Household Sewage Treatment Systems

The Defiance County Health Department Household Sewage Treatment System (HSTS) Program involves permitting and inspection of sewage treatment systems.  HSTS are found in areas where there is no access to sanitary sewer service.  A Household Sewage System Treatment System Installation Permit must be obtained prior to constructing a new system or significantly altering or replacing an existing system.

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) established a Sewage Treatment Systems Rule Advisory Committee to provide comments and help develop a consensus on proposed rules for Chapter 3701-29 of the Ohio Administrative Code.  The office of the Secretary of State of Ohio has reviewed the final draft of Chapter 3701-29 of the Ohio Administrative Code and has stated that the effective date will be January 1, 2015.

The Defiance County Health Department is also responsible for licensing installers and septic haulers.  All work on an HSTS must be completed by a licensed installer or service provider.  For more information on how to begin the installation process, please contact the Health Department at 419-784-3818.

After your septic system is installed and approved, you are required operate and maintain your system. Not only does this protect the environment and water quality, but this also protects your investment. Both new and existing septic systems are required to obtain an Operation & Maintenance (O&M) Permit. For more information on this program, visit the O&M Page.


Contractors are bonded by the State and Registered in each county they work in. The requirements for becoming registered can be found on the Ohio Department of Health’s Private Sewage page below. If you wish to become registered or have questions, contact our office for more information.

What do I do if I need to install a new septic system?
There are many steps to have a new septic system installed on your property. Sanitarians will guide homeowners through the process by conducting a property/soil evaluation, and working through the permitting and inspection requirements according to the Ohio Sewage Rules. Read this letter to get started or email: myseptic@defiancecohealth.org for more information.

Learn Your System...

Septic systems include a primary component and a secondary component. The type of secondary component for your septic system is based mostly on the rules established at the time of installation. In fact, systems installed prior to 1950 may not have any type of secondary treatment. As systems went from “sewage disposal” to “sewage treatment” systems, additional components were added to treat waste water and reduce impact on the environment. Secondary components may include but are not limited to: glazed tiles, aeration tanks, sand filters, upflow-filters, pipe and stones trenches, mound systems, and Ohio approved treatment components that emerged in the early 2000s such as Presby, Infiltrator (Chamber), Puraflo, NPDES systems. Explore the drop down menus below to learn more about your type of system and your system’s components.

Additional Resources

Sewage Treatment Types

System Description

If your Septic System was installed in the 1950s or sooner, you may just have a septic tank connected to a common tile. It is very important that these systems are pumped regularly to ensure solids are not exiting the tank and polluting nearby rivers, streams, or ditches.

What to know about this system

This system is approved for use as long as it is not causing a public health nuisance. The tank should be pumped according to the required pumping frequency. The tank should be inspected to ensure it is not cracked, collapsing, or leaking and area around the tank should be inspected for evidence of leakage. Risers should be installed on the tank to facilitate maintenance and pumping as necessary.

System Description

Aeration tanks appeared starting in the 1960s as a way to pre-treat waste water before leaving the tank. It is very important that the motor and electronic components are working on these tanks for them to work properly.

What to know about this system

This system is approved for use as long as it is not causing a public health nuisance. The tank should be pumped according to the required pumping frequency. The tank should be inspected to ensure it is not cracked, collapsing, or leaking and area around the tank should be inspected for evidence of leakage. Risers should be installed on the tank to facilitate maintenance and pumping as necessary. If the aerator is not working, in must be repaired or replaced. If the lot was created prior to 2007, these systems can be repaired and used as installed. 

System Decription

With a big change in sewage rules in the 1970s, systems started to have on-site treatment components. The leaching trenches are the most common type of secondary treatment system in Ohio. Trenches filled with stone and perforated PVC pipe became a common way to disperse and treat wastewater onsite. 

What to know about this system

This system is approved for use as long as it is not causing a public health nuisance. The tank should be pumped according to the required pumping frequency. The tank should be inspected to ensure it is not cracked, collapsing, or leaking and area around the tank should be inspected for evidence of leakage. Risers should be installed on the tank to facilitate maintenance and pumping as necessary. These systems typically have a diversion device to direct waste water to either leach bed. The diversion device or valve should be turned annually to allow each side of the leach field to rest & recover. Improperly diversion can cause a leach field to become over saturated and lead to premature failure. Components of leach fields can be repaired or placed to bring the system into proper working order.

System Description

Upflow filters were added after Aeration tanks to further treat waste water before entering an outlet tile and virgin soil. It is very important that the motor and electronic components are working on the Aeration tank, and that the Upflow filter is in good repair for this system to function as intended. 

What to know about this system

This system is approved for use as long as it is not causing a public health nuisance. The tank should be pumped according to the required pumping frequency. The tank should be inspected to ensure it is not cracked, collapsing, or leaking and area around the tank should be inspected for evidence of leakage. Risers should be installed on the tank to facilitate maintenance and pumping as necessary. If the aerator is not working, in must be repaired or replaced. If the lot was created prior to 2007, these systems can be repaired and used as installed. Upflow filters are generally filled with gravel media, but other non-degradable media types can also be used. following an Aeration tank, upflow media filters can remove additional TSS, BOD5, and organic nitrogen. The media may have to replaced on older systems.

