– Proposed Boulder County Septic Regulations –

As a Realtor in Boulder County I know that when I show a home to a buyer in the mountains or out on the plains, most likely the house will have an on site waste water system, otherwise known as a septic system. When I write the contract I make sure there is specific language that provides for the cleaning and inspection of the septic tank during the inspection period.


Boulder County is getting ready to implement a new regulation regarding septic systems. What is on the table is an inspection/approval process at the county level that would be triggered by a home sale. The regulation may go into effect later this year. I attended a meeting this week outlining the program from two perspectives; the county and a Realtor.


The County’s perspective:

In Boulder County there are 14, 307 septic systems. Of those systems, 9,580 are “approved” systems and 4,727 systems are “unapproved”. The average age of the approved systems is 23 year old and the average age of an unapproved system is 49 years. The average life span of a properly working septic system is 25 years.

The Goal of the Program



  • To insure clean water in the Boulder watershed. Contamination from septic systems is a concern because a leaking system can introduce bacteria into ground water, domestic wells and streams.

  • Educate homeowners – Many homeowners are not aware of the risks associated with a failing septic system. Out of sight, out of mind. Only when it backs up or when they can smell it do they take action. The county wants to contact and encourage all unapproved systems to get up-to-date.

  • Identify unapproved and/or failing systems. The county wants to have all systems “approved” in the next 15 years and figures that most homes will sell during that time.

  • Force homeowners to inspect and fix systems at the time of sale. They figure that a transfer in ownership is where the money and motivation to fix are at their peak.


The Realtor Perspective


To me it seems like this is not the best way to accomplish their goals. As I mentioned before, I have never been involved in a transaction involving a septic system that did not involve at least an inspection and a pumping. Most buyers would not accept an “unapproved” or failing system anyway. The county is counting on the average of every family moving every 7 years. It’s true that this is the national average but in the mountains, I submit that this is not the case. Many houses in the mountains are passed down from generation to generation. Many owners in the mountains are through with their move-up cycle. There are not many “starter” homes or neighborhoods in the mountains where the turnover is much less than 7 years.


The proposed regulation will add unneeded bureaucracy and expense to the home buying process. In Jefferson County a similar regulation went into effect in 2004 and Realtors are seeing duplication of multiple inspections (first a seller than a buyer who wants their own inspection).


In my humble opinion I would like to see the county try to start at the oldest systems and work their way forward with an inspection program that will target polluting systems not just the ones who happen to be selling.

For more information go to Boulder County Health’s website .



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