter Witting says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 74 – I grew up on gas heat, and love it!

  78. 79

    By wreckingbull @ 75:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 70 – C’mon, Kary. Did you think I was saying that wood stoves are pollution-free?

    No, but they’re still relatively dirty. NG is pretty clean. Even a car converted to NG will run cleaner than a car on gasoline.

  79. 80

    RE: David Losh @ 76 – I doubt most agents even know of that case. Alejandre v. Bull is the more recent one–the one that lead to that nonsense of having to choose whether or not there would be liability for Form 17 disclosures due to the economic loss rule. Fortunately the powers that be finally came to their senses and removed that choice.

    Septic has probably always been a problem because you’re often talking big dollars to fix. That gets you to the point where it’s worth an attorney to do something.. It’s hard to sue someone over less than $20,000.

  80. 81
    ChrisM says:

    I guess I’m showing my ignorance of the Seattle market, but someone just posted a link to:

    where it says the house (listed at 725k built in 1974) is on SEPTIC??? Is this just an indication of just how much building has been going on since then? Looking at the map, this looks like your typical affluent (at least to me) neighborhood. Is this a case of them being the pioneers who refused to hook up to municipal sewer?

  81. 82
    ARDELL says:

    RE: ChrisM @ 81

    Almost all homes on lots of an acre or more are on septic. Not all…but almost all. When someone wants a large lot they usually understand that will come with septic vs public sewer. The oddity is when you see a home on a 7,000 sf lot with septic.

  82. 83

    RE: ChrisM @ 81 – Here’s a link to material on the history of the sewer system development for King County.

    Back in 1966 they had newly opened treatment plants in Renton and Magnolia, no where near the house you link. I suspect the cities had their own smaller systems too, I know Bremerton did, but I am not familiar at all with what existed in that area.

    But once in place, there’s little reason besides the failure of the septic system to convert to sewer. That would be like installing a gas furnace to replace a functioning geothermic heat source.

  83. 84

    By ARDELL @ 82:

    RE: ChrisM @ 81

    Almost all homes on lots of an acre or more are on septic.

    I don’t dispute that, but I’m not sure what drives that. It could be the age of the house or their rural location more than the size of the lot. I believe (but am not sure) that currently in King County if your house has a sewer line next to it, that you have to connect for any new construction. I don’t know how long that’s been the case.

  84. 85
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 84

    I have not found that to be the case. Helped a family buy a brand new house not too far from downtown Redmond that was on 2 acres and on brand new septic (last year or the year before).

    Had a lengthy discussion about this with the City of Kirkland regarding the instant case I noted in a comment above of a standard split entry home on a standard lot on septic. They indicated that no one has the ability to force someone to connect to the public sewer line. They can put a lien on the homes (or not) for the line they run down the middle of the street whether people connect to it or not, and charge each home that wants to connect to it at the time of the connection. But they can’t force them to connect to it unless the septic fails, at which time they can deny the request for a new septic vs repair of an existing one.

    Forcing people to connect is not as common as forcing them NOT to connect.
    Hence the many instances of “moratoriums” on sewer connections.

    That is really about the struggle of density and affordable housing issues as some cities try to keep new construction on acre plus lots and block more affordable housing on small lots.

    It’s a continuous political football that I don’t understand 100%, but I see often, with moratoriums on “new sewer connections” placed and lifted over time in a few “Eastside” cities.

    The primary issue seems to be to control excessive new development on small parcels. When there is a moratorium on sewer connections the only new development can be on large lots with septic. It appears best I can tell that the local government wants big lots and the County wants “affordable housing”, and to some extent that is a mandate with some limitations and many extensions for compliance of the “affordable housing” quotas.

    If you google sewer connection moratoriums, you will see the topic discussed in terms of promoting one acre plus lot sizes. So the sewer-septic issue is not really about the basic issues of processing poop, but on more expensive communities wanting to keep out the small and affordable housing “riff-raff”.

    It’s about the 1% trying to keep the 99% out of their neighborhoods, and as far away as possible. :) A broad brush overview. Condo complexes control “the riff-raff” entry point via huge HOA dues, building in as many included amenities as they can dream up. Single Family Home areas try to push values higher by keeping zoning at largest of lots and putting moratoriums on public sewer connections.

    It’s interesting to watch the opposing forces butt heads from time to time, and the local governments who must meet the affordable housing mandates imposed on them by the County…just barely…and kicking and screaming and dragging their feet all the way.

