US EPA Encourages Homeowners to Maintain Septic Systems
Nearly one-fifth of American households depend on septic systems to treat their wastewater and failure to maintain a septic system can lead to backups, malfunctions and early failures that can result is costly repairs. The EPA's SepticSmart programs educates homeowners about the proper system care and maintenance all year long.
UPDATED Frequently Asked Questions on septic systems by United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)
About Septic Systems Caring for Septic Systems Maintaining Septic Systems Failing Septic Systems Inspecting Septic Systems Septic System Compliance Paying for Septic Systems Environmental/Public Health Impacts from Septic Systems
The following Quick Tip videos provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are designed to educate the homeowner on the importance of properly using and maintaining their septic system, such as how a septic system works, what not to put down the drain, the importance of getting your well water tested, and more. The videos are available on the U.S. EPA SepticSmart Week Quick Tip Videos page. Please direct any questions about the videos to U.S. EPA.
Think at the sink! Learn what not to put down your kitchen sink (such as fats, oils, or greases), how to properly dispose of food waste, and how to use cleaning supplies in moderation.
Don't strain your drain! Learn about the importance of using water efficiently, staggering water use of water based appliances, and using energy efficient appliances.
Keep it clean! Learn about the importance of testing your well water, and its relationship to your septic system.
Shield your field! Learn about your septic system’s drainfield, including how it works, and tips to take care of it.
Don't overload the commode! Learn about what can be flushed down the toilet, and what should be thrown in the trash.
New Installation, Alteration, Repair or Replacement of a Sewage Treatment System
Your local county or city health district is the first place to contact if you want to install a new sewage treatment system (STS), or alter, replace or abandon your existing sewage system. Local health districts will work with you to ensure a comprehensive review of your system, property and water use to determine the best solutions for proper wastewater treatment for your home, or to determine the correct repair of a malfunctioning system. Some local health districts offer the full range of services from site and soil evaluation to system design (depending on the system complexity required). A permit to install or alter a system must be obtained from the local health district before beginning any construction or repair activities on a system.
Steps for Constructing a New Sewage Treatment System
Contact your local health district for specific information on STS permitting or when beginning to plan for land development with a STS. Local health district staff will visit your site to begin the initial site evaluation process.
Obtain a site and soil evaluation. The natural soil is the most commonly used media for final treatment of sewage effluent from a home. A complete evaluation of the soil on the property is needed to determine how much usable soil (thickness) is present and where it is located. Other site conditions must also be determined such as slope, topography and the location of nearby water sources and drinking water supplies. Some local health districts provide site and soil evaluation services. These services are also available from many private companies and local health districts can provide a list of experts that provide these services.
Work with a sewage treatment system designer to evaluate the different system types available for your lot. Most lots can accommodate more than one system design. Homeowners should carefully evaluate all system costs including installation, long-term operation and maintenance requirements and service contract costs before making a final system decision. Please refer to the list of STS types on the page below.
Obtain quotes and bids from registered STS contractors. Local health districts can provide a list of locally registered STS contractors. Some local health districts require bonding of contractors. Always obtain a written contract and fully discuss all steps of the construction process and services the contractor will provide. Once a contractor is selected and work on your system begins, try to observe as much of the construction process as possible, and even document the installation with pictures.
The local health district will perform a final inspection of your system and approve or disapprove the installation. If installations problems occur, work with the system contractor and your local health district to resolve installation issues. Your local health district’s role is to ensure proper system installation that protects your investment in your STS and public health and prevents disease.
Proper operation and maintenance of your new STS is essential to ensure the system works, does not create odors or other nuisance conditions and prevents exposure to sewage effluent. Depending on the complexity of your system, a service contract may be required. Proper operation and maintenance of your system protects the investment you have made in your property and your system.
Steps for Altering or Repairing an Existing Sewage Treatment System
If you experience odors, surfacing in the yard, discharge of sewage or other nuisance conditions; contact your service provider (if you have one) and the local health district.
You may wish to restrict your water use, and space out heavy uses of water such as laundry, to ease the load on the sewage system until the problem can be resolved
If you have a service provider, they will likely contact you or come directly to your property to examine the system. They may need information about your water use, or different materials that may have been flushed or drained into your system. Depending on your service agreement, and the system problems, the service provider may be able to repair your system. Typically, a repair means replacing like parts or adjusting a system’s operation and does not require a permit from the local health district.
If the system cannot be repaired by a service provider or a sewage system contractor, and the system must be altered or replaced, then a permit will be required from the local health district. Your local health district will work with you and the sewage contractor to determine the best way to alter your system if possible to fix the nuisance conditions.
If an alteration to the system is not possible, then a complete replacement of the system will be required. If you have an existing sewage system that discharges off the property and is creating a nuisance condition, then you may need to replace your system with a system that complies with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency General Household National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit for discharging systems. If a replacement system can be installed on your lot that uses the soil for final treatment, please refer to the steps required for a new sewage treatment system installation.
Approved Sewage Treatment Products since 2007
Manufacturers provide system specific operations and maintenance manuals which outline the requirements for that specific system. This information can be found on the Approved Sewage Product page.
Types of STS Components, System Types and Maintenance of each system type.
This page is a basic overview of the STS (Sewage Treatment System) components, system types and system maintenance of each type of system.
Soils, Designs and Site Drainage
An accurate soil evaluation is critical information to determine sewage treatment system (STS) design options for a property. This page provides information on Soil Evaluator (Soil Scientist), STS Designers and Site Drainage Resources.
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Overview
A discharging sewage treatment systems treats and then discharges treated effluent to a stream, ditch or other surface water body. An National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) permit must be obtained from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Division of Surface Water whenever there is a discharge of treated or partially treated water to a surface water of the State. NPDES permits exist to regulate wastewater discharges. Information on the Overview of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES)
There are several programs that provide income based assistance for the repair and replacement of failing household sewage treatment systems.