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The Pros and Cons of Septic Tanks in Atlanta

October 6, 2009
Erika Eaton, REALTOR

Erika Eaton, REALTOR®

This post was written by Erika Eaton and originally published on her blog, SearchingInAtlanta.com. Please be sure to visit!

I’ve never been particularly opinionated about septic tanks.  All things being equal, my preference would be the municipal sewer system, but it’s not a deal breaker for me. Over the years, I’ve had a couple of clients that were absolutely opposed to the idea, but most don’t seem to care very much.

Our first house was on the City of Atlanta sewer system and our current home is on septic. We’ve lived in our new home for about six months, it was a foreclosure in Atlanta, so I don’t know a whole lot about the septic tank.  The house is 50 years old, so I’m assuming the septic tank is the same age. Other than having it pumped and inspected for a few hundred dollars, there have been no problems with it. My parents built the home they have been living in for 20 years, have a septic tank and it’s never been serviced or pumped; it works fine.

Here are some pros and cons to being on a septic tank:

Pros

Your water bill will be substantially lower than someone who is on the Atlanta sewer system.  

A few years ago a Federal Judge decided that the City of Atlanta needed to stop using the Chattahoochee River as a big, open-air septic tank. He ordered the City of Atlanta to upgrade its dilapidated sewer system.  The citizens now have to pay for a $4 billion sewer upgrade, in addition to a new sales tax, the sewer rate on the water bills has been substantially raised. To put things in perspective, our family of three, in our old Atlanta home on the sewer system, was paying around $125 – $150 a month. In our new, septic tank home, we pay around $25 – $40 a month for water. A $1,200 a year savings can buy you a lot septic maintenance.

 The AJC  just published an article stating that Atlanta has the highest municipal water rate in the country.

“Rate increases already approved will make the average water bill jump to $151.92 from $49.60 per month — a 206 percent increase — during the decade that ends in 2012. The rate already in place puts Atlanta at or near the top nationally for water and sewer bills. The city jumps even higher when the sales tax for sewers gets added in.”

Keep in mind, Atlanta has an escalating water rate, so if you irrigate with city water, your bill can easily be $400 – $500.

Cons

Bad for water conservation. Atlanta recycles sewer water and sends in back into the Chatahoochee as grey water. This helps to contribute to the river’s water flow. When you’re on a septic tank, the water is eventually emitted into the soil, where it is cleaned naturally, but is not immediatley available for use.

Bad perception from potential buyers. There are some buyers who just don’t like the idea of a septic tank. As Atlanta’s sewer rates continue to skyrocket, I could easily see a shift in attitude. Owning a septic tank could become a selling point.

Periodic maintenance. You could spend a few hundred dollars every few years to pump and maintain your septic tank. If you are going to buy a home with a septic tank, I would have it inspected during your due diligence period. You want to make sure there are no major problems with the system before you buy the home.

Good luck with your home search and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

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