On-Site Wastewater Septic Program

Application Process
The permitting process is specific to the type of construction being applied for: new, expansion, reuse or repair. Please feel free to call the environmental health office for questions.  828-649-9598

New Construction

For any new construction of a septic system, it is very important that all the steps are thought out and completed before submitting an application. This will greatly help to expedite the process.

Expansion of an Existing System

When improving a facility such as adding a bedroom to a house or increasing the number of employees in a business the limiting factor in many cases is the septic system’s design capacity. For instance, if the original septic system was designed to accommodate a three bedroom house and the owners wish to add on a fourth bedroom then an expansion of the existing septic system is required.
The application process for an expansion is much the same as the process for new construction. However, an expansion also requires locating the existing septic tank, drain field and repair areas. The original permits issued by this department will facilitate finding each of these as well as possibly describing the soil conditions on the property. To find a permit our department needs the name that it was installed under. This office recommends that when planning an expansion of any facility, a copy of the Operation Permit is obtained so that the septic system may be taken into account during the planning stage.
As with new construction the site plan and preparation must be completed before submitting an application. But in some cases in order to avoid disturbing the existing septic system, it may be necessary for this department to visit the site prior to having any hole dug on the property.

Reuse of Existing Systems

The reuse of an existing system such as replacing a mobile home with a new mobile home.

  1. The original permit should be found through our department. To do this the applicant must find the name that the septic system was installed under.
  2. The applicant must determine the size and location of the new structure that they wish to connected to the existing septic system. The proposed structure must be staked on the property.
  3. The septic tank and distribution box must be located, dug up, and pumped out. Dig to the top of the tank and pry both lids open, then uncover the distribution box completely and be sure that the lid can be taken off.  This will allow for our department to inspect the condition of the tank and allow for any upgrades that may be needed. It is preferable to schedule the inspection of the septic tank and drain field as soon after the tank is pumped out as possible. This is to keep from having to pump out the tank multiple times.

Repairing a Failing System

A failing septic system is typically not something that most people wish to live with for very long. It may begin as slow drains from the toilet, shower or sink located in the area of the residence closest to the septic tank. This symptom usually occurs during times of high water usage and could well be fixed by having the septic tank pumped out and the effluent filter cleaned. If this occurs, pumping the tank is the first thing our department will recommend. There is no permit required to have this done. In fact all tanks should be pumped out every three to five years.
Another symptom of a failing or over used system is a damp place in the drain field area with an intermittent but very

distinct odor that will get more frequent and larger over time. If this is the case it again could be fixed easily; possibly by fixing a leaky shower or toilet, or an adjustment of the distribution box. There are many possible solutions including but not limited to the replacement or extension of the drain field. There are many reasons for a system to fail and determining why can take some time and effort. Whatever the cause it is important to always remember that sewage contains viruses and bacteria that are dangerous and should not be ignored!
Any work done on an on-site septic system, even in the case of a failing system, requires a permit. There may be some effort involved in finding old permits and property lines.

Fee Schedule

On-Site Waste Water:

New Septic System – Construction Authorization $250.00
Improvement Permit-Individual (Private) $100.00
Improvement Permit-Development $200.00
Repair/Addition to Existing System $75.00
Home with System check (no record on file) $50.00
Replacement check (Replacement of Trailer ) $50.00

Well Permit:

New Well – Construction Authorization $315.00

Water Testing:

Coliform bacteria test only $30.00
Chemical test only $35.00
Nitrates/Nitrites Test Only $25.00

Plan Review:

Restaurant/Lodging/Swimming PoolYearly Seasonal Pool Fee

(+$50.00 yrly/each additional wading pool, spa, etc.)

Temporary Food Establishment Permit $75.00

Tattoo Parlor:

Initial Inspection/Plan Review $500.00
Annual Tattoo Artist Fee $300.00
Revisit Fee: $50.00

*Construction Authorization includes the permit to install the system;

It is non-transferable & good for 5 years.

*Improvement Permits only tell you if your land qualifies for a septic system;

It does not include authorization to install a system. It is transferable & good for 5 years.

*Water Sample results will be mailed to you within 2-3 weeks.

