Subsurface Sewage Disposal Systems

The subsurface sewage disposal system program regulates the installation and operation of septic systems within the district. The Connecticut Public Health Code mandates that all sewage be disposed of by subsurface sewage disposal systems, also known as septic systems, or by connection to public sewers. As part of that mandate,  the North Central District Health Department permits and oversees all installations of septic systems within the district. In order to ensure compliance, the district will issue a permit to discharge only after all inspections have been performed and the installation deemed to be in compliance with public health code regulations. If a septic system ceases to function properly and creates a public health nuisance, the permit to discharge is revoked and the district enforces the public health code requiring the repair or replacement of the malfunctioning system issuing a new permit to discharge after the repair or replacement is complete.

Homeowners/Prospective Homeowners

If your a homeowner or a prospective homebuyer and would like information on the maintenance of a septic system or need information on how to initiate a repair of a current system, please continue reading below. Also, be sure to check out the home buyer guide here:

As of January 1, 2000, a revision to the Public Health Code Technical Standards, began a requirment that all existing septic tanks exceeding a depth of 12 inches below grade, be retrofitted with a riser at the time of tank cleaning. Multiple risers would be necessary if the tank's configuration makes proper cleaning difficult from one access hole.

For Developers or Environmental Professionals (such as an environmental engineers or septic contractors), please click here to proceed to the Dveloper/Environmental Professional's page.


What is an On-Site Subsurface Sewage Disposal System (Septic System)?

A septic system is an assemblage of structures and materials that form a pathway for the removal domestic wastes from a building in such a manner as to protect public health and the environment. A typical septic system has four main components:

A pipe from the home. The pipe that leads from the building served to the septic tank simply removes the sewage to the septic tank.

A septic tank. The septic tank is where primary treatment of the effluent is conducted. Two very important processes occur at this stage. The first involves the separation of solids and greases from liquids, during this process the solids settled to the bottom of the tank and oils and greases rise to the top of the tank. The second process is the partial decomposition of solid materials resting in the tank.

The septic tank is separated into two compartments (see image on the right), the abovetwo processes happen in the first compartment and the second compartment then receives only liquids. it is these liquids that are in turn transferred to the leaching area for remediation in the soil. For visual examples of of septic tanks click here.

A Note on plastic tanks: While plastic tanks can be hand-carried to inaccessible locations and are preferrable in some situations, such tanks should not be used in areas of high ground water because they are light weight and tend to float, particularly when the liquid level is low during cleaning.

A drainfield (also known as leach fields, leaching pits, leaching beds, or leaching area). As the sewage effluent exits the septic tank, it is usually discharged into a distribution box that either evenly distributes the effluent into the entire leaching area or (in the case of a septic system on a hill) discharges the effluent to one trench at a time. On occasion the drain field may be so small that a distribution box is not necessary.

Drainfields vary in construction, shape, and size but all exhibit one characteristic that makes them drainfields, they are open systems which allow the effluent to seep into the soil. For visual examples of drainfields click here. As the effluent is absorbed by the soil, additional effluent is pushed into the drainfields by the new wastewater entering the tank.

The Soil. Secondary, and in the case of a septic systems, final treatment occurs in the soil. This is where the soil microbes digest or remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater.


Maintenance of an On-Site Sewage Disposal System

Maintaining an on-site sewage disposal system is important for several reason. The first and most important reason is the threat to public health. Wastewater coming from a home can carry pathogenic organisms that can transmit disease to humans and other animals. The wastewater can also contain organic matter that can cause odor and nuisance problems to the homeowner as well as neighbors.

Another reason for maintaining a on-site sewage disposal system is financial. The average cost of replacing a septic system within our district is anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000. This number varies by contractor and the extent of the replacement.

Failing septic systems are expensive to repair or replace, and poor maintenance is often the culprit. Having your septic system inspected regularly is a bargain when you consider the cost of replacing the entire system. Your system will need pumping depending on how many people live in the house and the size of the system. An unusable septic system or one in disrepair will lower your property value and could pose a legal liability.

Pump and inspect on a routine basis. You should have a typical septic system pumped and inspected at least every 2-3 years by a licensed septic contractor. Your contractor should inspect for leaks and look at the scum and sludge layers in your septic tank. In the State of Connecticut, outlet filters are now being installed in tanks. The contractor must remove and clean this outlet filter as part of the pumping and inspection.

Four major factors influence the frequency of pumping: the number of people in your household, the amount of wastewater generated (based on the number of people in the household and the amount of water used), the volume of solids in the wastewater (for example, using a garbage disposal increases the amount of solids), and septic tank size.

SEPTIC ADDITIVES: Some makers of septic tank additives claim that their products break down the sludge in septic tanks so the tanks never need to be pumped. In the State of Connecticut we recommend against using such additives. Septic tanks, as part of their routine operation, already contain microbes needed for effective treatment. Therefore, additional additives are unnecessary and may actually impede the operation of the system by transporting sewage particles from the septic tank to the drainfields. Once in the drainfields those particles will promote clogging of infiltrative surfaces. Periodic pumping is the best way to ensure that septic systems work properly and provide many years of life long service. Whether you use these additives or not, don't be mislead, every septic tank requires periodic pumping.


Avoiding Problems With An On-site Sewage Disposal System

The following are simple things you can do as a homeowner to avoid problems with your septic system or even an expensive septic system repair:

Water Softening & Subsurface Sewage Disposal Systems

Backwashing softener regenerant to a septic system is specifically prohibited by the CT Public Health Code Technical Standards for Subsurface Sewage Disposal systems. The homeowner is usually unaware of the prohibition however, and it often happens that such backwash discharges are plumbed to the septic system, potentially leading to the following problems:

Regulatory Issues

Backwashing of a softener to a septic system is specifically prohibited in the CT Public Health Code section 19-13-B103 and in the Technical Standards for Subsurface Sewage Disposal Systems. Discharging the backwash to a separate dedicated system is a viable option and is allowed under the authority of the CT DEP, pursuant to Section 22a-430 of the CT General Statutes.

Therefore, in order to protect the septic system and meet both DPH and DEP requirements, the North Central District Health Department requires that the discharge of these dedicated systems be directed to a seperate leaching area capable of receiving the amount of wastewater discharged by the softening system. The leaching area ussually consists of a 12-16 feet of plastic infiltrators installed in stone. The system must be greater than seventy five (75) feet away from the well and twenty five (25) feet away from any portion of the septic system. This seperating distance will avoid contamination of the drinking water supply and the overloading of the septic leaching system.

While the construction of these dedicated systems are not issued permits and are not regulated by this office the well and septic sytem are. So in an effort to meet DPH & DEP requirements but at the same time protect your septic system and well, we hgihly recommend that you contract with a licensed contractor to install the system for you or contact our office for instructions on doing so. In any event, our office must be notified to ensure proper setback requirements to the well and septic are met.


Repairing or Replacing Your Septic System

If you are having problems with your current septic system the first thing to do is contact a licensed septic professional in your area. Many problems such as clogged or crushed pipes, clogged outlet filters, etc. can be easily corrected with a simple repair that can be done by your licensed septic contractor. In any event a licensed septic contractor will evaluate your septic system properly and complete your repairs in accordance with the public health code.

If after your septic system evaluation, you find that the repairs needed will be extensive and costly, our office highly recommends that you consult with additional septic contractors. Acquire price quotes from at least 3 contractors and while our policy is to not recommend any one contractor over another we can certainly answer your general questions about contractors.

If you find that you'll have to repair of replace your septic system, the procedure for this is as follows:

All of the forms needed for a repair or replacement of a septic system can be found in the forms section of our website.