On-site Sewage Management Systems

What is an On-site Sewage Management System?

On-site Sewage Management System refers to all kinds of septic systems, including traditional septic tanks, pump-outs, composting toilets, aerated septic systems, and grey water diversion systems. All septic systems must be registered with council and be approved by the Department of Health NSW.

Approval to Operate

NSW Government regulations require every On-site Sewage Management System to be registered with council. This is necessary so that council can monitor and manage the overall impact of all of the septic systems in the drainage catchments.

When a new or replacement On-site Sewage Management System is installed, landowners must obtain an Approval to Operate from council. The approval process ensures systems operate in accordance with specific regulatory requirements. The Approval to Operate sets out the basic rules to keep the system working well. 

Council will inspect the On-site Sewage Management System to determine if the system is functioning properly. On-site Sewage Management Systems are then assessed according to the likelihood to cause environmental or public health issues. The risk categories are high, medium and low:

High Risk Areas
These are highly vulnerable and sensitive environments, such as villages, and areas close to drinking water sources, rivers and wetlands where the release of sewage pollution can cause a lot of harm. Annual inspections are required for safety and good practice if the system is classified as being in a high risk area.

Medium Risk Areas
These are vulnerable areas with a lower risk of water pollution because of factors like set backs, good soil and vegetation and lower housing density. Inspections are carried out every three years if the system is classified as being in a medium risk area.

Low Risk Areas
These are areas where septic systems are located on good soil well away from waterways, drainage lines, homes and sensitive environments. Inspections are carried out every five years if the system is classified as being in a low risk area.

An Approval to Operate an On-site Sewage Management System will expire depending on the risk assessment. An inspection is required before the Approval to Operate certificate can be renewed. Failing to obtain an Approval to Operate or operating an On-site Sewage Management System without current approval may result in council issuing a penalty infringement notice.

A one-time registration fee of $31.70 per system is applicable for each system. An inspection fee of $112.30 is applicable for all inspections.

Ongoing Inspections

Council is dedicated to ensuring on-site sewage management systems operating within the Shire do not pose a risk to public health or the environment. 

On-site sewage management systems which are not working properly pose a serious threat to public health and have environmental impacts, therefore regular council inspections are necessary to ensure continued compliance. The frequency of inspections is determined by the level of risk under which the on-site sewage management system has been assessed: High risk (annually), Medium risk (every three years), and Low risk (every five years.)

Council officers will give written notification to the owner prior to an inspection taking place. Under Section 193 of the Local Government Act 1993, council officers may lawfully enter a property for the purpose of inspecting an On-site Sewage Management System even if the property owner is not present.

Responsibilities

Both Uralla Shire Council and the landowner/septic system owner have responsibilities toward the proper maintenance and compliance of On-site Sewage Management Systems.

Council Responsibilities

  • Providing general services for the protection of the environment, public health and safety
  • Helping people keep their septic systems working well
  • Providing a scheme of systematic management for all of the septic systems in the Council area, including environmental monitoring and technical advice
  • Providing advice and contact information when people need professional services to design or maintain septic systems
  • Regulating the installation, operation and maintenance of septic systems, conducting audits and inspections
  • Keeping a register of systems in use in the council area
  • Providing community information and education programs

Septic System Owners Responsibilities

  • Ensuring the house drains and tank do not leak
  • Getting things fixed if they are not working properly
  • Keeping the system well maintained
  • Ensuring the system is checked regularly
  • Getting the tank pumped out when it becomes too full to process the flow going into it
  • Maintaining and protecting the absorption field
  • Complying with council’s requirements for installation, maintenance service and operation
  • Paying fees for inspections or maintenance.

Check the Health of your Septic

Self Check for a Septic System

  1. Identify your septic tank, pipe work and absorption area.
  2. Ensure that all pipes are connected to the septic tank.
  3. Ensure that no storm water can enter the septic tank or the absorption area.

If you notice:

  • Unpleasant Odours – Contact Plumber
  • Gurgling sounds in Plumbing – Contact Plumber
  • Sluggish Flow when Flushing Toilet – Contact Plumber
  • Soggy or waterlogged Absorption Area – Contact Plumber

Do

  • Check your system every 6 months. If any issues are identified, contact a plumber or a council officer.
  • Use biodegradable, eco-friendly liquid detergents which are low in sodium and phosphorus
  • Mow and maintain absorption areas for maximum soil transpiration

Do Not

  • Do not plant trees or shrubs on absorption area as roots can damage pipes
  • Do not allow vehicles to park or drive on absorption areas to prevent compaction
  • Do not use strong detergents, bleaches or disinfectants around the home that will be sent to the septic system

Self Check for an Aerated System

  1. Ensure that you have an industry licensed person contracted to inspect your tank and sprinkler system every 3 months.
  2. Ensure that your signs are adequate and are in good condition.
  3. Ensure that your sprinklers are working and that the area is not waterlogged.

If you notice:

  • Unpleasant odours – Contact Plumber
  • Gurgling sounds in plumbing – Contact Plumber
  • Sluggish flow when flushing toilet – Contact Plumber
  • Soggy or waterlogged absorption area – Contact Plumber
  • Sprinklers slow or not working – Contact Plumber

Do

  • Check your system every 6 months. Contact a plumber or council officer if any issues are identified.
  • Ensure that your contractor is licensed and is visiting your site every 3 months and submitting forms of the inspection to yourself and council.
  • Use biodegradable, eco-friendly liquid detergents which are low in sodium and phosphorus 

Do Not

  • Do not plant trees or shrubs on absorption area as roots can damage pipes
  • Do not allow vehicles to park or drive on absorption areas to prevent compaction
  • Do not use strong detergents, bleaches or disinfectants around the home that will be sent to the septic system.

Working together, we can have a good septic system that will not pollute any lands and will not cause issues for regulatory officers.

Questions?

If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact council's Technical Services Department on (02) 6778 6390 or send an email to council@uralla.nsw.gov.au.