Septic and water

installation of septic system

Septic/wastewater systems

If you reside on a property which is not connected to a sewer system, your property will require an onsite wastewater treatment system.

An onsite wastewater management system is commonly referred to as septic or a septic tank system.  A septic tank system treats all of the wastewater generated from the dwelling and disposes or re-uses the treated wastewater onsite, within the properties boundaries.

There are a number of different types of septic tank systems available. From the traditional septic tank and effluent disposal field, to the All Wastewater Treatment Systems (AWTS), composting toilet and worm farm.

To choose a system that is right for you and your property you need to ensure that the system is approved by the EPA. A list of approved wastewater treatment systems and the appropriate conditions can be found on the EPA website.

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.


Applying for a new or altering an existing septic system

It is the owners responsibility to apply for a permit to install or alter the system before works commence on installing a system to any new dwelling, Likewise, altering an existing system due to renovations also requires a permit.

A property with a  septic tank system requires a “Permit to Install” and a “Certificate to Use” issued by Council before the system is used or a Certificate of Occupancy is issued by a Building Surveyor. The “Permit to Install” provides conditions about the type and use of system approved for the dwelling.  A site plan will also require approval and show the septic tank location and the effluent disposal area.

It is important when designing your system 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)

Council’s Environmental Health Officers will inspect the property to ensure the septic tank system planned meets the guidelines and issue a Permit to Install.

Once the septic tank system is ready and the installing plumber’s certificate of compliance received, an environmental Health Officer will conduct a final inspection and an Approval to Use will be issued to the owner. For this approval to be issued, all effluent disposal or irrigation areas must be set up in accordance with the plans approved with your Permit to Install.


Locating your septic tank

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 onsite septic/wastewater systems

A properly managed Wastewater System 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. 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 septic tank systems 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