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OSSF

Advice for an Owner of an On-Site Sewage Facility (Septic System)

Provides answers to commonly asked questions by homeowners regarding their system and tips to use in selecting an installer.

A person must hold a permit and an approved plan to construct, alter, repair, extend, or operate an on-site sewage disposal facility (or septic system).

I’m having an OSSF installed. What are some tips I can follow?

  • Have a site evaluation performed in the area where you want the disposal field built.
  • Based upon the results, select the type of treatment and disposal system. Factors to consider:
    • Initial capital cost.
    • Ongoing operation and maintenance cost—
      • maintenance contract requirements (if a maintenance contract is required, ask how much the continuous contract will cost after the first two years);
      • routine repairs; and
      • replacement of mechanical parts.
    • Expected life span of the system.
  • After you have selected your system, you must submit planning materials to your local permitting authority for the authority to authorize you to begin building.
  • Find an installer who seems to fit your requirements.
    • Interview the installer by phone and in person.
    • Ask lots of questions.
    • Obtain at least three estimates. If all are close, you have a good bid. If two are close, call the one that is not close and try to find out what the installer is missing or has added to the bid. If all three are far apart, you may want to obtain new estimates from different installers.
    • Check references.
    • Think twice before hiring the first installer you meet, or choosing the one with the cheapest estimate.
  • Work out all the details. Document every decision, selection, and location. Avoid designing as you go, which will probably result in permit violations that could cost you more money.
  • Do not pay large sums of money in advance. Texas Property Code 162.006 requires a construction trust account to be established for any amount over $5,000 when a contractor enters into a written contract with an owner.
  • Insist on good service, good manners, and sound business practices.
  • Trust your instincts and use common sense.
  • Have a third party available whom you can call on for information or a second opinion.

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How can I make sure my OSSF works properly?

Most important: Keep in mind that your OSSF is not a city sewer. But treat it right, feed it properly, and it will provide efficient service. While operating your OSSF, remember these dos and don’ts:

DO:

  • Have your tank pumped and cleaned by a TCEQ registered sludge hauler. Use this table to determine how often you should have your tank pumped and cleaned (figures in green represent average situations):

    Household size (number of people)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9+
    Tank Size (gallons) Duration (in years) Between Pumpings or Inspections
    750 9.1 4.2 2.6 1.8 1.3 1.0 0.7 0.6 0.4
    1,000 12.4 5.9 3.7 2.6 2.0 1.5 1.2 1.0 0.8
    1,250 15.6 7.5 4.8 3.4 2.6 2.0 1.7 1.4 1.2
    1,500 18.9 9.1 5.9 4.2 3.3 2.6 2.1 1.8 1.5
    1,750 22.1 10.7 6.9 5.0 3.9 3.1 2.6 2.2 1.9
    2,000 25.4 12.4 8.1 5.9 4.5 3.7 3.1 2.6 2.2
    2,250 28.6 14.0 9.1 6.7 5.2 4.2 3.5 3.0 2.6
    2,500 31.9 15.6 10.2 7.5 5.9 4.8 4.0 3.5 3.0
  • Obtain information on conserving water from your water supplier.
  • Check your toilet for leaks periodically. Add a water-based dye to the flush tank and see if the dye appears in your toilet within 10 minutes (without flushing the toilet).

DON’T:

  • Build over any part of your on-site sewage disposal system. Examples of items not to construct over your system: driveways, barns, storage buildings, sidewalks, and patios.
  • Add chemical additives or the so-called enzymes into your OSSF. Some of these additives may even be harmful to the tank’s operation.
  • Use the toilet to dispose of cleaning tissues, cigarette butts, or other trash. This disposal practice will waste water and burden the treatment system with an undesirable load of solids.
  • Drive or park vehicles over the OSSF.

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My OSSF is failing. What do I need to do?

First, determine what is causing the failure. Common causes are:

  1. Hydraulic overloading
    • To determine if your system is hydraulically overloaded, check your water usage records and compare the average gallons used per day with the amount specified in the system design.
      • If you are using more than what was designed, your system is hydraulically overloaded. You will need to reduce the amount of water being discharged into your OSSF.
      • If your water usage is less than the design, procedure to the next item.
  2. Misidentification of soil or site conditions
    • Before February 4, 1997, the most common way an OSSF was designed was based on percolation tests. Unfortunately, the percolation test did not address any limiting factors to a depth of two feet below the bottom of the drainfield or address the soil texture in the disposal area.
    • Subsurface water flow within the disposal field, subsurface restrictive horizons below the disposal field, or seasonally saturated soils will cause OSSF failure and requires corrective action by the property owner.
  3. Organic overloading
    • This most commonly occurs where food is prepared. A five-day biochemical oxygen-demand test would need to be run on the effluent (wastewater leaving the septic tank).
      • The rules assume the five-day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) of the effluent to be 140 mg/l.
      • If there is a large amount of food, grease, blood, or the like leaving the facility and entering the septic tank, the disposal field is most likely organically overloaded.
  4. Poor maintenance
    • A septic tank should be pumped every three to five years.
    • A system using secondary treatment or drip irrigation must be inspected by a valid maintenance company once every four months.
  5. Age
    • If your OSSF is more than 15 years old, the system may need to be replaced.

