On-site Sewage Management

Overview

If you live in a house that is not connected to Council’s town sewer (reticulated sewage system), then chances are your yard contains an on-site sewage management system.

Shoalhaven City Council provides approvals and inspections for the systematic and ongoing management of on-site sewage (effluent) management systems.

This aims to achieve environmental and public health performance objectives, while minimising cost to the community.

Domestic on-site sewage management systems complete two main processes:

  1. Storage and treatment of wastewater from a house to a certain standard; and
  2. Its application to a dedicated area of land or holding tank.

You are responsible for making sure that your on-site system is working well.

Request a service or amend an existing service

Council provides the community with a contracted service that is managed by Shoalhaven Water.

Request or amend a service now

About wastewater

Wastewater may be blackwater from the toilet and kitchen sink or greywater from showers, basins, and washing machines, or a combination of both.

Wastewater can transmit disease and cause major environmental damage. It should not be applied to land without treatment.

An effective on-site treatment and land application:

  • Protects public health and safety
  • Improves catchment management
  • Protects surface and ground waters
  • Protects the land and vegetation

Fines may be imposed under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act, 1997 and the Local Government Act, 1993 if wastewater is not managed properly.

Please avoid contact with all treated and untreated wastewater and thoroughly wash affected areas if contact occurs.

Know your on-site sewage management system

Within the Shoalhaven there are more than 7,000 on-site sewage management systems.

The three (3) most common types of on-site sewage management systems used in the Shoalhaven are:

  • Septic absorption systems
  • Aerated wastewater treatment systems (AWTS) and irrigation
  • Pump out systems

For more details on these systems view:

The septic absorption system relies on the soil completing the treatment process as the effluent moves through the strata. However, not all soils are suitable for absorption trenches, and may result in effluent reaching the surface and/or groundwater and adversely affect receiving water bodies.

Effluent from an Aerated Wastewater Treatment Systems (AWTS) contains fewer potential harmful pathogens because it is treated to a higher standard than the conventional septic tank.

However, if the effluent is not appropriately disposed of, unacceptable levels of pollution will still enter the receiving environment.

The higher level of treatment achieved in an AWTS is conditional upon the system receiving regular maintenance. Without regular maintenance by a suitable qualified person, significant public health and pollution problems may occur.

Other on-site sewage management systems

There are many other types of on-site sewage management systems, including:

  • Composting toilets
  • Greywater treatment systems
  • Mounds
  • Domestic grease traps
  • Sand filter beds
  • Wetlands

Details on some of these systems can be found here:

Composting toilets

Composting toilets collect and treat toilet waste only.

In these systems, toilet wastes pass from the pan down a chute and into a chamber. All faecal matter and other compostable matter produced in the dwelling, such as toilet paper, may be disposed of to this system where it is broken down into compost by natural decomposer organisms. When fully broken down, the compost may be used in gardens but must be buried and covered.

Water from the shower, sinks and the washing machine needs to be treated separately, for example in a septic tank or an Aerated Wastewater Treatment System (AWTS).

Greywater treatment systems

Greywater treatment systems collect, store, treat and sometimes disinfect greywater to enable treated greywater to be used in toilets, washing machines and on gardens and lawns.

Find out more:

Greywater diversion devices

Greywater diversion devices redirect greywater to the garden or lawn via a subsurface irrigation system. There are two types of greywater diversion devices (GDD):

Gravity diversion device

A gravity diversion device incorporates a hand activated valve, switch or tap and is fitted to the outlet of the waste pipe of the plumbing fixture such as a laundry tub.  Greywater is diverted directly to a sub-surface irrigation system in the garden.

Pump diversion device

A pump diversion device incorporates a surge tank to cope with sudden influxes of greywater for distribution of the greywater directly to a sub-surface irrigation system in the garden. The surge tank does not operate as a storage tank.

Domestic greywater diversion may be carried out without the prior approval of Council if the conditions of Section 75A of the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 are met.

Greywater diversion devices redirect greywater to the garden or lawn via a subsurface irrigation system. You will need a plumber to install the device. 

Are you building or renovating?

You need to submit an application through the NSW Planning Portal for approval to install a system of sewage management.  One requirement is an accredited system is to be installed. 

Following an inspection of this system, Council will issue an Approval to Operate. Typically, this process occurs at the same time a new house is built.

A wastewater report and other documents are required to be submitted with an application.

To get more details about documents and development guidelines for wastewater treatment view:

Do you have an existing system?

Sewage management systems that have not been well maintained may release dangerous levels of sewage pollution to the environment.