*Other water tests are available; ask about testing for a specific contaminate.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does the Environmental Health Specialist look for in doing a site evaluation?
    They look at: type of soil, how much rock is involved, soil wetness, soil depth, slope of property and the available space. (See Rule .1939 Site Evaluation for more specific definition.)
  • How far from a dwelling does the septic system need to be?
    If you are going to have a foundation the minimum distance is 5 ft. If you are going to have a basement the minimum distance is 15 ft. (This is for any part of your septic system) (See Rule .1950 Location of Sanitary Sewage Systems)
  • How far from water source does the septic system need to be?
    100 ft minimum from any private water supply source including any wells, springs 200 ft. minimum from any public water supply source 50 ft. minimum from any creek or stream unless in a water shed area then you need to be 100 ft. minimum away from your septic system (See Rule. .1950 Location of Sanitary Sewage Systems for more info on distances from other water sources.)
  • How far from a property line do I need to be with my septic system?
    10 ft minimum from property lines (See Rule .1950 Location of Sanitary Sewage Systems.)
  • How many holes do I need to dig and the size?
    A minimum of 3 test holes need to be dug and they need to be 50 feet apart; 3-4′ wide, 4′ long, 4′ deep; 2 in the initial system area & 1 in the repair area. Dig where you feel that you want your field lines to be. If dug with backhoe.
  • Can someone else sign and pickup permits besides the applicant?
    The only persons who can sign for a permit is either the applicant or his or her agent, in which case an agent authorization form must be present for someone other than applicant to sign. If the application is under a husband or wife’s name and it is for their personal use, then either one can sign to pick up permits without an agent form. This also applies in a parent and child situation. If in doubt an agent form may be required.
  • What is required in drawing a site plan for application?
    You need to sketch a rough drawing of the property showing house location, driveway location, where holes are dug, and any water sources on property and on adjoining property, any existing septic systems or fuel tanks on property and on adjoining property, any buildings, proposed well locations and any other pertinent information.
  • Can I grade or excavate before a site evaluation is done?
    Grading and excavation of property is not recommended prior to evaluation. You could damage the only possible septic site you may have on the property if you do so before the evaluation.
  • What is date platted?
    Date in which property was recorded with the county as it currently exists.
  • Where do I find my Tax Pin #, Date Platted and Zoning/Watershed information?
    Tax Pin #—Tax Mapping Date Platted—Register of Deeds Zoning/Watershed information—Planning & Inspection
  • What is a pad for a crane and why do you need to know this?
    A pad is for the crane to sit on while assembling the modular home. We need to account for the pad area needed to make sure it will not encroach on any proposed or existing septic area.
  • What is a watershed?
    A watershed is an area that water runoff runs into an area that feeds a community its water supply.
  • Can I have just a 1 bedroom system?
    An applicant may just put 1 bedroom in the home but for septic purposes the smallest system is a 2 bedroom system (240gpd).
  • What do I need to do to renew a non-expired permit?
    Renewal of a non-expired permit (Less than 5 yrs old) If the permit has not expired but the owner wishes to renew it before the expiration date, the applicant will need to do the following:

    1. Fill out a new application.
    2. Stake off a house site.
    3. Stake off a driveway.
    4. Make sure that all property corners & lines are clearly marked.
    5. Dig new holes if the inspector is no longer with this department which may allow for an optional system.
    6. Draw a new site plan
    7. Provide current survey plat if one is not already attached to the current permit that is accurate (unchanged). If an attached plat is used, new applicant must sign and date plat.
    8. Pay the current fee for Renewal Permits

When the application is returned to the environmental health, make sure everything is going to stay the same. Check to see if the acreage is still the same as well as number of bedrooms. If the acreage has changed this could VOID the permit totally (an updated survey plat is required) or if there are any other changes to the permit this could also VOID the permit totally. If the permit is VOIDED the applicant will need to start over with the Application Process.

