Onsite Wastewater Treatment System

Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Construction/Repair and Property Transfer Information

Residential New Construction:

As of July 1, 2012, if you are in the process of constructing a new home in Erie County that needs to have an onsite wastewater treatment system (OWTS), then you must hire a licensed design professional (i.e. a licensed professional engineer, a registered architect, or a licensed land surveyor with an exemption certificate (Section 7208n of New York State Education Law)) to design the appropriate system to serve your residence.  The design professional will create an engineer’s report and plans that must be submitted to the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) along with an Application for a Construction Permit for an Onsite Wastewater Treatment System for Residential or Commercial Lots Prepared by a Design Professional and a $300 fee.  Click here for a list of licensed engineers (a complete list can be found in the phone book). 

Once the application, fee, engineer’s report and plans are received, the project will be reviewed by Erie County Department of Health staff to determine if the plan meets Health Department regulations.  Once it is determined that the plans meet Health Department regulations, the Department will issue a construction permit.  Click here for design guidelines and requirements

If your home is required to have a well installed in order to supply potable water it must be installed by a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation certified well driller.  The well driller must supply you with a well log detailing the installation of the well.  Once the well has been installed and properly disinfected (see Drinking Water information web page for more information) then the Erie County Department of Health must be contacted at 961-6800 to schedule a time for our representative to collect a sample and have it analyzed for bacteria (coliform/E.coli) at the Erie County Public Health Laboratory.  A copy of the well log must be given to your design professional.

If the result of your water sample is positive for total coliform or E.coli then it is recommended that you re-disinfect your well and contact the Erie County Department of Health to resample.  If the second sample is also positive for total coliform or E.coli then you must have an appropriate disinfection system installed on your water system (Click here for well disinfection procedures).  The Erie County Department of Health will inspect the installation of a disinfection system and collect another sample to have analyzed for bacteria.  This must be completed prior to a Completed Works Approval being issued for the Onsite Wastewater Treatment System.

New Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Installation:

You are responsible for hiring a contractor to construct your onsite wastewater treatment system per the Erie County Department of Health approved specifications designed by the design professional you hired.  During the construction of your septic system, your design professional will complete one or more inspections to ensure that the system being installed meets the specifications issued.  Based on the inspection(s), the engineer will issue a construction compliance stating that the system was installed per plans.  The construction certification must be submitted to the ECDOH prior to a Completed Works Approval being issued.

A Completed Works Approval will be issued after your design professional submits a construction compliance form to this Department stating the system was installed properly.  If your home is served by a well, then a copy of the well log from a licensed well driller, a bacteria sample result, and documentation of a disinfection system installation (if needed)  must also be submitted.

Residential Repair/Replacement:

If your current onsite wastewater treatment system is in need of repair or if your system is in failure and in need of replacement, you must submit an application and $300 fee to the ECDOH.  Once we receive your application and fee, we will make an assessment as to the degree of failure and the required repairs or replacement.  If your system must be replaced the ECDOH will issue specifications for a new septic system.

If your property includes an existing or proposed private well the location must be included with the application.  The sanitarian will complete an inspection of your well during inspection of the construction of the septic system for your property.  The inspection includes determining if your well and onsite wastewater treatment system meet the proper separation distances, construction requirements, and a water sample to ensure that the well meets bacteriological requirements.  The property survey that must be submitted with your application must include the existing or proposed well location.  Prior to this inspection, it is recommended that you disinfect your well (Click here for well disinfection procedures). 

Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Installation:

You are responsible for hiring a contractor to construct your onsite wastewater treatment system per the specifications issued by the ECDOH.  During the construction of your onsite wastewater treatment system, a public health sanitarian will complete one or more inspections to ensure that the system being installed meets the specifications issued.  A Certificate of Construction Compliance will be issued when construction is satisfactorily completed.

Difficult Sites for Repair or Replacement:

If your property contains multiple constraints for construction, (i.e. creeks, ravines, extreme slope, lack of drainage, etc.), you may be required to hire a design professional to design an onsite wastewater treatment system for your lot.  In this case, once your engineer has designed a septic system for your property, you must submit the plans to the ECDOH with an Application for a Construction Permit for an Onsite Wastewater Treatment System for Residential or Commercial Lots Prepared by a Design Professional and a $300 fee for review and approval.  If an application and fee were previously submitted to this Department to issue the design for your property, an additional application and fee will not be required.  Click here for a list of design professionals (a complete list can be found in the phone book).

You are responsible for hiring a contractor to construct your onsite wastewater treatment system per the Erie County Department of Health approved specifications designed by the design professional you hired.  During the construction of your septic system, your design professional will complete one or more inspections to ensure that the system being installed meets the specifications issued.  Based on the inspection(s), the engineer will issue a construction compliance stating that the system was installed per plans.  The construction certification must be submitted to the ECDOH prior to a Completed Works Approval being issued.

