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Septic Planner

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Walter Cole, Pamlico County Health Department & Scott Cameron, LandPlot Research

The Pamlico County Health Department and LandPlot research Inc. have been working together to develop computer software to aid in the design of septic systems and in their documentation. Suggestions were also solicited and received from several other North Carolina counties and form septic system installers. The resultant computer program, dubbed Septic Planner, is intended to be used by health department environmental specialists or by independent contractors and septic system installers to design and document nitrification field designs consistent with North Carolina regulations and practices. Other versions of SepticPlanner are under development for use in jurisdictions with differing requirements. In the development of SepticPlanner every effort has been made to make the software “user friendly” and the result is a “point and click” program that will run under Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows NT.

To use SepticPlanner to create an Improvement Permit, the initial step is to enter the administrative relating to the application into appropriate boxes on the PC screen, e.g., property identification, owner name, owner address, PIN number, etc. After entering the administrative information the user enters the engineering data, i.e., the required system capacity, the soil type and long term absorption rate at the proposed site, the type of system proposed, the desired trench depth, the number of trenches, plus several addition parameters depending on the type of system under consideration. The types of drainfield which the current version SepticPlanner can accommodate include conventional perforated pipe systems, Low pressure pipe systems, polystyrene aggregate systems, chambered systems, and bed systems. Additional types of disposal systems will be included in SepticPlanner as they are approved for use within various jurisdictions. After all of the necessary information to design the system has been entered SepticPlanner carries out the calculations required to determine the drainfield dimensions, determine the pump requirements for pumped systems, find the hole sizes and hole separations for low pressure pipe systems, etc. The results of the calculations are displayed on the computer screen along with a thumbnail sketch of the drainfield. At this stage the user may choose to accept or reject the proposed design. If the user agrees that the design appears acceptable SepticPlanner prints a set of exhibits and attachments defining the system to be installed. Examples of some of the exhibits and attachments are shown in Figs. 1,2,3,4 and 5. Alternatively the design can be rejected and changes entered to refine the design, e.g., a different system type, more trenches, different trench depth. When the design is deemed acceptable, a file containing a drawing of the drainfield plus a summary of the administrative and engineering data is also created. This file is exported in a form suitable for import into QuikPlat Pro, a companion computer program also developed by LandPlot Research Inc.

QuikPlat is a specialized plat drawing program currently in use by real estate attorneys, title examiners, assessors, surveyors, builders, developers, foresters, and others with the need to prepare accurate site plan. It is particularly well suited to the preparation of the accurate scale drawings required of the septic field installation site.

In preparing a septic system installation drawing the first order of business is to enter into QuikPlat an accurate representation of the property on which the nitrification field is to be located together with any features on it or on adjoining properties which restrict the location of the field. In some cases this will include topographic information which QuikPlat is capable of accepting and displaying.

In practice the information describing the property is obtained in a variety of form. Fortunately QuikPlat has many alternate methods by which the property boundary geometry can be entered. Some of the more useful methods include the following:

  • Calls form the metes and bounds descriptions found in the deed to the property can be entered directly into QuikPlat.
  • The boundary element bearings and distances can be read form a subdivision plat and entered into QuikPlat.
  • A scale drawing of the property can be electronically scanned and entered into QuikPlat as a background on which the drainfield may be placed.
  • If a digitizing tablet is available the relevant information can be taken from a scale drawing and entered into QuikPlat using tablet mode.
  • In counties with a GIS data base containing the property boundaries, the boundary information can be exported from the GIS system as a .DXF file and imported directly into QuikPlat.
  • The property boundary can be traversed with a GPS receiver and appropriate software employed to export a .DXF file containing the boundary coordinates. The .DXF file can then be directly imported into QuikPlat.

Whatever method is used to create the property drawing, once the drawing of the property boundary and the placement obstructions is in place, the drainfield drawing can be imported into QuikPlat, i.e. the drawing that was exported from SepticPlanner. Once the drainfield appears in the site drawing it may be easily moved and/or rotated in order to find an acceptable location. If no suitable location can be found the drainfield graphic can be deleted and SepticPlanner used to create an alternative design which may prove to be acceptable. The entire process may then be repeated to find an acceptable location for an alternative repair system. The repair system will appear in the site drawing with a different line style so as to be easily distinguishable. An example of a site drawing showing the pertinent features of both an initial and a repair location for the nitrification fields is shown in Fig. 6. With the addition of the application administrative data and an authorizing signature block the QuikPlat drawing, with the attachments, becomes the permit document.

QuikPlat Pro is a layered drawing system in which various elements of the drawing can be placed in different layers and, with a color printer, the layers distinguished by printing them in various color. The distinguishable layers also help in communicating the drainfield elements added to the drawing back in to the associated GIS system where appropriate.

The major advantages of this new technology are:

  • The rapid creation of accurate scaled drawings of the septic system with dimensions to insure its correct placement.
  • Assurance that the designs will be consistent with appropriate rules and regulations.
  • Automatic generation of the exhibits and attachments necessary to clearly define the system.
  • Compact archiving of the design for future reference.
  • Designs may be easily corrected and or amended when the need arises to alter the design by simply recalling the appropriate file.

You may obtain information about this software by contacting Walter Cole at (252) 745-5634 or Scott Cameron (252) 249-0836. Further information is also available on the Internet on the LandPlot Research homepage at