If an existing OSSF, regardless of the date of installation, is required to have a tank replaced or a drainfield repaired (or replaced), a permit is required by 30 TAC 285.3 Exit the TCEQ and Texas Health and Safety Code 366.004. When a permit is required, the entire system must meet the current requirements.

If the tank can be repaired without having to remove the tank, the work is considered emergency repair and a permit is not required. However, the work must be reported to the permitting authority within 72 hours after repairs have begun. For a disposal area, any work would require the system to meet the current standards.

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I am selling a home that has an OSSF already. What do I need to do?

Your mortgage company may require an evaluation of your OSSF before completing the sale. This type of evaluation is not required or regulated by the TCEQ. If you have a problem with the inspection, contact your mortgage company or the Texas Real Estate Commission.

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I am buying a home that has an OSSF already. What do I need to do?

  • Your mortgage company may require an evaluation of your OSSF before completing the sale. This type of evaluation is not required or regulated by the TCEQ. If you have a problem with the inspection, contact your mortgage company or the Texas Real Estate Commission.
  • Once you purchase the home, notify the local permitting authority that you are the new owner of the OSSF and ask about the proper startup procedures for the OSSF.

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Who can I call for more information?

The On-Site Sewage Facility Program Contacts.

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On-Site Activity Reporting System

Information for Regulators

On-Site Sewage Facilities (Septic Systems): Information for Regulators

Forms

On-site Sewage Facility Program Contacts

E-mail addresses and phone numbers of staff who can assist with technical information, licensing, complaints, and other issues regarding on-site sewage facilities (septic systems).

The On-Site Sewage Facility (OSSF) Program is located on the second floor of Building A of the TCEQ Complex, 12100 Park 35 Circle, Austin, Texas 78753. Office hours are from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.

For questions you may have regarding the OSSF program, please call (512)239-3799 and for questions regarding Licensing please call (512) 239-6133 or send an email to the following:
NOTE: Please include OSSF in the subject line.

Technical Information: .
install@tceq.texas.gov

Licenses:
licenses@tceq.texas.gov

Authorized Agent's Monthly On-Site Wastewater Activity Reports:
oars@tceq.texas.gov

Complaints:
install@tceq.texas.gov

Local Orders:
install@tceq.texas.gov

Permitting and local issues:
Search for local permitting authority

You may send facsimile transmissions to (512)239-6390 or mail to: TCEQ, OSSF Program, MC-178, PO Box 13087, Austin, TX 78711-3087.

Useful Links and Forms

On-Site Sewage Facilities (Septic Systems): Forms and Useful Links

How to Become a Texas On-Site Sewage Facility (Septic System) Authorized Agent

What an OSSF authorized agent is, how a local government agency can become one, and how authorized agents amend an existing approved order, ordinance, or resolution.

To become an authorized agent, a local governmental entity must have an order, ordinance, or resolution approved by the TCEQ.

How does a local governmental entity become an authorized agent?

To become an authorized agent, a local governmental entity must follow the requirements specified in 30 TAC §285.10 Exit the TCEQ. It is recommended the local governmental entity work with their designated representative when preparing or amending an order or ordinance. Below is a synopsis of the process:

  1. Request a description of the delegation process and a copy of the model order, ordinance, or resolution.
  2. Draft an order, ordinance, or resolution that meets the requirements of Title 30 Texas Administrative Code (30 TAC), Chapter 285 and Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 366, §366.032 using the model order, ordinance, or resolution format.
  3. If proposing more stringent standards than 30 TAC, Chapter 285, the draft order, ordinance, or resolution must be submitted to the TCEQ with a written justification demonstrating how each more stringent requirement will provide greater protection to the public health and safety for review, comment, and approval before publishing the notice for a public meeting.
  4. Publish notice of a public meeting at least 72 hours, but not more than 30 days. The notice must appear in a regularly published newspaper of general circulation in the area of jurisdiction.
  5. After the public meeting is held, submit a copy of the following items:
    • public notice as it appeared in the newspaper;
    • publisher's affidavit from the newspaper in which the public notice appeared;
    • certified copy of the minutes of the meeting when the order, ordinance, or resolution was adopted; and
    • certified copy of the order, ordinance, or resolution that was passed by the entity.
  6. Have TCEQ review the materials to ensure the entity has complied with the requirements of 30 TAC, Chapter 285 and the Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 366. After the review:
    • a commission order approving delegation will be prepared for signature by the executive director, or
    • a letter will be sent to the entity describing how the draft order, ordinance, or resolution does not comply with 30 TAC, Chapter 285 or Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 366.
  7. Make necessary changes to the draft order, ordinance, or resolution, if needed and repeat steps 4-6.

