On-Site Septic System Permits
- Permits, Test Pits, and Site/Soil Evaluations
- Operation and Maintenance
- Septic System Loan Program - Craft 3
- Connect to Existing OSS
Wahkiakum County Health and Human Services issues septic installation permits for new construction and repairs. Septic installation permit applications must be accompanied by two copies of a septic system design prepared by a licensed on-site wastewater treatment system designer or professional engineer.
Additionally, we offer site and soil evaluations for determining the feasibility of installing a new septic system and for dividing land (short plats). On-Site Sewage Systems WAC 246-272 (PDF) is the current code for the regulation of septic systems.
For most projects, we recommend contacting a licensed installer and/or designer to get your project started. The county maintains a list of contractors and designers who have been asked to be placed on our list.
Test pits are required in order for the county and the designer to evaluate the soil to determine if a septic system can be installed in that area and what type of septic system must be installed. Test pits should be spaced approximately 60' apart and constructed in accordance with the Guidelines for Test Pit Construction for On-Site Sewage Systems (PDF).
For new construction projects, three test pits must be dug. Two in the primary drain field area (drain field to be installed) and one in the reserve drain field area (shown on paper for future replacement area). For repair/replacements, two test pits must be dug in the area intended to be used for the new drain field.
Site & Soil Evaluations
Wahkiakum County Health and Human Services performs site and soil evaluations for determining the feasibility of installing septic systems on bare land, and for land divisions.
Site and soil evaluation applications must include a site plan showing:
- Existing utilities and easements
- Location of the test pits
- Surface waters
Operations & Maintenance
A majority of residents in Wahkiakum County live in homes that are not served by a public sewer, but by a septic tank and drain field known as an On-site Septic System (OSS) because it treats sewage at the location that it is generated. Maintenance of there systems is important if they are to continue to work properly over a long period of time, and in order to protect our health and environment.
The On-site septic regulations (WAC 246-272A) states that septic system owners shall “assure a complete evaluation of the system components to determine functionality, maintenance needs, and compliance with regulations and any permits.” Those state regulations require that homeowners inspect and maintain their septic system regularly (meaning annually for those with pumps and every three years for gravity-fed systems) to ensure it is functioning properly.
Some Signs of Septic System Failure include:
- Smelly drain field
- Water and sewage from toilets, drains, and sinks backing up into the home
- Bathtubs, showers, and sinks draining very slowly
- Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system
- Standing water or damp spots near the septic tank or drain field
- Bad odors around the septic tank or drain field
- Bright green, spongy lush grass over the septic tank or drain field, even during dry weather
- Algal blooms in nearby ponds or lakes
- High levels of nitrates or coliform bacteria in well water.
Septic systems require routine maintenance like most components of your home. If maintained, the septic system should provide reliable service for many years. If the septic system isn’t maintained, owners run the risk of dangerous and costly failures. Most types of septic systems have a standard expected operational lifetime and eventually the soil around the drain field will be clogged with organic material, making the system unusable which is why you must also protect your “reserve area” for a possible future replacement system.
Maintain the Area Around Your System
- Avoid building structures on the drain field, including tool or garden sheds, decks, sport courts, patios, swing sets, sand boxes, or compost bins as they can prevent air from getting into the soil.
- Keep vehicles, heavy equipment, and livestock off your septic tank, drain field, and drain field replacement area. Pipes can get broken and compacted soil may no longer be able to absorb the liquid wastewater or effluent.
- Do not put concrete or plastic over your septic system, the soil needs to breathe to be most effective at treating effluent.
- Do not irrigate over the drain field area since that can saturate the soil and decrease the ability of the system to function properly.
- Keep water runoff away from your system. Regulations stipulate minimum separation distances between a septic system and any surface water, groundwater, and foundation drains to prevent flooding your drain field. Water from roof drains, driveways, patios, or sump pumps should be diverted away from the septic tank and drain field area.
- Do not use a rototiller over drain field components which could damage any parts close to the surface.
- Avoid burning piles of leaves or branches over the drain field, as the heat could damage the plastic pipes below.
- Limit the addition of topsoil or compost to no more than two to three inches over the drain field. A good rule of thumb for landscaping over drain fields is to use shallow-rooted plants that do not need additional topsoil to thrive.
- Landscape your system properly. Grass is the best cover. Avoid trees, shrubs, and water-loving plants with deep roots. Grasses, mixed wildflowers, and ground covers with shallow roots are good alternatives. Plant trees and shrubs at least 30 feet away from your septic tank and drain field to keep roots from getting into and breaking or clogging the drain field pipes. If large trees that cannot be removed are nearby you can try digging a ditch to cut off the source of any infiltrating roots.
Home Owner Septic Systems
Septic Systems (On-site sewage systems):
Basics of Septic Systems, 101 Video:
Caring for Your Septic System:
Do-It-Yourself Septic System Inspection Video:
Hiring a Septic System Professional:
Septic Tank Lid Safety:
Signs of Septic System Failure:
Operation and Maintenance Report Form
Please see the following form.
Septic system Loan Program - Craft 3
For more than 10 years, Craft3 has successfully financed the repair and replacement of failing septic systems for families in the Northwest with their Clean Water Loan program. This program offers non-traditional, low barrier loans unique to each situation and family they serve. To qualify for the clean water loan through the Craft3 program, one or more of the following must apply:
- Your septic system is at least 25 years old
- Your septic system is failing
- You’ve been contacted by local health officials
- You are under orders to fix your septic system
Please contact the environmental health department or follow the links below for more information on how this program might be able to help you. The website for Craft3 has informative homeowner testimonials and loan application details.
Department of Ecology - On-site Sewage System Projects
Department of Health- On-site Sewage Systems
Connect to Existing OSS
The reutilization code (RCWC 70.06.180) requires a permit for connecting to an existing septic system that has been unused or abandoned for maximum 6 years. The code also states that no on-site sewage system that has been abandoned or unused for more than 6 years may be reutilized.
To obtain a permit, it needs to be shown that your on-site septic system meets the definition of a “conforming system.” This means any on-site sewage system or component, meeting any of the following criteria:
- In full compliance with new construction requirements under WAC 246-272A; or
- Approved, installed, and operating in accordance with requirements of previous editions of WAC 246-272A (when the onsite septic system was originally permitted; or
- Permitted by the waiver process under WAC 246-272A-0420 that assures public health protection by higher treatment performance or other methods.
Please see the following application for everything required to obtain a “connect to existing” permit.