Buying a New Property

Buying a new property can be overwhelming and intimidating especially a rural property. You never know for sure if you are asking the right questions or if you are even getting informed answers to those questions. Here is a guideline of common information that people should have when purchasing rural property. Hopefully this will help you ask the right question to the right people and do some of your own investigating to feel more at ease with your final decision.

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Make sure you have a very experienced realtor. It will make your shopping experience easier. If you are buying rural property there are realtors that have taken special courses to expand their knowledge in the process. Remember that a realtor is not ticketed in all trades and by no means is qualified as a home or property inspector. A lot of the time the only information they have is the information that the home owner has given them. A good realtor will make sure they do their homework so they can answer your questions accurately.

A reputable home inspector is also another key to making a final decision to purchasing home. The definition of a home inspector and a home inspection by the Alberta government and taken directly from the Alberta website http://www.servicealberta.gov.ab.ca/1773.cfm is:

“A Home Inspector is defined as an individual who is employed by one or more home inspection businesses to conduct home inspections.”

“A Home Inspection means an opinion as to the condition of a dwelling based primarily on a non-invasive examination of readily accessible features and components of the dwelling.”

They are certified and have been educated in the field but that still doesn’t mean that they are certified in all trades. If you are ever in doubt of a specific feature about the property (eg. Roofing, electrical, septic system, water system,) contact someone that specializes in that specific trade. Make sure you are using the right “experts” for the job.

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When you are inspecting the property an important feature to look at is your water source. Does it come from a water well or cistern? A water well is water that is drawn from underground called an aquifer or groundwater. It would be important to have the water tested for quality. You would also want to test the production of the well to see if it would produce enough to supply the occupancy. Testing the pumping equipment should also be done to see if is to standard. You can also do a registered well search at http://www.groundwater.alberta.ca . This testing cannot usually be done by a home inspector and you will have to call someone with experience in this field.

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Another water source for the property is a cistern. A cistern is a water tank that is usually buried underground and then is filled with a water truck at a fee. When inspecting the cistern you should see if it is CSA approved, and ask if it’s ever been cleaned. You would also want to make sure the pump system is adequate. This inspection is also not usually done by a home inspector but by someone who specializes in water systems. There are pros and cons to each water system and each system might have its own added features. It is up to you to decide if it meets the requirements that you want.

The septic system on the property is another utility that if not up to code or expectations, could cost thousands of dollars to upgrade or replace. If the septic system is failing it can also affect your water source quality which can make you or animals sick as well as having other environmental effects. Your septic system is more than just a flushing toilet and no house inspector or realtor is qualified to inspect a septic system in Alberta unless ticketed by the Alberta Government with a certificate of competency for private sewage systems. Every ticketed person should have a card issued by the government with a certification number. Do not hesitate to ask to see the card of the person you are considering to inspect the septic system. Do not hesitate to ask your county office of a list of reputable septic system installers/designers that would be qualified to do this inspection. It is also a good idea to see if permits were pulled when the septic system was installed.

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When buying most property it is mandatory through the lending company to get a Real Property Report (RPR). This report will give you a lot of information about the property. Some of the things a Real Property Report includes is: A diagram with the legal land location, municipal address, property dimension and boundaries. Designation of all adjacent properties, roads, and lanes etc. Right of ways and easements and location dimensions to visible encroachments onto or off the property. It should also be signed, stamped, and copyrighted. This information will give you a visual of what is all going on with the property from a birds eye view. It will show you if there is pipe lines or lease sites or other obstructions that you might not have know about from your visit to the property. It is also good to find out if there is any other restrictions or bylaws in the area or property such as: buildings, animals, parking, fences etc.

It is always a good idea to see previous utility bills and land tax bills to get an idea of what to expect if you were to live there. Also asking about cellular service and internet providers and hookup fees is another avenue to investigate. Will you be having a garbage pickup service or will you have to be taking your own garbage to the nearest land fill? Where will your children go to school and is there bus pick up? Where is the nearest hospital?

This is a guide line to making an informed decision on what property would be good for you. Remember that you are in charge of your purchasing experience and the more knowledge you collect the more comfortable you will feel making that decision.

Written by, Amanda Opdendries

Nicline Backhoe Services Ltd.