The entity's order, ordinance, or resolution will be effective on the date the commission order approving delegation is signed by the executive director.

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Is there a model order or ordinance available in a downloadable format?

Yes.

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What happens when a local governmental entity becomes an authorized agent?

The authorized agent is responsible for the proper implementation of Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 366, 30 TAC Chapter 285. The agent also administers the OSSF program according to the OSSF order, ordinance, or resolution approved by the executive director within the agent's area of jurisdiction.

The authorized agent must submit a monthly report ( PDF format or Word format) to the Texas On-site Wastewater Research Council to account for the total number of $10 fees that were collected during the month.

Not more than once a year, the authorized agent will be investigated by the TCEQ to determine the authorized agent's compliance with the Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 366 and 30 TAC Chapter 285.

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How does an approved order, ordinance, or resolution get amended?

An existing approved order, ordinance, or resolution may be amended at the request of the TCEQ:

  • To ensure the authorized agent's program is consistent with current commission rules; or
  • When the authorized agent feels they need to a address a local issue that will benefit the greater protection of the public health and safety.

The procedures to amend an existing TCEQ approved order, ordinance, or resolution are the same as submitting an initial order, ordinance, or resolution for approval.

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How do authorized agents relinquish their delegation?

When an authorized agent decides to relinquish delegation, the agent will need complete the following steps:

  1. Inform the executive director by certified mail at least 30 days before publishing a notice of intent to relinquish authority.
  2. Publish notice of a public meeting at least 72 hours, but not more than 30 days, before the public meeting is to be held. The notice must appear in a regularly published newspaper of general circulation in the area of jurisdiction.
  3. Hold a public meeting to discuss the intent to relinquish the delegated authority.
  4. Repeal the order, ordinance, or resolution.
  5. After the order, ordinance, or resolution is repealed, submit a copy of the following items:
    • public notice as it appeared in the newspaper;
    • publisher's affidavit from the newspaper in which the public notice was published; and
    • certified copy of the minutes of the meeting when the order, ordinance, or resolution was repealed.
  6. Meet with the executive director to determine the exact date the agent shall surrender delegated authority.

The authorized agent will retain all authority and responsibility for the delegated program until the date agreed upon by the authorized agent and the executive director.

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How does the TCEQ revoke an authorized agent's delegation?

An authorized agent's order, ordinance, or resolution may be revoked at any time by order of the commission for failure to implement, administer, or enforce Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 366 or 30 TAC, Chapter 285.

If the executive director determines that cause exists for revocation, the executive director will:

  1. File a petition with the commission according to Exit the TCEQ30 TAC Chapter 70 seeking revocation;
  2. Initiate the hearing process with the State Office of Administrative Hearings according to Exit the TCEQ30 TAC Chapter 80; and
  3. Hold a public hearing to discuss the commission's intent to revoke the delegated authority of the local governmental entity.

After the opportunity for a hearing, the commission may:

  • issue an order revoking the authorized agent's delegation;
  • issue an order requiring the authorized agent to take certain action or actions in order to retain delegation; or
  • take no action.

When an authorized agent's delegation is revoked, the executive director shall assume responsibility for the OSSF program in the former authorized agent's jurisdiction.

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Laws and rules that govern OSSF authorized agent delegation, relinquishment, and revocation.

Exit the TCEQSubchapter C of the Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 366 covers the designation of a local governmental entity as an authorized agent.

Exit the TCEQSubchapter B of Title 30, Texas Administrative Code Chapter 285 covers the procedures, in detail, for the designation, amendment, relinquishment, and revocation process for a local governmental entity.

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On-Site Sewage Facilities (Septic Systems): General Information

Includes details about licensing and pumping companies, how often OSSF rules change, subdivision development, and links to rules.

Should I pump my septic tank?

It is recommended that you pump your septic tank every three to five years to prevent short-circuiting of the treatment process. Access the online database to obtain a list of registered sludge transporters in your area.

How do I become a sludge hauler?

To become an authorized sludge hauler, please refer to our step by step guide.

How can I verify if someone is licensed as an installer?

Search the on-line database for installers in your area.

How can I verify if someone is registered as an apprentice?

