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Septic Tanks
Overview

The Environment Protection Act details the permit process that applies in Victoria for the installation/alteration and use of domestic and some commercial wastewater managament systems.

The Act uses the term 'septic tank system' for a range of system types which treat wastewater with a volume of less than 5000 litres flow per day and where a connection does not exist to a township reticulated sewerage system.

A two tier approvals process applies which provides for:
  • The Environment Protection Authority to approve system types for use in Victoria; and
  • The local municipal Council to approve individual installations.
The installation must be a type of system covered by an EPA Approval, compliant with conditions of the approval and be appropriate for the style of development and the intended site.

Full details of approval systems for use in Victoria together with conditions and limitations can be found on the EPA website: www.epa.vic.gov.au

Council also provides detailed guidance for the public which is based on our Domestic Wastewater Management Plan and the EPA Code of Practice for Septic Tanks. Significantly more detail including the role of the EPA, Council, Land Capability Assessors, Plumbers and Drainers, and the role of landowners and occupiers is contained within the EPA Code of Practice Publication no 891 dated July 2016.

System Design

In summary, the design and selection of an appropriate system needs to consider:
  • Wastewater volumes involved
  • Site constraints such as setbacks to waterways and soil types 
  • Land space availability and suitability
  • Intended use (such as holiday house), Owner preference and cost
A formal Land Capability Assessment (LCA) needs to be undertaken by an appropriately qualified person or business who can assess the above matters. The EPA Code referenced above also provides some guidance and detail regarding LCA's and their authors role. An LCA will often be required as part of any Planning Permit process.  As the site's capability decreases, a higher standard of treatment, increased setback distances and/or a greater level of owner involvement may be necessary. Potentially some allotments will be assessed as not suitable for development or only suitable for a small scale of development that produces less wastewater.

The Council requirements for LCA's should be reviewed to ensure the design details and plan will be complete and consistent with EPA standards.  Further guidance and direction regarding LCA requirements is contained under our Domestic Wastewater Management Plan page.

System Application

The last page of Council's Guideline includes a standardised application form for completion and lodgement together with:
- copy of the LCA
- plan of proposal
- prescribed fee ($520 for installation, $420 for significant alterations, $265 for minor alterations)

Please note that a Building Permit relating to a development to be serviced by a septic system (or a redevelopment such as an additional bedroom or ensuite proposal which increases the potential wastewater generated) cannot be processed until the septic system has been assessed and consented to.

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Operation and Maintenance

All septic systems require some maintenance to ensure their ongoing proper performance. Some systems such as sewerage treatment plants require 3 monthly servicing, the traditional septic tank generally needs desludging at 3 yearly intervals.

Further details regarding this matter are contained within the system specific Approval and Council's Permit to Use.

As a permit condition, systems installed in recent times are required to be assessed every 3 years to confirm their continuing suitability for use, with a copy of a report by an appropriately skilled person or service company provided to Council. Any deficiencies need to be addressed and in some cases this will require a permit to be issued by Council before the works are undertaken.

Domestic Wastewater Management Plan