What is an on-site sewage management system?

    On-site sewage management systems (which include septic tank systems, aerated wastewater treatment systems, composting systems, greywater irrigation systems, etc.) are required in all areas where sewer is not available.

    These systems treat waste water generated from a home or business. The end product, which is referred to as effluent, is then gravity-fed or pumped to a land application area (effluent disposal area) which could be surface or subsurface absorption or irrigation systems or in some cases a system whereby a holding well is utilised and later collected by tanker.

    What is the difference between greywater and blackwater?

    Blackwater is wastewater generated from a toilet, bidette or bidet which is heavily and directly contaminated with human faeces and/or urine and may contain contaminated solid material, such as toilet paper. Blackwater is highly infectious. All blackwater must be treated prior to disposal.

    Greywater is household wastewater from baths, basins, showers, laundries and kitchens. Kitchen wastewater is not recommended for reuse because it contains large amounts of grease, fat, food waste and detergent. Greywater will become contaminated within 24 hours and can be very infectious. Greywater must not be handled and must be properly treated before reuse.

    Sewage is a combination of both blackwater and greywater, and again is very infectious. Special rules apply to sewage treatment and disposal.

    What is an approval to operate an on-site sewage management system?

    Operating a system of sewage management is a prescribed activity under the NSW Local Government Act 1993 and Regulation. This means that an approval to operate a system of sewage management must be obtained from Council.

    Unlike council consent for the development of land, council approval to operate a system of sewage management is personal and does not run with the land. Approval to operate a system of sewage management is primarily an accountability mechanism between the individual landowner and the council. It is an "operating approval" setting performance objectives and accountability requirements for the management of an ongoing activity.

    Approval to operate a system of sewage management requires the landowner to take all reasonable steps to minimise transmission of disease, pollution of water and degradation of land as a result of sewage management activity and requires that the landowner inform the council about those activities and pay fees to contribute to the council's costs of managing the cumulative impact of sewage pollution.

    Who has to apply for approval to operate?

    All landowners with any type of on-site sewage system on their property need to seek approval from Council to operate their system.

    A property owner must lodge an application for approval to operate within 60 days of ownership. The application is available from Council website and an application fee is payable at the time of lodgement.

    Once you have applied, Council will contact you to arrange an inspection of your system.

    Are there on going fees and charges or additional inspection fees relating to an approval to operate?

    Yes. Council levies an annual service fee for properties with an on-site sewage system. The fee is used to fund the monitoring and inspection program.

    I am considering purchasing a property with an on-site sewage system, does council do prepurchase reports for on-site sewage?

    Yes. A pre-purchase inspection is recommended and should be a condition of sale. You can apply to council for a Pre-purchase on-site sewage system report.

    The application form is available from the councils website and an application fee is payable at the time of lodgement. The report is generally completed within ten working days from the date of the application. For urgent applications, we can process the report within two working days, but there is an additional urgent processing fee.

    Why do some on-site sewage treatment systems have to be serviced by an authorised service agent and also be inspected by council?

    Some systems such as aerated treatment systems and some biological filters require specialised servicing to work properly. NSW law requires that those systems must receive regular maintenance.

    The service requirements are set out in the certificate of accreditation issued by the NSW Ministry of Health. Authorised Service agents who are properly qualified and suitably experienced, attend to the mechanical functions of the treatment and disposal system and ensure components are properly maintained and serviced.

    Without proper servicing most system components breakdown resulting in system failure and expensive rectification work. Council inspections are done to ensure compliance with laws and regulations.

    Demolishing an old septic tank

    If you are replacing an old septic system, and need to demolish the tank, you will need to advise council and follow the procedures set out under NSW Ministry of Health Advisory Note 3.