Septic and wastewater

installation of septic system

Onsite wastewater management systems

If you reside on a property which is not connected to a sewer system, your property will require an onsite wastewater management system (OWMS). An OWMS is commonly referred to as septic or a septic tank system. An OWMS treats all of the wastewater generated from the dwelling and disposes or re-uses the treated wastewater onsite, within the property boundaries. There are a number of different types of OWMS available. To choose a system that is right for you and your property you will need to discuss this with a licenced plumber and ensure that the system is approved by the EPA. A list of approved OWMS and the appropriate conditions can be found on the EPA website.

All OWMS must comply with the EPA Code of Practice for Onsite Wastewater Management and the Australian Standards for on-site domestic wastewater management AS/NZS 1547:2012.  

Whichever system you choose, you may be required to conduct a Land Capability Assessment (LCA) to determine the quality of the soil, percolation rate and management of the septic system. LCA’s are required for subdivisions and blocks on steeply sloping land, coastal areas and soils with heavy clay. If you are unsure of whether an LCA is required, please contact Council’s Environmental Health Unit prior to submitting your application.

Important Information on Sandfilters.

From 1 July 2023, Surf Coast Shire is no longer able to issue permits to install a new sand filter or alter an existing sand filter. However, alterations where they are only making changes to effluent disposal area and retaining an existing sand filter will be accepted. 

Applying for a new or altering an existing onsite wastewater management system 

It is the owners responsibility to apply for a permit to install or alter the system Accompanying the application must be a detailed site plan showing the location of the OWMS and effluent disposal area. Under the Environment Protection Act 2017, a permit to construct, install or alter any part of an onsite wastewater management system (OWMS) is required to be approved by Council. Legal penalties apply for work carried out without a permit.

The permit to install or alter must be issued prior to any works commencing onsite or the issuing of the building permit.

It is important when designing your OWMS and drawing up plans that your system meets the minimum setback distances, as required by the EPA. The required setback distance can be found in the Surf Coast Shire Code of Practice Septic Tanks(PDF, 1MB)

When applying for your permit you must provide a copy of the certificate of conformity (if applicable), confirming that the proposed OWMS meets the appropriate standard. Contact the relevant system manufacturer to receive this certificate. For more information please visit: EPA Website.  

Council’s Environmental Health Officers may inspect the property to ensure the OWMS planned meets EPA Code of Practice for Onsite Wastewater Management prior to the issuing of the permit.

At least 48 hours prior to the installation of the OWMS, Council must be contacted to enable an inspection to be completed during the installation. If Council is unable to attend the inspection during the installation the plumber is to take detailed photographs and submit to Council for review.

Once the OWMS is ready and the installing plumber’s certificate of compliance and other accompanying documents have been received, an EHO will conduct a final inspection. When satisfied that the conditions within the permit have been met the Certificate to Use (CTU) will be issued. The CTU must be issued before a Certificate of Occupancy can be issued by your Building Surveyor.

Make changes and/or extend current onsite wastewater management system permit

Property owners with a current onsite wastewater management system (OWMS) permit issued within the last two years may make changes to their permits prior to any works commencing. 

Such changes may include things as:

  • System type;
  • System size;
  • System location; and/or
  • Plumber completing works. 

In addition, any current OWMS permit can be extended by an additional 12 months if need be - provided that the permit has not previously been extended. 

Click on the following link to apply to make changes and/or extend a current onsite wastewater management system permit

Locating your onsite wastewater management system

If you are unsure of where your septic is located on your property, the easiest way to locate your septic tank system is to check the plans received with your septic permits.

In some cases you can easily locate your septic tank by the “riser” attached to the opening of the tank. This is normally a white plastic PVC pipe, with a cap, sticking out of the ground, above where the opening of your septic tank is located underground. The effluent area sometimes remains green during the dryer months.

If you are unable to find your copy of plans, you are able to request a copy by completing a Request for septic tank plan  and submitting it with the applicable fee. Copy of plans can only be given to the registered owner or a person having written permission from the registered owner. The fee you pay is non-refundable and is for the time it takes to search for your plans. (Unfortunately due to the age of some systems we cannot guarantee that we will find a copy of the plan or that the plan we find is either clear or accurate.)

Managing and maintaining your onsite wastewater management system

A properly managed onsite wastewater management system (OWMS) will assist in prolonging the life of the system and prevent it from premature failure that could result in a public health risk. Responsibility for managing an onsite wastewater system falls with the property owner. The Environment Protection Act 2017 creates a general environmental duty (GED) that applies to all Victorians from 1 July 2021. The GED requires anyone conducting an activity that poses risks to human health and the environment from pollution and waste, to minimise those risks.

If you own or use an OWMS, including septic tank systems, secondary treatment systems, and older systems that didn’t have a permit when they were installed, the GED applies to you. It also applies to how you construct, install, alter, operate and maintain the system, deal with faults or system failures and manage your waste.

OWMS have the potential for major environmental and human health risks. Poorly installed or maintained systems, particularly old legacy systems, can create serious hazards. These might include polluted drinking water, contaminated land and water bodies, and offensive odours. Owners and occupiers have a responsibility to minimise these risks, so far as reasonably practicable. To understand your requirements as owners of/or occupiers using an OWMS please read the following: 1976: Guidance for owners & occupiers of land with an OWMS ≤ 5000 litres on any day (including septic tank systems)

Treatment plants must be regularly maintained by a professional service technician as per the manufacturer’s instructions, conditions on your septic permit, and the maintenance reports forwarded to council.

Further inquiries regarding OWMS can be made by contacting Council’s Environmental Health Unit on (03) 5261 0600.


Private water supplies

If you live in a rural or semi-rural area, it is likely that the water you drink is, obtained from private water tanks or bores. This is also the case for any accommodation and food businesses in these areas. It is important that water from these supplies is maintained regularly and not contaminated.

If you provide food/accommodation to the public, it is important that you make it known that you are on a private water supply and ensure that you have a good maintenance program in place

Your private water supply can be contaminated by a number of different things like:

  • Animal faeces – from birds, possums or washed into ground water supply
  • Human faeces – from failed septic systems or effluent irrigation
  • Pesticides – run-off from farms or blown onto roof
  • Dust
  • Arsenic and Heavy Metals – in soil from industrial/mining sites
  • Air pollution – run-off from roof in urban/industrial areas may contain chemicals
  • Lead – from old paint or flashing on roof
  • Algae – including blue-green algae which is not destroyed by boiling or disinfection
  • Nitrates – in some ground water
  • Mosquitoes

If you suspect that your supply is contaminated, or would like to set up a sampling program, samples can be analysed at registered laboratories. A number of analysts can be found in the Yellow Pages. If you are unsure, contact Council’s Environmental Health Unit on 5261 0600.

Further information can be found at


Public swimming pools & spas

Council’s Environmental Health Unit conducts inspections of public and accommodation pools and spas within the municipality to protect public health. Samples are also taken to check against the chemical and microbiological standards.

Further information on swimming pool regulations can be found at