A Completed Works Approval will be issued after your design professional submits a construction compliance form to this Department stating the system was installed properly.  If your home is served by a well, then a copy of the well log from a licensed well driller, a bacteria sample result, and documentation of a disinfection system installation (if needed)  must also be submitted.

Commercial:

All commercial facilities must have a design professional prepare plans for the onsite wastewater treatment system required for the property.  Click here for design guidelines and requirements 

The design plans must be submitted to the ECDOH with the required Application for a Construction Permit for an Onsite Wastewater Treatment System for Residential or Commercial Lots Prepared by a Design Professional and $300 fee for review and approval.  Your design professional is required to complete one or more inspections of the onsite wastewater treatment system as it is being constructed.  Based on the inspection(s), the design professional will issue a construction compliance stating that the system was installed per plans.  The construction compliance must be submitted to the ECDOH prior to a Completed Works Approval being issued.

Property Transfers

In Erie County you are required to have your onsite wastewater treatment system dye tested and your well tested for bacteriological quality prior to any property transfer.  The seller of the property must submit an application and appropriate fee for a property transfer.  If the dye test and bacteriological tests are negative you will receive a property transfer certification.  Please note it may take up to 45 days to complete the property transfer inspection process. 

Please be advised that proper inspection of an onsite wastewater treatment system requires that the ground surrounding the system be free of cover or debris in order to properly conduct the necessary testing.  Therefore, once snow cover or frozen ground occurs the ECDOH will suspend dye tests for the winter months.  Dye tests will resume when temperatures are above freezing and snow cover is absent. 

For the property transfer inspection a responsible person, over 18 years of age, must be at the residence.  Property transfer inspections typically take 3 days and you can expect our staff to be at your residence for approximately 1 ½ hours on each day.  Access to the interior of the home is necessary for our staff to perform a plumbing inspection and to introduce dye into the system.

To test the onsite wastewater treatment system, yellow-green tracing dye is introduced into the system.  Prior to the ECDOH inspection, please assure that all wastewater lines (including laundry and utility sink discharges) are connected to the sewage disposal system.  The area of the sewage disposal system must be free of tall grass, weeds and debris or other cover.  Do not pump the septic tank prior to the ECDOH inspection.  A system is in failure if sewage/dye is exposed to the atmosphere or on the ground surface.

If the onsite wastewater treatment system on your property fails, a replacement system must be designed, as described above, for your property by the ECDOH.  An additional application and $300 fee will be required.  The replacement system must be constructed prior to the ECDOH issuing a property transfer certification.  If you know your onsite wastewater treatment system is in failure prior to the property transfer you may submit a new system construction application with your property transfer application.  You will only be required to pay for the property transfer.

For the private water supply portion of the property transfer, the structure and location of the water supply is inspected and the water is tested for bacteriological quality.  Please note, if there is an existing disinfection system (i.e.: chlorination or an ultra-violet light unit) it must be operating at the time of inspection.

If your home is served by an excavated (dug) well you will be required to either install a filtration and disinfection system or abandon the well and install a new drilled well prior to issuance of a property transfer certification.

If your property has a drinking water well and the water does not meet required bacteriological quality you will be required to disinfect your well by installing either a chlorine injection system or an ultra-violet light disinfection system.  Once installation is complete your water must be tested again prior to being issued a property transfer certification.

A property transfer certification is valid for six months from the date the certification is issued.  Once the certification expires another application and fee must be submitted so that another dye test and bacteriological sample (if required) can be completed. 

Additional Sampling

For those who are required by their mortgage lenders to have additional sampling of their water supplies beyond Total Coliform/E. Coli testing, the Erie County Department of Health will be offering to collect samples for lead, nitrate, and nitrite at the time of property transfer inspection.  The samples will be delivered to the Erie County Public Health Laboratory (ECPHL) for analysis.  The ECPHL will bill the homeowner for the cost of the analysis.  Results will be mailed to the homeowner once payment is received.  The property transfer certification will not be contingent on the results of these additional samples.  As in the past, only the Total Coliform/E.Coli results will be considered relative to the property transfer certification.

Property Transfer Waivers

If the anticipated closing date of the property transfer is scheduled before an inspection can be performed, the home has been vacant for longer than 90 days, the home is vacant and has an unmetered water supply, or if additional time is needed for corrections to the existing onsite wastewater treatment system or water supply, a Waiver of Property Transfer Certification will be required to close on the property.  The Waiver of Property Transfer Certification application must be completed by the purchaser and submitted with a $1,000.00 check or money order made payable to the Erie County Department of Health.  The $1,000 waiver fee will be returned to the purchaser at the address listed on the application once the property transfer certification has been issued.  By applying for a waiver, the purchaser agrees to allow for an inspection of the sewage disposal and/or water systems and to assure that all necessary corrections will be made.