System Description

A Subsurface Sandfilter is constructed from two layers of gravel and one layer of filter sand. Effluent passes through perforated pipes and trickles through the upper gravel layer.  These pipes distribute effluent over the sandfilter bed. This process slows and aerates the water. As the water passes through the sand and bottom gravel layer, naturally occurring bacteria remove toxins, bacteria, viruses and other pollutants.

Distribution Box: This box, located at the inlet to the sandfilter, divides the effluent flow from the septic tank and spreads it over the surface of the filter. Effluent from the septic tank either flows by gravity or is pumped into this box.

What to know about this system

This system is approved for use as long as it is not causing a public health nuisance. The tank should be pumped according to the required pumping frequency. The tank should be inspected to ensure it is not cracked, collapsing, or leaking and area around the tank should be inspected for evidence of leakage. Risers should be installed on the tank to facilitate maintenance and pumping as necessary. Components of this system may be repaired or replaced to bring the system back into working order. If this system fails and cannot be repaired, and the lot was created after 2007, it must be replaced with a system that meets current sewage rules.

System Description

As rules for septic system design became more stringent, products used in secondary treatment systems had to gain approval from the Ohio Department of Health. A full list of approved products can be found here. Some typical system designs you may see in Defiance County include; Infiltrator Chamber, EZ Flow, ATL, Presby systems; Anua Puraflo peat filter systems.

What to know about this system

These systems are approved for use as long as they are not causing a public health nuisance. The tank should be pumped according to the required pumping frequency. The tank should be inspected to ensure it is not cracked, collapsing, or leaking and area around the tank should be inspected for evidence of leakage. Risers should be installed on the tank to facilitate maintenance and pumping as necessary. Components of this system may be repaired or replaced to bring the system back into working order. 

Although these systems have additional components compared to older systems, the general design is the same. Systems include a primary treatment component and a secondary treatment component. Full details of these systems can be obtained from the manufacturer, or installer of these systems.

System Description

A National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) is the same footprint as an aeration system, however it has additional operating requirements.  This system uses and aeration tank and ultraviolet late for disinfection. The Ohio EPA issued the NPDES Permit to provide a process for replacement household sewage systems that discharge treated sewage effluent (non-soil based systems) to gain compliance with the provisions of the Federal Clean Water Pollution Control Act. The complete terms and limitations of this General Permit can be found on the Final General Permit page of Ohio EPA’s website.

What to know about this system

The General Permit defines the limitations of coverage for eligible systems and identify conditions where discharging systems cannot be installed. The local board of health has jurisdiction where a new or replacement household sewage treatment system is located and to determine eligibility of coverage under the permit. The General Permit requires new and replacement discharging systems to be permitted and installed under a local health district permit. Sample ports must be installed to ensure the systems can achieve discharge requirements.

Additional information on the permit requirements can be found here.

System Components

How It Works

The septic tank is the most cost efficient method available to treat residential wastewater. But for it to work properly, you need to choose the right kind of septic tank for your household size and soil type, and you need to maintain it regularly. New tanks have two compartments, older tanks may only have a single compartment and Aeration tanks have three compartments.

A septic tank is an enclosed watertight container that collects and provides primary treatment of wastewater by separating solids from the effluent. It removes the solids by slowing down the wastewater flow in the tank and allowing the solids to settle to the bottom of the tank while the floatable solids (fats, oil, and greases) rise to the top.

Some of the solids are removed from the water, some are digested, and some are stored in the tank. Up to 50 percent of the solids retained in the tank decompose; the rest accumulate as sludge at the tank bottom and need to be removed periodically by pumping the tank. 

Required Maintenance

Septic and Aeration tanks should be pumped by a licensed pumper in accordance with the recommended pumping schedule. Tanks shall be inspection by registered contractors for evidence of leakage, cracking, or collapse. Tanks can be replaced by obtaining an alteration permit, if necessary.

How It Works

Aerators works by pumping oxygen into the tank changing it from an anaerobic atmosphere (no oxygen) to an aerobic (oxygen) atmosphere and this allows the more effective aerobic bacteria to exist in the tank.  Under these conditions the treatment in the tank is increased and effluent leaving the tank can be cleaner which in turn takes the load off the soil treatment area. 

Ultraviolet Light may be used for disinfection if your system had to obtain an NPDES permit. Ultraviolet light is another disinfection method for destroying disease-causing organisms in wastewater effluent. The UV light destroys the genetic material of microorganisms which prevents them from reproducing. Wastewater must pass through an advanced pretreatment component which is designed to remove most of the organic matter and suspended solids before it passes through the UV disinfection unit. Wastewater flows parallel to the UV light in a thin film to increase contact time. 