Search the on-line database for registered apprentices.

Where can I view the statute that created the OSSF program?

Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 366 Exit the TCEQ.

Where can I view the OSSF rules?

Title 30, Texas Administrative Code Chapter 285 Exit the TCEQ.

Who else can I talk to?

The On-Site Sewage Facilities Contacts can help you.

Getting a Permit for an On-Site Sewage Facility - Such as a Septic System

Permitting for on-site sewage facilities producing 5,000 gallons per day or less of domestic sewage, including septic systems, pump-out stations, holding tanks, and hauling systems. Guidance on how to select the proper system and an installer.

A permit and an approved plan are required to construct, alter, repair, extend, or operate an on-site sewage disposal facility.

Is a permit always required?

With few exceptions as detailed below, a permit is required to construct, install, alter, extend, or repair an On-site Sewage Facility (OSSF). Always check with your local permitting authority. Local permitting programs can be more stringent than the state law.

Texas law does allow for an OSSF to be exempt from permitting if the OSSF:

  • serves a single family residence on a tract of land that is 10 acres or larger,
  • is not causing a nuisance or polluting groundwater,
  • all parts of the OSSF are at least 100 feet from the property line,
  • the effluent is disposed of on the property, and
  • the single family residence is the only dwelling located on the tract of land.

A permit is also not required for emergency repairs (replacing tank lids, inlet and outlet devices, and repair of solid lines), but they must be reported to the permitting authority within 72 hours after repairs have begun. Emergency repairs are defined in  Exit the TCEQ 30 TAC Subchapter D, 285.35

Even if a permit is not required, the OSSF must meet Exit the TCEQminimum state standards.

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I do not have a permit for my OSSF. Do I need one?

Maybe. If the OSSF is grand-fathered or exempt from permitting requirements, then you don't need a permit.

An OSSF is grand-fathered if it:

  • was installed:
    • before a local program had an authorized program, or
    • before September 1, 1989, whichever is earlier.
  • has a treatment and disposal facility, and
  • has had no significant increase in its use.

An OSSF is exempt from permitting if it:

  • serves a single family residence on a tract of land that is 10 acres or larger and is not required to have a permit from the local permitting authority,
  • the OSSF is not causing a nuisance or polluting groundwater,
  • all parts of the OSSF are at least 100 feet from the property line,
  • the effluent is disposed of on the property, and
  • the single family residence is the only dwelling located on the tract of land.

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How do I obtain a permit?

Find and contact the local permitting authority where the OSSF is located. Submit Exit the TCEQplanning materials with the application your authorized authority recommends. If there is no authorized authority for your area, submit the On-Site Sewage Facility Permit Application.

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How long does the permitting authority have to review my permit application?

The permitting authority must either approve or deny the planning materials you submitted with your permit application within 30 days after receipt.

If the application and planning materials are denied, the permitting authority must send you a written explanation. You may appeal this decision to the local governmental entity authorized by the TCEQ (e.g., Commissioner's Court, City Council, River Authority Board, Public Health District Board, etc).

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Which system should I select?

The OSSF you select will determine the detail of planning materials to submit with your permit application. Arrange for a preconstruction site evaluation by a licensed site evaluator or a Exit the TCEQlicensed professional engineer. The evaluation includes conducting a survey of the entire lot and a soil analysis in the proposed disposal area, and identifying other criteria necessary to determine suitability for a standard OSSF system.

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Where can I get a roster of professional engineers, sanitarians, or geo-scientists?

The links provided below will take you off the TCEQ Web server. These links are provided solely as a courtesy. Because the TCEQ has no control over the posting of material to these sites, the agency cannot take responsibility for their continued validity and maintenance.

Can I install my own OSSF?

Yes. However, there may be some systems that you, the property owner, can't buy because they must be installed by a factory representative.

If you compensate any person during any phase of the OSSF installation (e.g., hire someone to do backhoe work or trenching), the individual performing the work must be a licensed installer of the correct level, except:

  • A licensed electrician, or
  • A person who delivers a treatment or pump tank to a site

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What laws and rules govern permitting?

The links provided below will take you off the TCEQ Web server. These links are provided solely as a courtesy. Because the TCEQ has no control over the posting of material to these sites, the agency cannot take responsibility for their continued validity and maintenance.

Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 366, Subchapter D is the state law that governs the OSSF permitting program.

Title 30 Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Chapter 285, Subchapter A contains the rules for the OSSF permitting.

Title 30 Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Chapter 285, Subchapter D contains the rules for planning, construction, and installation of an OSSF.

Choosing a Septic System (On-Site Sewage Facility System)

Reference table to determine the type of septic system (OSSF) that is suitable for your property. Brief descriptions of treatment and disposal systems.

