Identifying certain potential environmental risks or concerns before purchasing a home can alleviate future stress and expense. Two related concerns have to do with a home's water supply and septic system.
Q: Why should I worry about a home's water supply, especially if I plan to buy a home in the city?
A: Most water supplies are safe. However, whether a house is supplied by a public water supply or a well, water contamination can be a problem. Contamination can come from a variety of sources including: accidental leakage of industrial materials or agricultural fertilizers; or the house's own water piping system, which may leach materials into the water.
Q: How can I find out if there is a problem with the water supply for home I intend to buy?
A: The quickest way to find out if there are water concerns is to ask the seller about any past problems or for results of any water sampling that may have been done. Further, you might have the water tested by a local laboratory, then ask a water quality specialist to review these results. The cost of such a test is usually under $100. Also, a competent home inspector may identify lead pipes or lead solder as possible sources of contamination. If a well is used as a source of water, testing should be conducted, since minor contaminants can travel long distances, and even natural materials can pose problems.
Q: What can I do if I discover that my home's drinking water contains contaminants?
A: A variety of filters are available, which may be attached to the tap or installed under the sink. Prices for these filters vary from about $50 to almost $1,000. In addition, all generally require periodic maintenance and filter replacement.
Q: What questions should I ask when considering the purchase of a home with a septic system?
A: Septic system designs vary in effectiveness. Because an inadequate or poorly-designed and maintained septic system can cause major pollution problems for you as a homeowner, you should find out about local regulations for septic systems, ask how often the system has been cleaned, learn the name of the contractor who has maintained the system and ask for the latest inspection certificate. If the system has not been maintained recently, include system maintenance and service as part of your purchase offer. Also, insist that the system be properly located and identified by the seller. Removing, replacing, or upgrading a system can be a costly and inconvenient undertaking.
Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was prepared by Bill Hayes, a Cincinnati attorney with Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease.