Q: What is an On-Site Sewage Facility?
A: An on-site sewage facility or septic system, disposes of wastewater on-site. All of the wastewater must seep into the soil on the property and not rise to the surface of the ground or discharge into a roadside ditch or stream or gully. Since all systems do not use septic tanks to treat wastewater, these systems are called on-site sewage facilities (OSSF).
Q: Do I need one?
A: If your property is not within reach of a public sewer line and if your project will generate wastewater, then the answer is yes. A building equipped with bathrooms, sinks, kitchens, washing machines, etc., will generate wastewater. Older properties with inadequate or malfunctioning facilities are required to have a new facility installed or the existing facility upgraded.
Q: What must I do to have one installed?
A: To install an on-site sewage facility, or to upgrade an existing facility, an on-site sewage facility permit must be obtained. The County Permit Office will issue the license if your property is located in Harris County and not within the city limits of any city.
Q: How do I obtain a permit to install and operate one?
A: To obtain a permit you must:
1. Fill out an application.
2. Submit application with one (1) sets of OSSF drawings.
3. Submit a site evaluation report.
The drawings and site evaluation must be done by either a registered professional engineer or a registered sanitarian. Engineers and sanitarians advertise in the yellow pages under Engineers and Septic or you may obtain a list of engineers, sanitarians and septic installers from the Permit Office. According to reports by homeowners, engineers and sanitarians, these services generally cost between $300 and $700. Three to five days should be allowed for review of plans and supporting documents.
Since Harris County cannot issue a development (building) permit until after the permit to install and operate the on-site sewage facility is issued, you should start well in advance so that the issuance of your development permit will not be delayed.
Q: How much do they cost and who puts them in?
A: According to reports from on-site sewage facility installers, a facility for a single family dwelling generally costs between $5,000 and $10,000. It must be installed by an installer registered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), or installed by the homeowner. Care must be exercised when installing these systems so that they will function as designed.
Q: How do I keep it working?
A: To keep your system working and to avoid costly repairs, some basic rules should be followed. First, never dispose of household solid wastes and toxic chemicals in your system. Garbage disposals should be avoided or the system should be designed to accommodate the extra waste load. Secondly, conserve water whenever possible. One leaking toilet can overburden your system and cause a problem. Your system must also be properly maintained. If you have septic tanks, they should be pumped every two to three years to insure proper operation. Remember, pumping your tank is like changing your oil. You will not see immediate results but your system will keep working longer with fewer repairs.
Q: When can I get electricity (permanent power)?
A: Review your permits to see what inspections are required. Once you have passed ALL inspections for your project, including development and on-site sewerage facility, you may call 713-274-3900 to request release for permanent power.