The Dirt On Soil

Soil is a key factor in the treatment of our wastewater. When you pick up a handful of soil most people don’t really realize what they are actually holding. Soil is an actual living system. Some even call it the skin of the earth. Like Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “a nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” Soil has four important functions:

  • Plant growth- this includes all vegetation that naturally grows as well as farmers’ crops, vegetable and fruit gardens.
  • Water storage- through Pores of the soil water can be absorbed allowing there to be storage water.
  • It is a modifier of the earth’s atmosphere- playing a key role in carbon cycling. 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are stored in soil.
  • It is a habitat for organisms- Microorganisms all ranging in size. From microscopic cells that digest decaying organic material to small mammals that live mostly on other soil organisms. There are more microorganisms in a handful of soil than there are people on earth.soil

Using the four key functions, our wastewater is treated or filtered by the soil before it enters back into our water source.

Many people think that the septic tank is where most of the cleaning of the wastewater occurs but that is false. The septic tank is used for settling all the solids to the top or bottom before the liquids are moved into the soil to avoid clogging in the soils pores. The final treatment of most private wastewater systems is done with soil to complete treatment or cleaning of the wastewater and return the treated water back into the environment. This treatment is done with different types of systems such as treatment mounds or disposal fields, but all are using the soils as the final treatment. 95% of your wastewater treatment is done in the soil, the rest is evaporated into the air.

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Soil is the most important factor to insure the filtration process is done to its full potential before reaching the groundwater, and is a huge factor in the designing process of your wastewater treatment system. Soil is made up of three characteristics; sand, silt and clay. Different textures of soil, or different pore size of soil, happens by having different percentages of the sand, silt, or clay. Different types of soil can handle different amounts of wastewater. Wastewater needs approximately a seven day period, or retention time, at an unsaturated flow condition to filter through the soil before going back into the water table. It is up to a professional designer or engineer to examine the soil and take all factors into consideration before concluding the amount of wastewater that can be applied to the soil.

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The naturally occurring organisms that we find in our soil need steady diets and a comfortable living environment to flourish. Without proper conditions they wouldn’t be able do the work needed, consuming the organic matter and nutrients from our wastewater. The plants and other microorganisms in the soil recycle the organic matter portion of the wastewater to other substance that are then used by other life forms. Overloading the soil with wastewater will upset the microorganisms and deprive them of the oxygen they need to survive and is a part of the considerations of the designer or engineer. If overloading does happen it might appear that your wastewater system is working, but it is “pushing” untreated wastewater back to your groundwater before it has time to be fully treated. You could also see leaching or puddling above ground contaminating wildlife or creeks and ponds nearby.

 

It is amazing how strong but yet delicate soil is. We need to make sure that we give it the respect it deserves and not miss treat it. Soil is at the bottom of the food chain yet it is the cornerstone of life on earth. There is no avoiding the production of wastewater. We need to treat, or remove harmful containments, from our wastewater because we have the knowledge and proof that it can have a negative impact on the environment and health of both humans and animals and also our water sources. By treating our wastewater responsibly we are making it a reusable, renewable and recyclable product called WATER that everyone needs to live.

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Written by, Amanda Opdendries

 Nicline Backhoe Services Ltd.

What Is In Domestic Wastewater

Domestic Wastewater contains and is composed of several ingredients, 99% of which is made up of water. The other 1% of its make up is organic and inorganic matter. Of the organic and inorganic mixture it can be broken down into several more ingredients; fats oils and grease, Pathogens, Nutrients, synthetic organic chemicals, and total suspended solids. Your wastewater system, if designed and installed properly, should remove these contaminates before the wastewater enters the groundwater/aquifer or surface water such as lakes, streams, or ponds. These ingredients or contaminates are dangerous, they are harmful to humans and the environment.

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Fats, oil, and grease are harmful as it can clog and plug up pipes if poured down the drains and causes sewage to backup into your home. The fat oils and grease can also cause a film or clogging in the soil pores that is used to filter and recycle your wastewater. If clogging occurs in the soils it will cripple the soil and filthy wastewater will reach the freshwater supply causing contamination. To prevent this from happening we should refrain from putting fat, oils, or grease down the drain.

A Pathogen is a microorganism that causes infection in the host that it lives in. Examples of pathogens are; Bacterial which includes things like Salmonella and E.coli. Another example of a pathogen is a virus. Viruses cause Hepatitis A and Polio. Also Protozoa are a form of pathogen which can cause Malaria and Cryptosporidia. Helminthic which cause things like pinworms and roundworms is another pathogen that is of immediate concern to public health when groundwater or surface water is contaminated. Once contamination has happened, reversing such effects is nearly if not impossible.