  • What is the process if a permit has expired and the owner wants to renew it?
    If the permit has EXPIRED (5 years or older) The applicant must START OVER completely. Once the permit has expired it is not longer a valid permit and can not be renewed. The applicant must complete a new application, stake off a house site, stake off a driveway, draw a site plan, provide a survey plat, make sure property lines and corners are clearly marked and dig new holes. The applicant will be required to pay the full fee again and a new set of permits will need to be pulled. The expired permit will need to be attached to the new application packet for the inspector to see what occurred on the lot previously.
  • What do I need to do to move a mobile home or build a house onto an existing septic system? (With the same number of bedrooms going on that is coming off.)
    An Application will need to be submitted to the health department. The environmental health secretary will need to try to find the old septic permit. This is to show what the original system was designed and permitted for. Whether you find the old septic permit or not, the client will need to talk with the environmental health specialist who will direct the client as to what needs to be done for inspection (usually it is to uncover the top of the tank and have it pumped out). Tanks without filters in the outlet end will need to be upgraded. The environmental health specialist will need to inspect the system to make sure that there are no signs of a failing system and that all setbacks will be met when placing the new structure on the property.
  • What is a repair area?
    The repair area is an area, either in its natural state or which is capable of being modified, consistent with the rules in this section, which is reserved for the installation of additional nitrification fields and is not covered with structures or impervious materials. (See Rule .1935 Definitions) ALSO: (See Rule .1945 Available Space) The repair area shall be based upon the area of the nitrification field required to accommodate the installation of a replacement system as specified in Rules .1955, .1956, or .1957.
  • Can I get a Building permit before getting a septic permit?
    No. Planning and Inspections wants to make sure that you can get an approved septic system on your property before they issue a building permit.
  • Can I do Multi-Family housing on one piece of property?
    Madison County has an ordinance stating that there can only be 2 dwellings on one tract/piece of land.
  • What constitutes a bedroom?
    If there is a closet in the room, it is considered a bedroom.
  • Are lofts considered a bedroom?
    Applicants need to check with the local Planning and Inspection department to determine if a room is considered a bedroom.
  • Does the health department require a certain amount of land to get a septic permit?
    No. The property required depends upon the proposed house size and location, driveway type and location, proposed water supply and various site conditions. Local Planning and Inspection department can inform of required amount of land for a lot.  However, Madison County will not allow new parcels to be less than one acre and furthermore, if your land was divided into less than one acre before Jan. 1983, it is not mandated to have a repair area.  If it was deeded into less than one acre  after Jan. 1983, it must have a repair area.
  • How big will my septic system be?
    The septic system size varies from site to site. The number of bedrooms, soil type and depth, slope of property are some of the factors that determine the size of the septic system.
  • What does Provisionally Suitable mean?
    (See Rule .1948 (b) Site Classification) “(b) Sites classified as PROVISIONALLY SUITABLE may be utilized for a ground absorption sewage treatment and disposal system consistent with these Rules but have moderate limitations. Sites classified Provisionally Suitable requires some modifications and careful planning, design, and installation in order for a ground absorption sewage treatment and disposal system to function satisfactorily.”
  • What is LTAR?
    Long Term Acceptance Rate (LTAR) means the rate of wastewater effluent absorption by the soil in a ground absorption system after long-term use. (See Rule .1935 Definitions for further explanation.)
  • What is a Nitrification Field?
    The area in which the nitrification lines are located. (See Rule .1935 Definitions.)
  • What are Nitrification Lines?
    Approved pipe, specially designed porous blocks, or other approved materials which receive partially treated sewage effluent for distribution and absorption into the soil beneath the ground surface. (See Rule .1935 Definitions)
  • How long are permits good for?
    The Authorization for Wastewater System Construction shall be valid for a period of 5 years, not to exceed the validity of the Improvement Permit that it was issued upon. Improvement Permits are valid for 5 years from date of issuance, unless it meets the requirements to be classified “Non-Expiring”.
  • Do Septic System Installers have to register with the Health Department?
    Yes, they do. Anyone wishing to install septic systems must talk with an Environmental Health Specialist. There is no fee involved to register but the installer will need to fill out a registration form. The installer will receive the original and the health department will keep the copy on file. (See Rule .1937 (L) Permits)
  • Are septic easements a common occurrence?
    Yes, easements are granted frequently. When property is unable to accommodate a septic system, an easement onto another tract of land may help the situation. Whether the problem with the tract of land is the suitability of the soil for a septic system or area limitations, easements are a common way to overcome site suitability and setback restrictions.
  • How do I get an easement for a septic system?
    1. The first step is to obtain permission from the property owner to explore the suitability of the site for a septic system. It must be emphasized that this is just permission for this department to explore the property. This may include having holes dug to evaluate the suitability of the proposed area but there is no obligation to grant the easement at this point. The property owner that is being asked to grant the easement is in complete control of the areas this department evaluates. Our department will be glad to talk to the property owners about the conditions, steps, area or any other questions they may have.
    2. The next step is for the applicant to dig the holes in the proposed area. What type of holes will be required will vary from site to site.
    3. Once a suitable site has been found our department will locate the proposed septic area and its boundaries on the site. These boundaries will include the system area and room for installation as well as room for ingress and egress from the septic system for maintenance, repair and observation of the septic system.
    4. At this point it is up to the property owner to approve the area for an easement or deny its use. If it is approved the area must be surveyed by a registered land surveyor. The surveyor will produce a meets and bounds description of the area. This will be used by an attorney to draft the septic easement. This department will approve the meets and bounds laid out by the surveyor. The meets and bounds must be staked by the surveyor.
    5. The attorney will then incorporate the meets and bounds and other restrictions into a written easement that must be recorded onto the deed. The restrictions that must be included in the easement include but are not limited to: the design flow for the proposed structure (i.e. The number of bedrooms in the house.), the ability of the system user to observe and perform maintenance on the system and limitations on the land owner to keep the system area from being disturbed.
    6. Once this department has approved the easement it must then be recorded with the county.
    7. A copy of the recorded easement must then be given to the health department.
    8. As long as there are no other issues to be resolved; then at this point this department may issue an Authorization to Construct.

