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Operating Permits for Alternative Residential & Commercial Onsite Sewage Systems

The Washtenaw County Regulation for the Onsite Management, Treatment and Disposal of Wastewater provides the framework for utilizing alternative wastewater disposal systems as a means to overcome some site limitations that prevent the installation of a conventional wastewater disposal system.  A key consideration for permitting such installations is the commitment that must be made to monitoring and maintaining such systems to both prevent premature failure and ensure proper sustained operation. To address this need, the code requires an Operating Permit for systems that utilize an alternative technology, as well as for high-flow non-residential sewage systems and for food service operations that generate fats, oils and grease.

There were many systems enrolled in the program when the code went into effect in 2010.  Some residential properties on alternative systems did not meet the criteria for initial enrollment in the operating permit program.  These remaining residential properties will be required to obtain an operating permit either: A) At time of transfer of property ownership, or; B) In conjunction with an expansion, remodel or change of use project on the property, or; C) When a wastewater disposal permit is sought to replace any or all of the existing alternative system, or; D) When the wastewater disposal system is found to be operating in violation of code and corrective action is required by this office, or; E) Other circumstances warrant the use of an Operating Permit for a property.  Newly completed alternative systems will need to enroll in the Operating Permit program at the time of final system approval by this office.

Owners of these systems have certain responsibilities under the new sewage code. Owners must:

  1. Contract with a Certified Operation and Maintenance Provider (COMP). Together with the provider, you will determine the type of monitoring and maintenance that will work for your particular design.
  2. Complete and submit the Operational Plan for Alternative Residential or Commercial Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems to our office. Once the form has been submitted to our office, the owner of the system will be issued an Operating Permit. There is no fee or cost for this permit. Both the owner and the selected maintenance provider will be mailed a copy of the permit.

The Operating Permit will contain the following information:

  • The type of system that is treating and disposing of sewage on the property.
  • The requirements for operating and maintaining the system.
  • Any conditions or property use limitations required for the successful operation of the sewage system.
  • An expiration date. The permit will expire 5 years after the issuance date.

    The COMP that you contract with will perform any necessary maintenance of the system and will submit an annual operational inspection report to our Department. This annual operational inspection report must be accompanied with the appropriate report review fee upon submittal. The COMP will be submitting these reports to the Department on the owner's behalf.

    • Sewage System Operation & Maintenance Report Template - Please note that this is an Adobe Acrobat "smart form". You can type information into the form, then print it out and mail or fax it to our office. However, you will NOT be able to save an electronic copy of anything you type on the form, so please keep a paper copy of the completed report for your records.

    Our office will promptly review the submitted report and communicate back to the owner in one of the following manners:

    1. The system is operating in full compliance with no immediate corrections needed;
    2. The system is in compliance, but there are repair or maintenance items that need to be corrected by the time of the next annual report;
    3. The system has significant operational / maintenance deficiencies that need prompt corrective action.
    4. The system is not in compliance with the Operating Permit.

    A representative from our office will conduct a field review of the system at least once during each five year operating permit cycle, and may also make site visits to confirm required corrective actions. In addition to the maintenance, there may be effluent sampling requirements set forth on those properties using alternative pre-treatment devices. Sampling requirements will be set forth on the Operating Permit or the annual letter from our office. Sampling frequency will be based on the type of technology utilized and the operational status of the system.

    Permits will need to be renewed at the end of the 5 year cycle. Permits are assigned to the property owner, and are not transferable. If the residential property owner sells the home, they will not need to have an inspection on the sewage system, provided that the system is in compliance with the Operating Permit. The purchaser will be required to get an Operating Permit in their name prior to property transfer.

    Application to become a Certified Operation and Maintenance Provider: 


    For more information, please contact:

    Dave Dean
    Program Administrator
    Environmental Health Division
    Washtenaw County Public Health
    (734) 222-3941

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