Some links provided below will take you off the TCEQ Web server. These links are provided solely as a courtesy. Because the TCEQ has no control over the posting of material to these sites, the agency cannot take responsibility for their continued validity and maintenance.

Before an on-site sewage facility (OSSF), or septic system, can be constructed, installed, altered, extended, or repaired, the site must first be evaluated by a licensed site evaluator or a licensed professional engineer. Use the table below to determine which systems are suitable (S=Suitable, U=Unsuitable) for a property based on the results of the site evaluation.

On-Site Sewage Facility (OSSF)9 Soil Texture or Fractured Rock10
(Most restrictive class along the media1 or 2 feet below excavation)
Minimum depth to groundwater Minimum depth to restrictive horizon1
Disposal Method
Treatment
Class Ia Class Ib, II,8 or III8 Class IV Fractured Rock Measured from bottom of media7 Measured from bottom of media7
Absorptive Drainfield2
Septic Tank
§285.33(b)(1)
U S U U 2 feet 2 feet
Absorptive Drainfield2
Secondary Treatment
S5 S U S5 2 feet 2 feet
Lined E-T2
Septic Tank
S S S S N/A N/A
Lined E-T2
Secondary Treatment
S S S S N/A N/A
Unlined E-T2
Septic Tank
U S S U 2 feet 2 feet
Unlined E-T2
Secondary Treatment
S5 S S S5 2 feet 2 feet
Pumped Effluent Drainfield3
Septic Tank
U S S U 2 feet 1 foot
Leaching Chamber2
Septic Tank
U S U U 2 feet 2 feet
Leaching Chamber2
Secondary Treatment
S5 S U S5 2 feet 2 feet
Gravel-less Pipe2
Septic Tank
U S U U 2 feet 2 feet
Gravel-less Pipe2
Secondary Treatment
S5 S U S5 2 feet 2 feet
Drip Irrigation
Septic Tank/Filter
U S S U 2 feet 1 foot
Drip Irrigation
Secondary Treatment/Filter
S5 S S S5 1 foot 6 inches
Low Pressure Dosing
Septic Tank
U S S U 2 feet 1 foot
Low Pressure Dosing
Secondary Treatment
S5 S S S5 2 feet 1 foot
Mound4
Septic Tank
S S S S 2 feet 1.5 feet
Mound4
Secondary Treatment
S S S S 2 feet 1.5 feet
Surface Application
Secondary Treatment
S6 S6 S6 S6 N/A N/A
Surface Application
Non-standard Treatment
S S S S N/A N/A
Soil Substitution2
Septic Tank
S S U S 2 feet 2 feet
Soil Substitution2
Secondary Treatment
S S U S 2 feet 2 feet

1 An absorptive drainfield may be used, if a rock horizon is at least 6 inches above the bottom of the excavation, see §285.33(b)(1).

2If the slope in the drainfield area is greater than 30% or is complex, the area is unsuitable for the disposal method.

3Can only be installed in an area where the slope is less than or equal to 2.0%.

4Can only be installed in an area where the slope is less than 10%.

5Requires disinfection before disposal. A form of pressure distribution shall be used for effluent disposal into fractured or fissured rock.

6Requires vegetation cover and disinfection.

7When no porous media exists, measure from the bottom of the excavation or pipe, whichever is less.

8May require gravel analysis for further suitability analysis—see §285.30(b)(1)(B).

9If OSSF is located within a Flood Hazard, see §285.31(c)(2) for special planning requirements.

10Includes fissured rock.

All OSSFs require surface drainage controls if slope is less than 2%.

Treatment and Disposal System Descriptions

Treatment Systems

Primary treatment

Secondary treatment

  • Proprietary treatment units (aerobic tanks)
  • Standard intermittent sand filters

Non-standard treatment

Primary treatment:

  • Septic tanks:
    • can be used as a primary treatment method for an OSSF
    • are to be constructed in accordance with §285.32(b)(1).

Return to system selection table.

Secondary treatment options

  • Secondary treatment:
  • must be designed by a professional engineer or professional sanitarian.
  • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.

For more information regarding the testing and approval of a secondary treatment unit, see §285.32(c).

Return to system selection table.

Non-standard treatment options

  • Non-standard treatment:
    • is usually all forms of:
      • activated sludge processes,
      • rotating biological contractors,
      • trickling type filters,
      • submerged rock biological filters,
      • recirculating sand filters, or
      • sand filters not described in §285.32(b)(2).
  • must be designed by a professional engineer when secondary treatment is required. Professional sanitarian can design when secondary treatment is not required.
  • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.

For more information regarding nonstandard treatment processes, see §285.32(d).

Return to system selection table.

Disposal Processes

Standard disposal processes

  • Absorptive Drainfieldsare:
    • constructed with perforated pipe and gravel.
    • installed by an Installer Class I or Installer Class II.
    • sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(b)(1).
  • Unlined Evapotranspiration (E-T) systems:
    • are constructed with either pipe and gravel, leaching chambers, or gravel-less pipe in either a trench or bed configuration and backfilled with sand.
    • can be installed by an Installer Class I or Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(b)(2).
  • Lined Evapotranspiration (E-T) systems:
    • are constructed similar to an unlined E-T bed with the exception of an impervious liner being placed between the excavated surface and the constructed disposal system.
    • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(b)(2).
  • Pumped Effluent Drainfields (PEDs):
    • dispose of effluent by use of a pump into small diameter perforated pipe in gravel.
    • can be installed by an Installer Class I or Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(b)(3).

Return to system selection table.

Proprietary disposal system options

  • Leaching Chambers:
    • are installed similar to an absorptive drainfield, however, the effluent is deposited into bottomless chambers that are linked together with solid walled pipe and are allowed a reduction in the absorptive drainfield sizing formula.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(c)(2).
    • can be used in the following systems as a substitute for pipe and gravel without any reduction in drainfield sizing:
      • E-T systems
      • Low-pressure dosed drainfields, or
      • Soil substitution drainfields.
  • Gravel-less Pipe:
    • are installed similar to an absorptive drainfield, except the effluent in deposited into corrugated pipe with either an eight-inch or ten-inch diameter that is wrapped with geo-textile fabric.
    • may also be used in E-T systems as a substitute for pipe and gravel.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(c)(1).
  • Drip Irrigation:
    • consists of small diameter pressurized lines containing pressure reducing emitters spaced at a maximum of 30 inches.
    • requires a design to be performed by either a professional engineer or professional sanitarian.
    • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(c)(3).

Return to system selection table.

Non-standard disposal options

  • Low-pressure dosed drainfields (LPDs):
    • dispose of effluent that is pumped, under low pressure, into a solid wall force main and then into perforated distribution pipe in gravel.
    • require a professional design by a professional engineer or professional sanitarian.
    • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(d)(1).
  • Surface application disposal:
    • is a method that disposes of secondary treated effluent onto the surface of the ground after Maintenance of On-Site Sewage Facilities(Septic Systems).
    • cannot apply effluent to unseeded bare ground or areas used for growing food, gardens, orchards or crops which may be used for human consumption.
    • must be designed by a professional engineer or professional sanitarian.
    • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.
    • is sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(d)(2).
  • Mounds:
    • are pressurized absorptive drainfields constructed above the native soil surface.
    • must be designed by a professional engineer or professional sanitarian.
    • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(d)(3).
  • Soil substitution drainfields:
    • are constructed similar to an absorptive drainfield with the exception that a 24 inch thick Class Ib and II soil buffer is placed below and all sides of the drainfield excavation to an elevation equal to the top of the porous media.
    • must be designed by a professional engineer or professional sanitarian.
    • can be installed by an Installer Class I or Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(d)(4).

Return to system selection table.

Filing a Complaint Related to an On-Site Sewage Facility

How to file a complaint related to an on-site sewage facility (septic system), how the complaint will be resolved, and what you can expect from the process.

How do I file a complaint against an installer or maintenance provider?

Complaints against installers or maintenance providers, whether they hold a license or not, must be filed with the local permitting authority. If the local authority does not resolve the complaint in a timely fashion, notify the permitting authority's supervising authority (county judge, county commissioner, mayor, aldermen, boards, etc.). If the complaint is still not resolved within a reasonable time, contact the appropriate TCEQ regional office.

If your complaint against the installer or designated representative involves theft, fraud, deceit or any other criminal activity, you will need to seek violations of the Exit the TCEQTexas Penal Code and obtain a court conviction. You may also need to pursue a civil suit (after the criminal suit) against the installer in order to seek recovery of any lost funds. We recommend that you forward copies of any criminal conviction or civil suit to TCEQ for additional evaluation. Contact the OSSF program at 512/239-2150 for details.

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How do I file a complaint against a designated representative?

Complaints against designated representatives need to be filed with the local permitting authority's supervising authority (county judge, county commissioner, mayor, aldermen, boards, water program manager, etc.). If the complaint is still not resolved within a reasonable time, contact the appropriate TCEQ regional office.

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How do I file a complaint against a local permitting authority?

Complaints against authorized agents may be filed with the TCEQ regional office nearest you, or with the OSSF program in Austin at 512/239-3799.

If your complaint is against the TCEQ regional office, contact the TCEQ regional office director, or the OSSF Program Liaison in the Field Support Team, OSSF program, at 512/239-3799.

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How do I file a complaint against a property owner who is operating a malfunctioning OSSF?

Complaints regarding malfunctioning OSSFs need to be filed with the local permitting authority. If the local permitting authority is not resolving the complaint in a timely fashion, notify the permitting authority's supervising authority (county judge, county commissioner, mayor, aldermen, boards, water program manager, etc.). If the complaint is still not resolved within a reasonable time, contact the appropriate TCEQ regional office.

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How will the complaint be resolved?

The local permitting authority must investigate the complaint to ensure it is valid.

When a complaint is found to be valid (based upon documented evidence), the investigator may:

  • attempt to get the situation resolved by allowing the individual time to correct the alleged violation.
  • file in a local Justice of the Peace Court, municipal court, or a higher court as deemed appropriate.

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What laws and rules govern OSSF complaints?

The links provided below will take you off the TCEQ Web server. These links are provided solely as a courtesy. Because the TCEQ has no control over the posting of material to these sites, the agency cannot take responsibility for their continued validity and maintenance.

Who can I call for more information?

The On-Site Sewage Facility Program Contacts can provide additional information.

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Maintenance of On-Site Sewage Facilities (Septic Systems)

Overview of proper On-Site Sewage Facility (OSSF) maintenance, including when maintenance is required and what type of chlorine to use. How to become an OSSF maintenance company.

Two years after the initial installation of your aerobic treatment unit, maintenance can be performed by homeowners for systems that use secondary treatment systems, non-standard treatment systems, drip irrigation, and surface application disposal.

Note: Some permitting authorities have adopted more stringent requirements, which may require homeowner training or even a prohibition against homeowner maintenance. To check if your permitting authority has adopted more stringent requirements go to On Site Activity Reporting System.

Who can I contract with to do maintenance on my OSSF?

The contract must be with a "licensed" maintenance provider. A maintenance provider is an individual person. At one time, TCEQ registered OSSF maintenance companies, but TCEQ no longer registers OSSF maintenance companies.

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What does the licensed maintenance provider do?

The maintenance provider is responsible for fulfilling the requirements of the maintenance contract.

At a minimum, the maintenance company or maintenance provider shall:

  • Install a tag, or some other form of identification, on the system at the beginning of each maintenance contract;
    • The indentification shall either be punched or marked at the time of each visit, including responses to owner complaints, to provide the owner with a record of the visit.
  • Inspect components of the system and note whether or not every component is working during each site visit;
    • If a component is not operating properly, the property owner must have it repaired.
  • Test the system as required in Exit the TCEQ30 TAC §285.91(4);
  • Submit a report to the permitting authority and owner at least once every four months [see Exit the TCEQ30 TAC §285.90(3)for a sample report];
    • The reporting frequency may be reduced to once every six months if the system uses an electronic monitor, automatic radio or telephone to notify the maintenance provider of your system or component failure and to monitor the amount of disinfection in the system;
    • The maintenance provider is responsible for ensuring that the electronic monitoring and automatic radio or telephone access systems are working properly.
    • Your report must include all responses to property owner complaints and electronic monitoring notices;
    • Your report must be submitted within 14 days after the test is performed.

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What should the contract specify?

The maintenance contract shall specify the following:

  • List items that are covered by the contract;
  • Specify a time frame in which the maintenance provider will visit the property in response to a complaint by the property owner regarding the operation of the system;
  • Specify the name of the individual employed by the maintenance company who will be performing the maintenance on your system;
  • Identify the frequency of routine maintenance and the frequency of the required testing and reporting; and
  • Identify who is responsible for maintaining the disinfection unit.

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How do I become a licensed maintenance provider?

A licensed maintenance provider is defined as a person who is in the business of maintaining OSSFs using aerobic treatment. In order to obtain the license, a person must:

  • Hold a current Installer Class II (OSII), OR license,
  • Hold a Class C or higher Wastewater Operator license OR.
  • Have sucessfully completed three years as a registered maintenance provider(or maintenance technician).

The individual must also:

  • successfully complete the TCEQ-approved Basic Maintenance Provider course;
  • successfully complete a TCEQ-approved Advanced Aerobic System course;
  • pass the licensing exam; AND
  • submit a completed application for a licensed maintenance provider and a $111 application fee Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

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How do I become a registered maintenance technician?

  • Every individual performing maintenance under a licensed maintenance provider must be a registered maintenance technician, AND
  • successfully complete the TCEQ-approved Basic Maintenance Provider course; AND
  • work directly under the supervision of a licensed maintenance provider; AND
  • submit a completed Application for Registration as an On-Site Sewage Facility(OSSF) Maintenance Technician and a $111 application fee to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. An application can only be obtained at the Maintenance Provider Training Course.

