On-Site Sewage Facilities (OSSF)
Since their introduction in the 1880s, septic tanks have become the most widely used method of on-site sewage disposal. According to the 1990 census, Texas contains just over 1.2 million septic systems. In 1989, Texas implemented statewide regulation for all OSSF (on-site sewage facility) systems. The proper design, construction, inspection, and operation of on-site sewage systems protects public health and the environment.
An On-Site Sewage Facility (OSSF) is a wastewater system that treats and disposes of sewage produced on the site location and has a daily usage of less than 5000 gallons. An OSSF is comprised of two components: the treatment and the disposal. These two components may be set up in a variety of different scenarios including, but not limited to, a septic tank with lateral lines for subsurface treatment, an aerobic treatment unit with surface spray application of treated and disinfected wastewater, or several other methods of waste water disposal. A properly functioning OSSF should drain the plumbing (your toilets flush correctly), have no pooling or ponding, have no odor, and should provide nearly 100% wastewater treatment.
So who is in charge of regulation? That would be the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Town of Bartonville. On-site sewage facility law in Texas is structured as such that local governments will enforce the laws and regulations with approval and oversight by the TCEQ. The current laws were adopted in 1997 and were revised in 2003. These are the laws and regulations we follow today; however, local jurisdictions may adopt more stringent rules if they are included in the local order, ordinance, or resolution and approved by the TCEQ. Bartonville's current OSSF regulations were adopted in 2006. To view click here
1. To provide education and awareness for homeowners and potential home buyers concerning On-Site Sewage Facilities and the maintenance and operations.
2. To describe and illustrate the different types of On-Site Sewage Facilities
3. To educate and inform concerning the laws governing On-Site Sewage Facilities; explain the various regulatory agencies involved
4. To provide information concerning maintenance practices, operational tips, OSSF related links, FAQs, and complaint response/resolution
5. To provide a list of approved, registered Maintenance Providers
What is a septic system?
An On-Site Sewage Facility, commonly called a septic system, is a method of waste disposal that uses natural processes to treat and dispose of the wastewater generated in your home. A septic system typically consists of a buried tank and a drainfield or soil absorption field. The septic tank is the first step in the wastewater treatment process. As wastewater flows into the tank, the heavier solid materials settle to the bottom forming sludge. The lighter solids, greases, and oils float to the top forming a layer of scum. The liquid wastewater (effluent) then flows out of the tank into gravel filled trenches or is pumped through spray heads onto the spray absorption field. The effluent is then treated in the soil through natural biological processes.
The septic tank provides some biological treatment of the sludge and scum layers that accumulate within. The majority of treatment occurs in the drainfield where the effluent enters the soil and is treated as it percolates through the soil to the groundwater. The soil acts as a biolgical and physical filter removing harmful substances, such as disease-causing bacteria and viruses, toxic organics, and other undesirable wastewater constituents contained within the effluent.
There are several types of On-Site Sewage Facilities. Click on the links below to see a brief description and diagram of each type of system.
Low-Pressure Dose Systems (LPD Systems)
Evapotranspiration (ET) Systems
Subsurface Drip Systems (SDS)
Leaching Chamber Septic System
Mound Septic System
Aerobic System with Spray Irrigation
Though a septic system is designed to handle waste disposal and conduct treatment of those wastes, the system must be properly maintained. Proper maintenance of a septic system includes maintenance contracts, regular inspections, pumping, and day-to-day management. The more you know about how your system operates and how it should be maintained, the better you will be able to protect your investment in your home and property, protect your family's health, and protect your environment.
Maintenance Contracts, Inspections, and Pumping
If your septic system is a secondary (aerobic) system, you will need an ongoing maintenance contract. This is a contract between you, as the homeowner, and a registered septic maintenance provider. Please go to the web site for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a comprehensive list of on-site sewage facility installers and aerobic treatment system maintenance providers. Systems are required to be inspected at least three times per year. Copies of maintenance contracts and inspections must be submitted to the local regulatory authority.
If your system is a conventional system, an ongoing maintenance contract is not required. However, the system does need to be inspected on a regular frequency to check sludge and scum levels.
If your inspection shows high levels of sludge and scum, the tanks will need to be pumped to ensure they continue to operate normally. Contact your maintenance provider for more details.
Maintenance Tips and Recommendations. See also "Do's and Dont's
- An OSSF should not be treated as if it were a normal city sewer system.
- Chemical additives are not necessary for the operation of a septic tank. Some may even be harmful to the system.
- It is not advisable to allow water softener back flush to enter into any portion of the OSSF.
