If you have ever wondered why septic tank and drainfield replacement costs so much, look at the regulations most states and counties have enacted with regards to these activities. These regulations ensure that the costs will remain high for the foreseeable future.
Replacing your septic tank and/or your drainfield is a resource intensive operation. Land has to be excavated and assets have to be purchased and installed. Labor is required at all phases of the replacement process. Engineering plans have to be drawn up. In many cases, the contractor, like every other business, has overhead and, possibly, debt obligations that must be paid.
On top of all this, the government regulators have fees and requirements at each step of the process that ensure the homeowner spends even more money.
In many states, one of the first steps that has to be taken before any planning or excavation can begin is a soil test. This is something the typical homeowner can not do; governments require that only certified soil testers perform these tests. These soil testers have to own or have access to equipment to perform soil tests. In addition, they have their own set of regulations they must comply with in order to be certified. All of these costs are passed on to the consumer.
Once the results of the test are completed, the type of system that can be installed on the site is determined and system design can now begin. Once completed, the design has to be reviewed by government officials for approvals. Depending on the complexity of the design, additional approvals from local or state officials may be required. Only after the soil tests and the design have been completed and approved will the sanitary permit be issued.
Take a minute and review the steps described above and imagine the overhead the government, testers and contractors have to keep on staff and pay for in order to complete these steps. All this has to happen before construction even begins! No wonder septic tank and drainfield replacement costs are so high.
In general, laws and regulations pertaining to septic systems were developed to protect the environment and water tables from contamination. There would be, no doubt, abuse and pollution without them.
The problem with regulations like these, though, is that they invariably become susceptible to scope creep and become more expensive over time. First, fees can be arbitrarily increased. It happens all of the time and many times has nothing to do with how the particular agency administering the regulation is performing; it is all about increasing revenue. Second, regulations can be arbitrarily tightened, regardless of the impact they have on system cost. In fact, industry lobbyist groups often form representing the industries associated with the agencies and regulations to ensure regulations are never relaxed.
So, don’t look for septic system replacement costs to subside anytime soon. The only direction they are headed is up.