A guide to on-site sewage management
On-site sewage management systems (which include septic tank systems, aerated waste treatment systems, composting systems, greywater irrigation systems etc.) are required in all areas where sewer is not available.
These systems treat wastewater generated from a home or business. The end product, effluent, is then gravity-fed or pumped to a land application area (effluent disposal area) which could be surface or subsurface absorption, irrigation systems or in some cases a system whereby a holding well is utilised and later collected by a tanker.
In NSW there is legislation and guidelines that stipulate that an on-site sewage management systems must be designed, operated and maintained in a manner that prevents risks to public health, prevents environmental damage (particularly to land, soil, groundwater and surface waters) and protects community amenity (e.g. nuisances such as bad odours).
It is also important that a system is designed, installed and operated so that it works well into the future.
Prior to carrying out any work in relation to the installation or alteration of an on-site sewage management system you need to submit application for approval. Please complete an Application to Install/Construct or Alter/Upgrade a Sewage Management Facility.
The information required by Council to evaluate such an application has a number of technical components, usually related to topography, soil type, hydraulic loading, chemical and nutrient absorption and processing and microbial control. This normally requires a report by a qualified consultant to address these components and ensure that a correctly working and sustainable system will be installed. Council has developed a strategy to guide the design, installation and maintenance of on-site sewage and wastewater systems. This is complemented by an Excel spreadsheet (On-site Wastewater Model) for calculating the size of disposal areas. See below for a copy of the spreadsheet model and other useful links.
Everyone must have an approval to operate
Everyone must have an approval to operate an on-site sewage management system. Most new systems would be given approval to operate upon installation but all existing systems also need this approval.
All new homeowners will require a new approval to operate as this expires upon the sale of a house or property. Council will contact new owners in regard to this.
Different types of on-site sewage management systems
There are several on-site sewage management systems including waterless composting toilets, aerated wastewater treatment systems, septic tank and absorportion trench systems and reed beds. See below our education brochures to help you make the right choice for your property or household.
Council offers a pre-purchase inspection service prior to the sale and settlement or transfer of ownership of a property. As a potential buyer you will receive a report on the state of the on-site system. A pre-purchase inspection is strongly recommended if you intend to purchase a property with an existing on-site system.
On-site sewage management systems inspections
Council has an inspection program for monitoring all on-site sewage management systems to ensure they meet standards protecting public health, the environment and community living.
Council has two inspectors who undertake inspections of existing systems throughout the year. Inspections are done on a street by street basis and owners are usually notified in writing prior to the start of inspections in their area.
Inspections are also done when Council becomes aware that a system may be malfunctioning or possibly causing public health or environmental problems. Following these inspections improvement notices or other orders may be issued for immediate rectification works or other action to be undertaken in relation to the problem.
Council's Compliance Officers can provide advice and information on the upgrade of existing on-site systems and advice and information on new systems.
For more information phone 1300 87 83 87.
More information about on-site sewage management can be found via the Division of Local Government.