Nutrients are important to allow life to grow. In wastewater treatment a good balance of nutrients are important to keep microorganisms alive and functioning at their full capacity. Microorganisms are an important key in the breakdown of filtering and cleaning of wastewater. Too much of nutrients, however is not good. Nitrogen and Phosphorus are two of the main nutrients that when in abundance will cause concern for the ecosystem.  If there are excessive amounts of these two Nutrients they inhibit the food chain, all the microorganisms are lacking or starving making the food chain unbalanced. An example of phosphorus effecting the environment would be a lake with a large algae bloom, killing off all fish in that ecosystem. One reason this could happen would be a wastewater treatment system was installed to close to the lake and wastewater entered the lake before being treated. Large amounts of Nitrates infecting an aquifer/groundwater are very harmful to infants and small children because when consumed it decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of the hemoglobin in babies causing death. This is called blue baby syndrome. These are all very scary and real possibilities if you do not treat your wastewater or install your system properly.

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Synthetic organic chemicals are household cleaners and chemicals that people put down their drains without even thinking. There is no solid 100% answer on the total effects of these chemicals, because of that it is strongly advised never to put these chemicals down your drains or toilettes.

Total suspended solids are made up of all the organic matter and particles that are made from human waste and food particles. There is also inorganic fibres and dirt from clothes and doing laundry.

All these ingredients together, if not treated by a properly designed and installed wastewater treatment system, will be a recipe for dangerous waste. This would be detrimental to the environment and the future of humans and wildlife. It is our responsibility as caregivers of the earth to make sure we educate ourselves on the impact we are making. Our goal is to make the smallest footprint possible so we can be proud of what we are leaving to our children and their futures. We like to say, “If you won’t put it in your mouth, and if it didn’t come from your body, don’t put it down your drain into the environment.”

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Written By,

Amanda Opdendries, Nicline Backhoe Services Ltd.

 

 

HOW YOUR INSTALLER/DESIGNER PICKS THE RIGHT SEPTIC SYSTEM FOR YOU

A septic system installer is certified by Alberta Municipal Affairs to install and design private sewage systems to the regulations of Alberta or other jurisdictions. There are many things to consider when designing the right wastewater system and your Installer/Designer may have to visit your property several times to do testing and sight planning. This ensuring the design is the most cost-effective, efficient, and environmentally friendly wastewater treatment system.

Your Installer will come out to your site and evaluate the area or areas where a system would be suitable. During a property visit the Installer will be looking at your land and mapping out all significant features such as: water courses, hills, trees, water wells, property lines, and utilities. It is also important to note some of the characteristics of adjacent properties. This information is used to determine the area or areas where a system would be most suitable.

A very important part of your wastewater system working properly is the soil conditions. Determining both your soil structure and texture will allow the designer to make an educated decision on which wastewater system is best suited. This is a two-part process:

–         The first step is used to determine the soil structure. This involves digging two eight-foot test pit. While digging the Designer visually inspects as well as carefully feels with their hands each layer of soil. He/she takes detailed note of any changes and records them in a log. The log is then referenced to determine the soil structure.

soil test pit

hand testing soil

–         Step two is used determine the soil texture. Here the Installer takes a soil sample to a lab where they determine exactly what the soil’s texture is. These tests will help determine how well your soil will absorb and filter wastewater.

In addition to investigating the soil, the Designer/Installer will ask you some key questions about your dwelling. The Installer will need to know how many bedrooms you have in your house and how many people will be living there. You will also be asked about water fixtures. Some fixtures use more water, such as multiple shower heads, a Jacuzzi tub, or extra laundry rooms. These key questions are necessary in determining the peak daily flow rate of wastewater being used.

The Designer/Installer will take all this information and design a wastewater system that is tailored for your septic needs and present the options to you. There are six different wastewater system, they are: tank and treatment mound, tank and field, advanced treatment plant, advanced treatment plant and at-grade, open surface discharge, holding tank. It is very important for your Installer/Designer to use both their knowledge and the information from their property evaluation to decide which of these systems is best for your needs and property.

Prior to construction or installation, the Designer must make sure that the wastewater system meets or exceeds all requirements of the regulations set out by the province or jurisdiction in where you reside.  All these regulations must be met in order to apply for permits prior to construction or installation. A final Inspection will be done by a jurisdiction inspector prior to the completion of your wastewater system.

Once your project is complete you will be given an owner’s manual explaining in detail how your wastewater system works and what regular maintenance is required, which is very important for your system to work at optimum performance. If you have any question or concerns your Installer will be happy to discuss them.

Written by,

Amanda Opdendries, Nicline Backhoe Services Ltd.