Sewage pollution causes contamination of water, which can spread disease and lead to environmental degradation. The cumulative impact of effluent can create a critical problem.

Many systems, especially those installed prior to 1999, would not have had an Approval to Operate a System of Sewage Management issued, following the original installation of the system.

Don't have an Approval to Operate a System of Sewage Management issued?

In this instance, an application is required to be made to Council via the NSW Planning Portal. Such applications may only be lodged via the NSW Planning Portal and not directly with Council.

This change is in line with the NSW Government's plan for all Councils to participate in their ePlanning platform for application lodgement.

Need to setup an account? Learn more:

Purchasing land with sewage management facilities?

An application is also required to be made by a person who purchases (or otherwise acquires) land on which any sewage management facilities are installed or constructed. 

If the former owner held a current Approval to Operate prior to purchase, Council will provide you with details to apply for Approval to Operate in your name.

If there was no previous approval, an application is required via the NSW Planning Portal.

How does Council charge for on-site sewage management?

Following consultation with affected ratepayers, and in order to provide a better service to our customers, Council is now applying an itemised on-site sewage management charge on applicable Annual Rates Notices, effective 1 July 2022.

The annual charge is levied under section (s.) 501(1) LG Act 1993.

Previously, applicants received a payment advice, typically every five years, or annually for high-risk systems, to renew an ongoing Approval to Operate an on-site sewage management under section (s.) 68 Local Government (LG) Act 1993.

The former fees captured in the payment advice have now been effectively spread over five years, and replaced with a smaller, more manageable annual charge reflected in annual rates notices.

FAQs

Why does Council still complete an inspection when my system is being serviced?

Some on-site wastewater management systems, such as Aerated Wastewater Treatment Systems (AWTS), require ongoing maintenance by trained technicians.

Inspections by service agents focus on the technical maintenance of the mechanical performance of the system. These inspections are a condition of the accreditation for the AWTS issued by the Director-General of the Department of Health under Regulation 41 of the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005.

However, in addition to the treatment system, Council’s inspections include the broader potential impact of the system itself, with considerations including:

  • The land application area
  • The potential impact on receiving permanent/ intermittent watercourses
  • Any potential changes in the hydraulic load entering the system
  • Any alterations from the original approval
  • Any unauthorised diversions of wastewater
  • Determining whether the system complies with the legislative Performance Standards
  • Consulting and liaising with owners/contractors

Do I need to be present for the inspection?

No.

Please contact Council if one of the following applies to you:

  • Access to your property and the sewage management system is restricted or difficult
  • There are animals present on your property that need to be restrained during an inspection
  • There are tenants at the property who need to be notified of an inspection being completed
  • You would like to be present for the inspection

We will then contact you to arrange a mutually convenient time for the inspection.

What is the on-site sewage management (OSSM) charge?

What does the OSSM charge cover?

The OSSM charge contributes to the costs relating to the ongoing Approval to Operate an OSSM on your property under s. 68 LG Act 1993. The charge also contributes to the management of OSSM systems in the Shoalhaven. This includes system inspections, requiring property owners to meet environmental and health performance standards, providing education to property owners and the community, facilitating the upgrade of systems and enabling a more proactive approach to nullify environmental harm and risk to public health.

Does the OSSM charge cost more than the previous fees?

No.

This is a single charge, as opposed to the former separate administration and inspection components of the previous fees. The cost structure is the same. A higher rate continues to be applicable to commercial properties and property owners with multiple systems. Also, higher risk OSSMs, such as large systems servicing commercial operations, will still be inspected more frequently. Property owners will be invoiced separately to the Annual Rates Notice for additional inspections completed.

I still have a current Approval to Operate, when will I be charged again?

The charge will only be applied on the Annual Rates Notice when your Approval to Operate is due to expire in that same financial year.

Can I opt out and continue to receive a payment advice every 5 years?

No.

The charge will be applied to all affected properties.

As an affected ratepayer, I don’t remember being told about this change. Why wasn’t I informed?

Community consultation was undertaken in April 2022. The proposal was mailed out to all affected residents and feedback was requested. Submissions received were considered by the elected Councillors prior to adopting the charge.

In addition, all ratepayers were informed of the new charge in their 2022/23 Annual Rates Notice and a brochure was included for all affected ratepayers where the OSSM charge was applied.

For more information view:

Is there a discounted charge for pensioners?

Yes.

The previous cost structure with a reduced charge for eligible pensioners has been retained. If the property owner is an eligible pensioner, the Pensioner Charge will be applied. If pensioner status changes throughout the year, it will be updated the following financial year. The same will apply if a property owner becomes a pensioner.

