News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Property Evaluation, Mortgage Evaluation before sale saves time and money

Purchasing a home or piece of property can be very stressful and many buyers later find their property is not suitable for a septic system or the home they purchased has a failing drainfield or a well with poor water quality. At this time, public health officials remind everyone involved in property transactions to request a Mortgage or Property Evaluation before finalizing a sale. According to Scott Kendzierski, Director of Environmental Health for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, these evaluation services provide protection against poor investments.

“We are here to help property and home buyers, while assuring that land and water resources are protected,” he said. “Properties that cannot support adequate sewage systems or safe drinking water limit the potential use of the property and existing homes. Malfunctioning wastewater systems put people at serious risk of disease and can have damaging effects on the environment. Our environmental health staff can put potential buyers’ minds at ease and may save them substantial amounts of wasted time and money with a thorough evaluation.”

Property Evaluations are designed to assess if a property can safely support a septic system and well. The evaluation includes a determination of the type and size of septic system needed for planned structures and the availability of a safe drinking water supply on site. “A Property Evaluation can save a buyer the distress of finding out after the purchase that the property is not suitable for a septic system or that a water well will be difficult or expensive to install or need treatment to remedy a water quality problem, such as high nitrates or excessive iron,” Kendzierski said.

Mortgage Evaluations are conducted to evaluate the adequacy of a home’s existing water and wastewater system and to determine its current status and functionality. “Failing septic systems can pollute drinking water supplies, as well as nearby water bodies, and can result in expensive replacement costs,” said Kendzierski. “Sewage release poses a serious risk to human health and enjoyment of recreational waters.”

Analysis of the septic system includes assessing how well the system currently functions, evaluating pumping service records (if available), reviewing septic system permits and/or complaints associated with the property, examining the construction of the septic tank and drainfield, and looking for signs of system failure.

“Failing systems can present symptoms in a variety of ways,” noted Kendzierski, “wet spots in the lawn, excessive growth and moisture over a drainfield, sludge in the drainstone, gurgling plumbing, backups, or septic tanks that are leaking and are below the outlet under normal use, among others.”

Examination of water supplies includes evaluating the construction of the water system including the well, all pumping and storage equipment, reviewing all well records, abandonment records and permits, and providing details such as the depth of the well and formation encountered during well installation. Drinking water analysis is also included with this service to assure it is safe for consumption, without contamination from bacteria, such as E coli, or harmful chemicals. Chemical testing identifies any toxins, such as nitrate or nitrite in drinking water, and determines levels of hardness, iron, sulfate, chloride, fluoride, and sodium, which can affect taste, laundry, plumbing, and appliances. All water samples are analyzed at the Northern Michigan Regional Laboratory in Gaylord, a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality certified drinking water laboratory.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. Applications and additional information about Property Evaluations and Mortgage Evaluations is at and Health Department offices in Bellaire, Charlevoix, Petoskey/Harbor Springs, and Gaylord.