- In-sink garbage grinders can cause a rapid buildup of sludge or scum resulting in a requirement for more frequent cleaning and possible system failure.
- Septic tanks shall be cleaned before sludge accumulates to a point where it approaches the bottom of the outlet device.
* A regular schedule of cleaning the tank at two to three year intervals should be established. Commercial cleaners are equipped to readily perform the cleaning operation. Owners of septic tank systems shall engage only persons registered with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to transport the septic tank cleaning.
- Use Soaps, detergents, bleaches, drain cleaners, and other household cleaning materials in moderation.
* The liquid from the OSSF is still heavily laden with bacteria. The surfacing of this liquid constitutes a hazard to the health of those that might come into contact with it.
- Use washing machine sparingly.
Even with proper maintenance, a septic system can fail. By recognizing the signs early, potential failures along with environmental hazards and financial woes can be minimized. Below are some key factors in recognizing system failure, what to do in the event of a failure, stormwater concerns, and water conservation measures.
Signs and Symptoms of Failure
-Water backing up into the house or yard: If there is more water entering the septic system than the system can handle water can/will back up into the easiest places, such as homes and yards.
-Foul odors: Foul odors can be an indicator of septic failure or malfunction. If foul odors are noted in the drain or application field, around the tanks, etc, contact your licensed maintenance provider immediately.
-Damp or wet areas: Pooling or ponding areas of water in the drain field, spongy, bright, green grass in the area of the drain field or spray heads could be a sign of a damaged or failed drain line or damaged spray heads. Many times this can be caused by driving or mowing over the area and damaging the lines or spray application heads.
-Alarm sounding: At the point of failure, alarm notifications will be triggered on the control panel. This is a definite sign that the system is in need of maintenance or repair.
Regular, routine maintenance and inspections, including regular pumping and cleaning, help to reduce the likelihood of system failure.
Water Conservation Tips
One key factor in preventing the failure of a septic system is not overloading the system with unnecessary water. Please click here to view water saving measures.
DO'S AND DON'TS
Rules and regulations? Why do we have to follow the rules and regulations? Septic regulations are put into place to protect you as the homeowner/occupant, your septic system, and the environment. Septic oversight and statutes were put in effect in 1989 and have been enhanced and improved since that time. While the Town of Bartonville follows the State laws concerning on-site wastewater, the Town has adopted its own ordinance for septic oversight. Though the Town can be more stringent and is more stringent on some items, most items are as found in state law. The Town adopted the local On-Site Sewage Facility ordinance to further enhance protection of the greater good of the public and the environment.
Change of Occupancy Permit Required
(1) Change of occupancy permit required. An approved change of occupancy permit shall be required prior to a change in occupancy for all residential and commercial properties having an existing on-site sewage facility.
(2) Issuance of change of occupancy permit. New occupants of an existing residential or commercial structure shall submit a change of occupancy permit application on forms provided by the town, along with proof that the existing OSSF tanks(s) located on the property have been pumped within the twenty-four (24) months preceding the date of the application. The fee, as provided for the fee schedule in appendix A of this code, for a change of occupancy permit shall be paid at the time of submittal for a permit. The town sanitarian (OSSF inspector) shall perform a visual surface inspection of the on-site sewage facility. Upon written confirmation from the town sanitarian that the OSSF is in compliance with the TCEQ rules adopted herein, a change of occupancy permit shall be issued.
(3) Maintenance contracts. All owners of any on-site sewage disposal systems using aerobic treatment that requires maintenance shall have a maintenance contract with a licensed maintenance contractor.
The following sections will explain the regulatory agencies and their roles, septic professionals, rules and regulations, and projects and permitting.
The State of Texas utilizes the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to oversee and administer the On-Site Sewage Facility Program. The rules can be found within the Texas Administrative Code and Texas Health and Safety Code. In addition to the rules governed by the State/TCEQ, the Town of Bartonville has adopted a local ordinance pertaining to on-site waste disposal. The Town's ordinance was reviewed and approved by the TCEQ. The Town follows along with the State regulations but has approved some portions that are more stringent than State law in order for greater protection of the public and environmental health.
Being a homeowner typically involves home improvement and beautification projects. When planning for these projects, it is important to consider all areas of the property, including the septic system and all of the associated components. The information below will provide information for planning through completion of numerous projects.
One key note to remember when building a house, remodeling a house, or purchasing a house that utilizes an On-Site Sewage Facility, is to retain records of your system. The licensed installer should provide you with all of the documents, including an "as-built" drawing, relating to the septic system, so that in the event of a problem or the desire for a home improvement project, the locations of all portions of the septic system are known. EHS also maintains a copy of the drawings and related permitting documents.