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Home Inspector

Septic Systems  –  Septic systems date back more than 100 years.  Originally they were constructed to serve a single family’s needs in areas that provided adequate depths of soil for absorption as well as enough length and width to allow the gentle placement of effluent into the ground.  Under these circumstances, with the family “feeding” the system daily, it worked effectively without many problems.

Today, people travel more and may be absent for long periods of time or, in many cases here on Tortola, they may “overfeed” the systems.  There is not enough dirt for absorption and very few drain fields, so for the most part, the septic systems on island consist of a holding tank with a two-inch drain line out to a gut designed to allow the untreated seepage to run out.


When a home is constructed as a one-level dwelling, a small septic tank is installed or built out of cement block.  As money becomes available, an additional level is constructed and so on.  Unfortunately, the septic system is never changed or upgraded until all the toilets are stopped up.  The first step toward remedying this is to lower a pump into the septic system and pump the raw seepage around the back of the dwelling and out of site—but not, unfortunately, out of smell.  A pump truck is sometimes called in to perform this task.  But where does the truck pump out its fill?  Good question.

Since there is very little soil for the effluent from the septic system to absorb into, every rain allows the earth to cleanse itself by allowing the rainwater to pick up the sewage from the ground and flow downhill (thus the saying… well, you know).  This combined rain run-off and sewage then travels down the guts, across the sidewalks and streets and into the bay.  And of course, along with this mess comes the smell.

One of the best solutions is to install state-of-the-art “aerobic plants.”  These septic plants take the sewage and produce a by-product that is of high enough quality to water your plants.  Ideally, we can keep the existing septic systems until they need repair, then require their removal with a government-assisted programme and allow new septic systems to be installed as aerobic plants.  In a few years, “nature’s little secret” would smell like a flower instead of a barnyard.

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