“What is a Perc Test?” This is a very important question if you are purchasing an undeveloped piece of property that you are planning to build on. Often rural home sites are far away from public sewer systems, and you will need a way to dispose of household wastewater and gray water. A percolation test, or perc test, helps determine the suitability of the soil to allow the waste water from your home or buildings to drain and filter through the soil. This drainage through the soil helps to eliminate solids, filter, purify, and reintroduce the water to the natural water table.
In Alabama there are 4 types of professionally licensed persons that are legally allowed to conduct a percolation test: engineers, land surveyors, professional soil classifiers, and professional geologists. The professionals that perform the tests will analyze the soils on site and then they will file an application on behalf of the land owner with the County Health Department for approval. Many times the local County Health Department will come inspect the site either before or after the installation of a septic system. Most people are familiar with a conventional septic system, which is typically an in-ground system of chambered units that help disperse liquids through the field lines and into the soil. When soils do not percolate quickly or fully, then landowners must have an engineered system. These systems are typically much more costly to construct and maintain than a conventional system. The Alabama Public Health Department (ADPH) has a helpful resource called, “Can I Live On This Lot?” that gives insights into what to do BEFORE purchasing or building on a piece of land. The ADPH also provides a database to make it easy to Find a Licensed Professional in your area. For more Q&A about septic systems, try this helpful resource from the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service: Household Waste and Wastewater.
Having a percolation test performed on an undeveloped piece of land that you intend to build on BEFORE you buy is a very good idea. This is often written as a contingency into a purchase agreement that the land must pass a percolation test and be approved by the local county health department for a conventional septic system. You need to deal with a real estate agent that is familiar with these types of rural land issues to make sure you do not end up purchasing a property that you cannot use in the way you intend. Contact our team of land agents and brokers from Southeastern Land Group or Southeastern Estates to help you find and enjoy the piece of property you’ve been dreaming of owning.
Written by: Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and licensed land broker in Alabama and Mississippi. He co-hosts the weekly radio program, The Land Show, that covers many of these topics for people interested in buying or selling land in Alabama.