    Rich man Poor man, them vs us, and political struggles will never go away, and sewer-septic is mixed up in this struggle via these moratorium issues stacked against “affordable housing” mandates.

  85. 86
    wreckingbull says:

    Another interesting twist, Ardell, is hybrid systems. I own (out of state) property in which you have to have both a septic and a sewer connection. I must have septic tanks to separate the solids from the effluent, and then I must send all effluent to the curb via traditional sewer lines. The tanks need to be pumped periodically, just like a traditional system. This is really the worst of both worlds. More to go wrong and also the need to pay public utilities.

  86. 87

    RE: ARDELL @ 85 -Assuming you’re talking about the REO, Realist does not indicate that property has sewer available. And when I did a search of listings in the area (without a time restriction) 40 of the 43 listings indicate septic, and the two that indicated sewer probably were not sewer per Realist. Not sure what the other one was.

    I don’t think you’ll get a septic permit if sewer is available. It’s not so much a moratorium as a prohibition.

  87. 88

    RE: wreckingbull @ 86 – They have that down in the Olympia area.

    I would assume that the cost of sewer is less there, since you’re effectively doing some processing on-site, and since that type of a system presumably needs less in the way of treatment facilities.

  88. 89
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 88 – Yes, that is correct. If you want to see why they do this, just go to Discovery Park and watch all the Class 8 trucks towing out 48 foot trailers of …. well, you know.

  89. 90

    I think this King County ordinance addresses the issue:

    As I read 13.04.050, connection to the sewer would be required for new construction, and if sewer is available, many repairs to the septic may require connection to the sewer instead.

    A. The owner or occupant of lands or premises located within the Urban Growth Area, as defined in the King County Comprehensive Plan, undertaking new residential or nonresidential construction, short subdivision or subdivision from which sewage will originate shall connect the construction to a public sewer if the sewer utility permits such connection

    Disclaimer: I didn’t fully review the entire code.

  90. 91
    ChrisM says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 85 – Who knew septic could be so interesting? :-)

    You’ve hit one of my buttons w/ your excellent comment – down here in Clark county & Portland the clear mandate is for high-density infill development at the expense of existing neighborhoods.

    Clark county loves sub 5000 sq ft lot sizes. Portland loves them even more, allowing lot sizes under 3000 sq ft. What is especially fun is when someone razes a house in a nice neighborhood, splits the lot into four and builds 4 tiny crappy shacks.

    Nice to see local govt standing up to that.

  91. 92
    ARDELL says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ 86

    WOW! That IS interesting and something I have never run into. Can you give us the City and State for that? How large is your lot?

    One of the most interesting local stories of public sewer vs septic goes with the almost 14,000 sf brick mansion, and the journey to it being on public sewer vs septic, in an area where there was no public sewer line and most all homes are on septic in Bridle Trails in Bellevue.

    It looks more like a middle school than a house at 13435 NE 30th Street in Bellevue, and the amount of cost to bring public sewer to it boggles the mind. Would have been helpful if all of the people along the way wanted public sewer…but they didn’t.

    Back to Kary…new homes nearby this home are on new septic, so age had nothing to do with it. I can’t say more because I know too much…and they’d have to kill me. :)

  92. 93
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 92 – As Kary noted, apparently we have some municipalities here that require this type of system. My situation is in an unincorporated Idaho county, near the three major panhandle lakes, thus the stringent requirements. Speaking of bio-solids, they use them on the agricultural fields across the road from my house. Some might think that the nastiness has been processed out of it by the time they are spread on a field, but I would have to disagree. When the wind is just right, it is not good. Human manure just does not have the quaint smell of cow manure.

  93. 94
    ChrisM says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ 93 – Heh. Down in Phoenix effluent used to be treated and then used for cooling water for the Palo Verde nuclear reactors. At the time they got the waste water pretty cheaply and treated it themselves.

    Well… at some point in the 90’s the City of Phoenix decided they wanted the waste water instead for the golf courses! I wonder if golfers ever contemplate the nasty mix of chemicals they’re walking on?

    What crop(s) are they growing? Please tell me it isn’t spinach! :-)

  94. 95

    By ARDELL @ 92:

    Back to Kary…new homes nearby this home are on new septic, so age had nothing to do with it. I can’t say more because I know too much…and they’d have to kill me. :)

    What I’m saying it the lack of sewer pipes in that area is why there is septic. So new construction will be on sewer, not septic, unless there is no sewer in the area to hook up to. I don’t think the owner is given a choice where sewer exists in the area.

