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Frequently Asked Questions

QUESTION:  My septic system has failed, can I repair it?

ANSWER:  NH Law allows homeowners to repair or replace a state approved septic system. A licensed septic designer can determine if your existing system is eligible for repair or replacement. Don't hesitate to call us to make that determination for you.

QUESTION:  How do I find if my septic system is state approved?

ANSWER:  N.H.D.E.S. Has an online database called "OneStop" for all septic permits issued since 1985. Most towns have records of septic permits in their building files. You can look up your property file by tax map and lot number.

QUESTION:  Do I need a septic design to get a building permit?

ANSWER:  For new construction or replacement of an existing structure a septic design is required for a building permit. An addition to a house requires a septic design if the existing septic system does not have state approval within the last 20 years. Any increase in number of bedrooms or expansion of commercial use requires a septic design for a building permit.

QUESTION:  Can I have a septic system for gray water only?

ANSWER:  No. The only gray water disposal allowed is for a campsite and is a small hole in the ground for dishwashing. The gray water in a building is required to go into a septic system.

QUESTION:  Can I cut the trees down on my lakefront lot?

ANSWER:  The N.H.D.E.S. Shoreland Protection Act requires a minimal number of trees and shrubs to be maintained in the waterfront buffer zone (50' back from the waters edge) and 25% of the trees to be unaltered in the woodland buffer zone (50' to 150' back from the lake).

QUESTION:  I just bought a house on the lake. Can I cut down trees to get a better view?

ANSWER:  The N.H.D.E.S. Shoreland Protection Act requires a minimum number of trees and shrubs to be left for water quality of the lake.

QUESTION:  Are there wetland setbacks?

ANSWER:  Most towns require building setbacks from wetlands varying between 50' and 125' feet. Towns also have wetland buffer zones were no disturbance of land or trees is allowed in these areas which vary between 25' to 125'. The N.H.D.E.S. requires septic systems to be a minimum of 75' away from wetlands.

QUESTION:  How do I show the building inspector that I am not in a wetland buffer zone?

ANSWER:  A map or sketch of the property can be provided to the building inspector, showing the location of buildings or development and the edge of any wetland. The wetland can be determined by a wetland scientist.

QUESTION:  What is a rain garden?

ANSWER:  A rain garden is a best management practice use to infiltrate and treat stormwater run-off. It is constructed as an excavation filled with sand and compost to accept rain water and allow for infiltration and treatment of pollutants with the compost and roots of plants.

QUESTION:  How do I make my property environmentally compliant?

ANSWER:  To protect water quality in lakes and streams a property should have a state approved septic system and storm water measures to stop erosion and allow rain run-off to infiltrate into the ground. Trees and shrubs should be maintained on the property to maintain water quality. Water run-off from roads and structures is considered dirty water due to airborne pollution and motor vehicle contaminants.

QUESTION:  Do I need to worry about erosion control?

ANSWER:  Erosion of soil into the lake and streams is a major contribution of water quality degradation in the United States. If you notice erosion on your lake front property you should contact a professional in storm water management to help design storm water measures.

QUESTION:  Can I replace a culvert without a permit?

ANSWER:  A permit from the N.H.D.E.S. is required for culvert replacement unless it is for storm water run-off only (dry other than rainstorms).

QUESTION:  How far does my building have to be from the lake?

ANSWER:  The N.H.D.E.S. Shoreland Protection Act requires a 50' minimum setback for buildings from the shoreline. Accessory buildings may be as close as 20'.

QUESTION:  Can you certify that my mobile home/modular home meet HUD foundation requirements?

ANSWER:  Yes, a professional engineer is required to certify that foundations meet HUD requirements.

QUESTION:  How do I show the insurance company that I am not in a flood zone?

ANSWER:  A Flood Elevation Certificate can be provided by an engineer to determine that the building is above the 100 year flood elevation.

QUESTION:  Should I inspect the septic system before I buy a house?

ANSWER:  The septic system should be inspected before buying a house since it can be a major expense to replace (between 6 and 30 thousand dollars) and a new installation may significantly change the landscape. Also a state approved septic system may not be approved in difficult cases.

QUESTION:  How do I know if the land I am purchasing is buildable?

ANSWER:  A state approved septic design for the property will determine if the land is buildable.

QUESTION:  When do I need a Shoreland Permit?

ANSWER:  A shoreland permit from N.H.D.E.S. is required for any new construction or excavation within 250' of a lake or listed river. Construction is considered to be new buildings, additions, patios, walkways, decks and disturbance of the land. Performing excavation on a shoreland lot will generally require a shoreland permit.

QUESTION:  What is a waterfront site assessment?

ANSWER:  A waterfront site assessment is required by N.H.D.E.S. for the sale of a waterfront property. Its purpose is to inform the buyer of the limitations of the property in terms of how many bedrooms can be approved in a state approved septic design.

QUESTION:  I am selling my property on the lake. Why do I need a waterfront site assessment?

ANSWER:  A waterfront site assessment is required by law for the sale of any property within 200' of a lake, major river, or any developed waterfront.

QUESTION:  Why are wetlands important?

ANSWER:  Wetlands provide a rich biological diversity of plant and animal species. They provide flood control, ground water recharge and water filtration.

QUESTION:  Where is the best place to locate my well?

ANSWER:  The well should be placed on the lot in a location that allows room for a septic system. The septic system must be 75' minimum from the well.

QUESTION:  Can I use the lake as a water supply?

ANSWER:  Lake water is an acceptable water supply. It is now used less as drinking water due to pollution and the availability of bottled water.

QUESTION:  How do I protect the water quality of the lake?

ANSWER:  Every land owner can stop erosion and limit run-off of storm water runoff to the lake and streams. Stone drip edges under eves or rain gutter down spout dry wells can infiltrate water into the ground. Measures can be provided to infiltrate storm water into the soil and stop direct run-off from driveways, patios, etc.

QUESTION:  What are best management practices?

ANSWER:  Best management practices or BMP's are drainage and erosion control methods such as swales, detention ponds, rain gardens, silt fence, etc. to protect water quality.

QUESTION:  Do I need a driveway permit?

ANSWER:  A driveway permit is required for state maintained roads and also for most towns. Some towns require an engineer's design for grades over 15%.

QUESTION:  Can I excavate soil and gravel from my property?

ANSWER:  The N.H.D.E.S. requires a restoration plan and a permit through the town for material that leaves the site. Disturbance of land over 50,000 S.F. requires an EPA erosion control plan. Disturbance of land over 100,000 S.F. requires a N.H.D.E.S. Alteration of Terrain Permit.

QUESTION:  Can I have an apartment above my garage?

ANSWER:  Some towns do not allow apartments over garages in lake shore zones or other areas in their zoning ordinance. Check with your town hall.

QUESTION:  Can I build on a steep slope?

ANSWER:  Many towns now require a special permit for building on slopes over 15%. Some do not allow any building on land over 15%.

QUESTION:  Can I build a retaining wall over four feet tall?

ANSWER:  Some towns require a retaining wall over 4' high to be designed by a registered professional engineer.


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