How does the OSSM charge affect ratepayers?

What is the benefit of placing the charge on rates?

It makes payments easier for customers, as the charge can be paid in quarterly instalments instead of as a larger, upfront fee. Also, payment can now be made using your rates reference number. This will eliminate the stress and confusion experienced by many customers in the past when they have made payment into the wrong account.

Having the charge on the rates also saves ratepayers money in the long term as Council is no longer expending duplicate resources chasing up payments. This will all now be handled efficiently by our Rates Team.

If my Approval to Operate is not due until later in the financial year, why am I being charged from the beginning of the financial year?

The LG Act 1993 requires that the charge be placed on the Annual Rates Notice at the beginning of the financial year. Accordingly, a small portion of what you would have previously paid later in the year has been brought forward to facilitate the transition to rates. You are not being charged twice in the financial year for the OSSM system.

Further, whilst part of the charge is being applied at the beginning of the financial year, the amount to be paid that year is only 20% of the former up-front application fees.

Can I start paying later in the financial year when my current Approval to Operate was due to expire?

Yes.

The annual charge needs to be applied at the beginning of the financial year, however, ratepayers may enter into a payment arrangement upon request. You can do this by completing an Agreement to Pay Rates & Charges and returning it to Council.

Please note that as with any overdue rates and charges, interest is accrued on any overdue amount, including overdue payment arrangements. Council will not personally contact ratepayers if a payment is not received.

If you are struggling to make payments on time, please advise Council of your situation so we can work with you to make suitable payment arrangements.

If I am late paying, or only pay for my rates, will I be charged interest on all charges?

Yes.

All charges are paid off equally on rates – you cannot select to only pay for certain charges.

What increase in charges will I see?

Generally, increases in charges are guided by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is set by the federal government.

Each year, Council invites the community to provide feedback on the Draft Delivery Program and Operational Plan and Budget, which also includes Council's proposed Fees and Charges.

Will Council still regularly inspect OSSMs?

How will Council determine how often an inspection is completed?

Inspections will still be completed either every five years, or more frequently for high-risk OSSM systems.

What is a high-risk OSSM?

High-risk OSSM systems are determined in relation to their proximity to environmentally sensitive areas and/or a permanent water body, intensity of management required, likelihood of the public coming into contact with effluent and associated public health risks, the commercial nature of the property and/or the requirement for an annual report to be submitted to Council.

Can I be present for the inspection?

Yes.

Property owners will be notified when their OSSM system is due for inspection and provided with an opportunity to arrange an appointment for the inspection if they would like to be present.

Will I be issued an Approval to Operate an OSSM?

How will my Approval to Operate be issued and how will this be issued if there is a change of ownership?

Council will generate an Approval to Operate to the current owner(s) of affected properties on an annual basis.

When Council is notified of a change of ownership, an approval will be issued in the name of the new owner(s). The approval will be generated and stored electronically at Council. A copy will only be sent to ratepayers upon request.  

There are multiple owners with multiple dwellings on my property, is there a separate Approval to Operate and OSSM charge for the property?

No. 

There is only one Approval to Operate issued and one charge levied per property.

I have tenants in my property. Who will be issued the Approval to Operate?

The Approval to Operate will be issued to the owner(s) of the property. Under s.46 Local Government (General) Regulation 2021, Approval to Operate is extended to concurrent owners and occupiers. A copy of the Approval to Operate may be obtained from Council upon request.

When will I be connected to reticulated sewer?

For any enquiries about whether your property will be connected to the reticulated sewer:

How do I organise a pump out or cleanout of my system?

Effluent service requests are lodged with Council via online forms, located on Shoalhaven Water’s Effluent Pumpout Services page.

You can request the following effluent services:

Alternatively, other providers outside of this contracted arrangement may be located in the local Yellow Pages directory.

Please provide Council with a copy of your receipt of service from the service provider.

 

On-site sewage maintenance

What you put down your drains and toilets has a lot to do with how well your system performs.

Maintenance of your sewage management system needs to be done well, and on-time. Any problems should be attended to immediately to protect your health and the environment.

For more information about managing your on-site sewage maintenance view:

Reducing water usage

Reducing water usage will lessen the likelihood of problems, for example, overloading your septic system.

Overloading may result in wastewater backing up into your house, contamination of your yard with improperly treated sewage (effluent), and effluent from your system contaminating groundwater or a nearby waterway.

Your sewage management system is also unable to cope with large volumes of water such as several showers or loads of washing over short periods of time. Make sure water use is spread evenly throughout the day and week.

Get water reduction tips:


Last updated on 13 July 2022