  95. 96

    RE: wreckingbull @ 93 – Next time I drive through Ellensberg I’ll turn and comment to the wife about how quaint the town smells. ;-)

  96. 97
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 96 – Hey, it beats the smell inside the Metro 18 local on a rainy November day.

  97. 98
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 95

    They ARE clearly given a choice, Kary, when the lot is large enough to qualify for a septic system. The City clearly said…new house or old house…they had no authority to force people to connect to the sewer line once they put it in the street. Nor did they have any incentive to do so.

    Yes…if you are building a home on a 4,600 sf lot, well you can’t really have a septic system. Not enough lot space. But if you are building a brand new home on a lot size that accommodates a septic system, the City can’t force you to connect to the public system. Not 100% sure about the City of Seattle, but that is true most anywhere. Otherwise there would be claims of it being a “police state” with insufficient freedoms to be free of the added costs.

    If someone has adequate room for a septic system and is willing to pay for it and the system meets the requirements of the local code for it, it gets approved whether there is public sewer right out front or not.

  98. 99
    ARDELL says:

    RE: ChrisM @ 91

    I love the local politics of housing. Seattle went through that with people splitting the 5,000 sf 50 X 100 lots into two lots with 25′ frontage and building two “tall and skinny” homes, one on each. Then they zoned 5000 sf so people could no longer split the lots up the middle, only to have some builders get approval to jam in 6 to 8 townhomes instead some years later.

    In Kirkland they wanted to outlaw homes with flat roofs as being ugly. LOL! They are still looked on with disdain vs the preferred craftsman style home with a pitched roof. I remember having a quiet conversation with a council member once, after my position was in a Wall Street Journal Article. I said “Joe”, you can’t design City Code by your personal “taste” in housing. His answer. “Really? Why not?”. That was an eye opener for me about local politics.

    Every so often I like to go to public meetings on these issues. On one side you have the newer “transplant” residents wanting to bring in their new ideas, on the other side you have the long term affluent residents who want expensive homes to be built in the same style as the former older and smaller homes.

    In the front row you have the people who look like they just walked out of a cornfield who want NO changes of any kind, and only 900 sf bungalows. So much so that the City at one point gave a huge benefit to anyone who would subdivide their lots without tearing down the existing 900 sf bungalow. Not too many takers on that idea. :)

    The politics of housing can be a riot. The $230,000 condos with the $850 a month condo fees to keep out the “$230,000 people” are always fun.

  99. 100

    By ARDELL @ 98:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 95 – They ARE clearly given a choice, Kary, when the lot is large enough to qualify for a septic system. The City clearly said…new house or old house…they had no authority to force people to connect to the sewer line once they put it in the street. Nor did they have any incentive to do so..

    I quoted the King County ordinance in post 90 above.

    A. The owner or occupant of lands or premises located within the Urban Growth Area, as defined in the King County Comprehensive Plan, undertaking new residential or nonresidential construction, short subdivision or subdivision from which sewage will originate shall connect the construction to a public sewer if the sewer utility permits such connection

    Shall connect to a public sewer means there is no choice.

    Again though, I didn’t fully research the issue, but that is consistent with what septic professionals have told me. King County, and perhaps the entire state, is really trying to avoid many more septic systems being added. They are not a favored choice.

    And again, if an existing septic system fails, the only choice in many situations may be to connect to sewer, rather than repair, even if repair is technically possible, which is usually would be on a larger lot. So not only are they trying to avoid more septic systems, they’re trying to phase them out.

    The limiting factor is where have sewer systems been installed. They can’t force you to connect to a sewer system which doesn’t exist.

  100. 101
    redmondjp says:

    Nobody is probably following this thread, but there is a Close to Home comic from 8/5/12 that is perfect for the septic discussion:

    Ardell, this one’s for you (I’ll try to email you the link in case you don’t see this one)!

  101. 102
    ARDELL says:

    RE: redmondjp @ 101

    LOL, JP! Thank you! My daughter who is visiting me this weekend with her husband and two children is the one who fell in the cesspool with me. :)

  102. 103

    It’s interesting to learn that when it comes to building a water well on our property there might be benefits to this. I like how you mentioned this will have a mix of minerals and not have a lot of chemicals. This is something that we will have to keep in mind so we can determine if this is something we should get.

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