"I'm Sorry, But I Can Issue a Holding Tank Permit"

These words, "I'm sorry, but  I can issue a holding tank permit," are the most disastrous words a homeowner or an estate administrator can hear from a sewage enforcement officer (SEO).  In rural areas where there is no public sewer system, the onsite wastewater treatment system is usually the go-to option for sewage treatment.  Sometimes soil conditions, slope or simply "not enough space" exclude a system repair or construction of a complete replacement system. Hopelessness and frustration set in as the question, "What can I do?" takes over with a realization that the future looks bleak.


The Onsite Institute's principal investigator, Gil Longwell has successfully helped landowners recover from their personal disasters by restoring their homes to desireable viable places to live while preserving their market value.



"Swiss Chalet" Home Restored to Useful Life

This $300,000 home in Central, PA. was unoccupied for over a year before Gil Longwell was asked to "find a solution" that would allow the estate to sell the property.  On this nearly three acre property, there was essentially no soil to work with and the underlying parent rock material could not support any onsite wastewater treatment (septic) system. 


The only good news for the estate's administrator was that the SEO could deliver a holding tank permit but a holding tank permit was certainly not good news. A holding tank system would significantly depress the property's selling price.


Without a perennial stream to which a discharge could be directed, Longwell had to consider other more administratively challenging options. A seasonal stream on the property was identified. Next, a hydrologic study that investigated surface and underground water resources  determined the stream was suitable to receive the system's maximum daily design flow of 400 gallons.  This stream's selection required notification of each adjoining property owner.  Owners of land through which this stream flowed also had to be notified.   


Even before the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) permits were in hand, Longwell pioneered the first of its kind in PA two-stage installation scheme that enabled speedy occupancy while the permitting paperwork was flowing through the municipality's and the PA DEP's approval processes. By the time it was completed, two township and two DEP permits were required.  These were possible only after both the township and DEP approved the planning module Longwell prepared.   


To read this landowner's unsolicited commentary,click on the JW.PDF icon below.


For more information on the process employed to secure municipal and DEP Clean Streams Law and NPDES permits or for basic system information, contact the Onsite Institute.

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Every Site and System Bring Unique Challenges

The septic system that originally served this more modest home could not be restored and there was  no place on the roughly one acre property that had suitable soils.  Had there been suitable soil for an onsite wastewater treatment (septic) system, then it would have been necessary to abandon the existing well and drill a new one – provided there would be a one hundred foot separation between it and the new system. 


Happily(?) there was no need to move the well.  For this house, like the chalet discussed earlier, there was only one option available to meet its sewage disposal needs.


Almost adjacent to the property, yet exclusively on the neighbor's property, was a perennial stream. Almost meant that the stream was about fifteen feet past the homeowner's property line.  Almost meant that a right-of-way was necessary to gain access to the stream and that right-of-way agreement had to be recorded in the court house.


Because the well was in the back yard, the system could only go in the front yard.  Because the building sewer (the pipe from the house to the primary tank) would exit the corner of the house diaganally across from its current location, a portion of the sewer line (DWV) in the basement had to be relocated and the elevation it exited the building had to be elevated. Because the building sewer had to be elevated, a grinder type sewage pump had to be installed in the basement.


Like the project for the chalet property, the system to serve this projet required two PA DEP permits but only a single municipal permit.  But, because there was extensive plumbing rework, a municipal building (plumbing) permit was also required. But, before any of these could be secured, both the municipality and DEP had to approve the planning module.


For more information on the process employed to secure municipal and DEP Clean Streams Law and NPDES permits or for basic system information, contact the Onsite Institute.



"I Can't Find A Suitable Site On Your Two Acre Property"

As hard as it is to believe, this two+ acre property was denied a septic system permit for a replacement system.


A potential buyer had the existing system inspected. There was no surface discharge and therefore no "violation of law". Nevertheless, the inspector declared the system was "unsatisfactory".  The inspection was not done by an SEO.


To potential buyers, the "unsatisfactory" label could only be set aside by, at the very least, a permit for a new system.


The sewage enforcement officer was contacted.  He recommended a specific soil scientist (SS) consultant to the landowner.  Both the SEO and SS consultant concluded that no system could be permitted. They could offer the landowner no solution and that conclusion was documented to the landowner.


Gil Longwell was contacted for assistance.  After reviewing the soil scientist's report, it appeared that one type of alternate system had been overlooked.  Faced with the need to challenge both the soil scoentist's (SS) and SEO's conclusions, Longwell, not a SS reached out to another consulting SS. After extensive long-distance consultation, it was decided that there was a high likelihood of finding a suitable site. Longwell and the "new" SS completed a preliminary site evaluation.  As a result, the new SS, the SEO and a PA DEP SS, Longwell and the realtor converged on the property.  The landowners's original SS consultant was there but he was now representing the municipality. 


Combining one of the original soil probe sites (test holes) which the original SS and the SEO described as suitable, the new SS identified a second suitable probe site nearby.  When used together, this pair of sites bracketed an area large enough for a new system.  To satisfy the SEO and DEP, before the group dispersed the new SS field-staked the system’s location.


A permit was issued for the newly designed system and the potential buyers became the new owners.  A year later, the existing system is still operating and is not in violation of the PA Sewage Facilities Act. The permit is still valid and the buyer and former owner are happy with the outcome.  


In the final analysys, perhaps the only thing that malfunctioned was the inspection standard that almost stranded the original owner with an unsellable house that had no malfunction or violation!


For more information on the process employed to prove site suitability and overturn an incorrect conclusion, contact the Onsite Institute.



Peer Recognition – "The Finest Compliment A Professional Can Receive"



“Gil, you are one of a select few persons in Pennsylvania who knows how to bring the SEO and, when appropriate, DEP together to work with the property owner to find solutions to problems that others run away from.”

D. Mowery, SEO






Click to learn about Gil Longwell.

Click to contact Gil Longwell.