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Understanding Septic System Assessment Requirements for Waterfront Property Sales in New Hampshire

If you're in the market to sell your developed waterfront property in the scenic state of New Hampshire, there's a critical environmental safeguard you need to be aware of before you can proceed with a sale. This involves conducting a Site Assessment Study for properties equipped with septic disposal systems, a requirement aimed at protecting the state's precious water resources. Here’s what you need to know, broken down into easily digestible nuggets of information.

What Triggers the Need for a Site Assessment Study?

Your property falls into the category needing this assessment if it qualifies as "developed waterfront property." This means any land that has a livable structure on it (be it for seasonal use or year-round occupancy) and is located within 200 feet of protected waterbodies under the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act. The act covers a wide range of waterbodies, including large lakes, significant streams, rivers, and tidal areas.  Here is a list of those waterbodies.

The Purpose Behind the Assessment

The goal is to ensure that septic systems on these properties meet current environmental standards, protecting water quality and public health. Given the close proximity to waterbodies, these systems need extra scrutiny to prevent contamination and preserve the natural beauty and safety of New Hampshire's waterways.

How to Comply with the Requirement

As a seller, you're responsible for arranging and covering the cost of this assessment, which must be performed by a permitted subsurface sewer or waste disposal system designer. The study provides a thorough evaluation of your septic system's condition and its compliance with current standards set by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES).

What Happens to the Study Results?

Contrary to what you might think, the completed Site Assessment Study isn't submitted to NHDES. Instead, it's transferred from you, the seller, to the buyer, becoming a part of the purchase and sales agreement. This process ensures transparency and gives the buyer full awareness of the property's environmental stewardship status.

Is a New Assessment Always Required for Subsequent Sales?

Not necessarily. If a property is being sold again and no changes have been made that would affect the original Site Assessment Study, you and the assessor can certify that no changes have occurred. This exemption helps streamline the process for sellers who maintain their properties in compliance with environmental standards.

A Shift in Timing

It's worth noting that the requirement for this assessment has evolved. While initially required before listing a waterfront property for sale, since 1993, the law mandates that the assessment be completed prior to executing a purchase and sale agreement, ensuring any issues are addressed before the sale progresses too far.

Need More Info?

If you're navigating this process and need further guidance, the NHDES Subsurface Systems Bureau is your go-to resource. They can provide detailed information, answer questions, and offer the support you need to ensure your property sale complies with New Hampshire's environmental protection standards.

Selling a developed waterfront property comes with its unique set of responsibilities, especially when it comes to environmental stewardship. By understanding and complying with the Site Assessment Study requirement, you're not just facilitating a smoother sale process; you're also playing a crucial role in preserving New Hampshire's natural treasures for future generations.

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