Use and Maintenance of Your Septic System

  • Make sure commodes and faucets do not leak or drip. A commode with a bad flapper (shut off mechanism) will add over 300 gallons of water per day to a system that was designed to dispose of 240 gallons per day.
  • Do not wash several +loads of clothes in one day. Spread loads evenly throughout the week. Hydraulic overloading causes solids to be carried over into the drain field.
  • Never pour grease (cooking) into a drain. Place hot grease in a tin can, etc., and allow to solidify, then dispose of it in household garbage.
  • It is best not to install a kitchen disposal in your home if you have a septic tank system. If you have one and must use it, plan on pumping the solids out of your septic tank every two to three years.
  • Divert surface water from or around your septic tank and drain field.
  • All gutter drains should be extended across septic tank and drain field area.
  • Never drive, park or pave over your system, this compacts the soil, lowers efficiency and shortens the life of the system.
  • Never plant deep root vegetation over any part of the system (grass kept mowed is ideal). Keep large trees and shrubbery away from the system to allow sun and air movement to the area. This will allow a percentage of the effluent in the drain field to be evaporated or transpired through the soil and vegetation.
  • Use cleaners with bacterial killers as little as possible (clorox, pine sol, ammonia, etc.), as these products destroy the bacteria action in your septic tank. These bacteria break down solids in your tank.
  • Do not flush liners of disposable diapers, plastic applicators from tampons, disposable hypodermic needles or anything that will not decompose in your septic tank system.
  • Products designed to increase bacterial action in the tank do help, but will not prevent failure if the system is abused in some way.
  • Have your septic tank solids pumped out every 3-5 years depending on usage, size of family, etc. This will prevent solids from entering the drain field and clogging the soils, thus creating a failure.
  • Do not place large amounts of fill material over the system. This causes the system to become septic from lack of oxygen, clogging the soils in the drain field, and thus lowers the efficiency and life of the system.  There is a maximum of 3′ of soil allowed over the system on flat ground.
  • If there are areas over your drain field where the soil has settled and water ponds during rain events, fill this area in a turtle back fashion to allow water to run off.
  • If you are building a new home or replacing old plumbing fixtures, consider low-flow fixtures throughout the house to reduce water usage. Do not place mulch, pine bark or other non-vegetative materials over drain field, as these do not allow evaporation or transpiration and only trap water underneath.
  • Insulate water pipes to eliminate the practice of running water to prevent water freezing. This unnecessary water in a 24-hour period can cause drain field overload and premature failure.

Rules and Regulations
NC On-Site Waste Water Section Rules and Information – North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, On-site Waste Water Section. (ehs.ncpublichealth.com/oswp/)

Industrial Wastewater and Large Systems
Industrial processed wastewater is defined as any water-carried waste resulting from any process of industry, manufacture, trade or business. This includes any wastewater other than residential waste water. Any industrial processed wastewater facility is permitted through the state office. This department will act as a liaison between the state office and the applicant in the permitting of these facilities.
Contact Phone Number: (919) 715-3270

Some common facilities that produce industrial wastewater are:

  • Car-washes or any facility with a wash bay, such as a fire stations.
  • Medical or veterinary clinics with X-Ray facilities.
  • Dry cleaning businesses.
  • Some pottery or wood working facilities.

Certified System Installers

As of January 1, 2008, all installers of on-site wastewater systems must be certified by the State of North Carolina. To find a certified on-site wastewater system contractor in this area follow the link below.