 

Required Maintenance

Aeration Units shall be functional and in good repair. Components from these units can be repaired or replaced as needed.

Ultraviolet Light bulbs need to be replaced as needed. Service contracts and required effluent sampling is required to maintain an NDPES permit.

How It Works

A septic tank riser is a large diameter concrete or plastic pipe that runs vertically from the pump-out openings or access ports at the top of a septic tank up to ground level. Risers come in various heights to bring any access port to grade. A lid fits securely on the top of the riser and sits flush with the ground, eliminating digging and searching. Because the riser (sometimes called an extension) extends from your tank opening to the lawn surface, it makes accessing your septic tank for pumping, other maintenance or inspections much easier! 

Effluent Filters are a product designed to extend the life of your drainfield by preventing solids from leaving the septic tank. These filters operate efficiently for several years or more before requiring replacement. 

Required Maintenance

Risers should be securely attached to the access of the septic tank. Damage lids should be replaced, and lids should be secured with safety screws to prevent hazards. If your tank does not have risers, a riser can be installed without obtaining a permit.

Effluent Filters should be pulled annually and rinsed off to allow effluent to exit the tank freely. If your effluent filter is broken or missing, it can be replaced. Contact the tank manufacturer or original installer to obtain a new effluent filter. Tanks without effluent filters can be retrofitted with baffles to accommodate an effluent filter.

How It Works

DCGHD began designing systems with Perimeter Drains in the early 2000s. Most of Defiance County has poorly drained soil. A perimeter drains collects storm water and diverts it away from secondary treatment systems. This allows secondary treatment systems to disperse and treat wastewater without becoming over saturated.

Required Maintenance

Inspection wells on perimeter drains should be inspected during the O&M period to ensure water is flowing freely after a rain event. Perimeter drains are not a requirement on older systems, but can be installed without a permit to help older systems recover, by diverting storm water away from the system. The outlet on perimeter drains should have an animal guard and all inspection wells should have water tight caps.

How It Works

Inspection Ports may be required depending on the type of system you have. The purpose of inspection ports is to monitor levels of effluent in a treatment system. These ports can be observed for rising effluent levels and help troubleshoot if an area of the treatment system is damaged and needs repaired.

Vents may be required based on the design of your system. Some systems requires vents to allow oxygen exchange and systems to breathe. Most vents are comprised of PVC pipe with a down turned elbow, and can double as inspection ports.

Required Maintenace

Inspection ports & Vents should have water tight caps. If these are damaged (by a yard tractor for example) they can be repaired or replaced as needed. Inspection ports and vents should be extend above grade and should be securely attached in a trench/tile/chamber.

How It Works

An update to Ohio sewage rules requires vertical separation from a restrictive layer (bedrock, seasonal water, aquifer, etc.) often, this means secondary treatments systems need to be raised. If gravity flow from a septic tank to a secondary treatment system cannot be achieved, a Pump Station will be required. Pump stations pump effluent through a pressure line into a distribution box. 

Pumps shall be sufficient in strength and capacity to pump effluent to the distribution box. Pumps have floats to tell the pump when to start pumping.

Alarms are required on Pump Stations. If there is a power outage, or a float is not working properly, the audible alarm will alert the homeowner. The pump may require attention to ensure it is working properly.

Required Maintenance

Pump stations should be accepting effluent only, and no solids. Pump tanks should be inspected for structural integrity during the O&M permit period. 

Pumps should be repaired or replaced as needed. If a pump needs replaced, contact the tank manufacturer or original installer to find the right replacement pump. Pumps usually last several years without incident.

Alarms should be tested regularly to ensure they are working properly. Most new alarms have a test function. If you do not know how to test the alarm, you can contact the manufacturer or the original installer. If the alarm is faulting, it needs to be repaired or replaced. 

How It Works

A Distribution Box or D-Box collects effluent from a tank or pump station to be distributed equally to the secondary treatment system. The inlet line dumps into the D-Box, as the effluent level rises in the box, it then enters outlet lines. Some systems require a resting area, the D-Box provide access to homeowners can block off lines leading to the resting trench(es).

A Diverter Valve is intended to rest larger sections of a secondary treatment area. Some system designs require resting half of the entire treatment area at a time. the Diverter Valve, sometime called a Bull-Run valve, is used to alternate between each bed in this type of system. The valve should be turned once a year to allow the system to recover and prevent oversaturation.

Required Maintenance

Distribution Boxes should be inspection to ensure they are water tight and level. The lid should be securely attached with safety screws. All incoming and outgoing lines should be secure and water tight. If your system has a required resting area, a cap or upturned elbow should be rotated from trench to trench. This rotation should occur once a year. It is recommended to rest trenches in a clockwise rotation to ensure each trench gets a chance to rest.

Diverter Valves should be turned annually. If you do not know if your system has a diverter valve, contact our office or the original installer. If the diverter valve is broken, it can be replaced. If your system was designed with a diverter valve, it is crucial to use as intended to prevent premature failure of your secondary treatment system.