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What laws and rules govern OSSF maintenance?

The statute regarding this requirement is Exit the TCEQTexas Health and Safety Code Section 366.0515.

The rule regarding the specifics of OSSF maintenance is Exit the TCEQ30 TAC §285.7.

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What type of chlorine should I use for wastewater disinfection?

When disinfection of secondarily treated wastewater effluent is required and you are using chlorine tablets, it is important that you use a chlorine tablet that is made from calcium hypochlorite and is certified for wastewater disinfection by EPA. They are very reactive and will kill 99% of the bacteria present in the effluent within 10 minutes. Follow all warning and precaution statements of the chlorine tablet manufacturer to protect yourself and the system equipment.

WARNING: DO NOT use swimming pool chlorine tablets in your disinfection system. The chlorine in these tablets are made from trichlorisocyanuric acid. Swimming pool tablets dissolve more slowly than calcium hypochlorite and do not thoroughly disinfect the effluent. Additionally, there is a danger of explosion using swimming pool tablets since the tablets will release an explosive gas called nitrogen chloride due to the fact that they are not totally immersed in water at all times while in use. They are not approved by EPA for wastewater effluent disinfection.

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Should I pump my septic tank?

For conventional systems, it is recommended that you pump your septic tank every three to five years to prevent short circuiting of the treatment process. Access the online database to obtain a list of registered sludge transporters in your area.For aerobic treatment units, it depends on the depth of sludge and manufacturer's recommendations.

A maintenance provider is an individual person.  At one time, TCEQ registered OSSF maintenance companies, but TCEQ no longer registers OSSF maintenance companies

On-Site Sewage Facilities (Septic Systems): Find an Authorized Agent

Find a list of local government authorities who can issue permits, investigate complaints, and enforce the TCEQ's rules about on-site sewage facilities.

Texas On-Site Wastewater Treatment Research Council (TOWTRC) Projects and Reviews

On Sept. 1, 2011, House Bill 2694 abolished the Texas On-Site Wastewater Treatment Research Council (TOWTRC). Included below are selected TOWTRC Research Projects and associated reviews by TCEQ staff.

 

TOWTRC Research Project TCEQ Review

Hydrological Attributes and Treatment Capabilities of “Caliche and Related Soils” Pertinent to On-Site Sewage Facilties

by Larry P. Wilding, Ph.D., CPAg, CPSS

Review

Design and Operation of Land Application from a Water, Nitrogen and Salt Balance Approach

by Clifford B. Fedler, Runbin Duan, John Borrelli and Cary Green

 

Review

Evaluation of Drainfield Absorption and Evapotranspiration Capacity

by Ken Rainwater, Ph.D., P.E., DEE and Andrew Jackson, Ph.D., P.E.


Review

Review of Systems for Restaurant Wastewater Pretreatment

by Ken Rainwater, Ph.D., P.E., DEE

Review

Improving Ammonia and Phosphorus removal in Subsurface Flow Wetlands

by Margaret G. Forbes, Joe C. Yelderman, Jr., Tina Potterton, Adam Clapp and Robert D. Doyle

Review

Efficacy of Bacterial Reduction by Onsite Wastewater Treatments

by Stacy L.M. Pfluger, Rene Massengale and Joe C. Yelderman, Jr.

Review

Manual for Designing Surface Application of OSSF Wastewater Effluent

by Clifford B. Fedler, John Borrelli and Runbin Duan

Review

Effectiveness and Utility of Surface Application and Soil Percolation for Removal of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products

by Clifford B. Fedler, Bahar Hosseini Amoli, Brian W. Brooks, Todd Anderson, Bowen Du, Qingsong Cai, and C, Kevin Chambliss

Review

Refining the Application Rates of Onsite Surface Application

by Clifford B. Fedler, Jordon Littlejohn, Runbin Duan, and Li Feng

Review

Review of Potential Onsite Wastewater Disinfection Technologies

by Clifford B. Fedler, Richard Francis, Dhiraj Parekh, and Samir Blanchet

Review

Changes in On-site Wastewater Treatment and Evaluation: Influent Equalization

by Joe C. Yelderman, Jr.

Review

For information on additional TOWTRC funded projects, please review the following document:

On-Site Sewage Facilities (Septic Systems)

Permitting, maintenance, and construction requirements for on-site sewage facilities (septic systems). Information for local governments wanting to become authorized agents of the TCEQ and run the program. Information about how to make a complaint related to these facilities.

Find TCEQ-Approved Products for On-Site Sewage Facilities

Find an on-site sewage facility (septic system) product that the TCEQ has tested and approved for use in Texas.