The Importance of Understanding your Regional Office Permit
The State of Vermont adopted, on July 1, 2007, universal jurisdiction over the design, permitting, and installation of all new wastewater systems and potable water supplies. All new wastewater systems and potable water supplies need to obtain a Wastewater System and Potable Water Supply Permit for activities such as: subdivision of land; construction of a new building (including single family residences) that need a wastewater system (often referred to as sewage disposal or a septic system) or water supply; and repair and/or replacement of a failed wastewater system or water supply. A permit is also required when there is an existing wastewater system and/or potable water supply but there will be an increase in water or wastewater design flows due to either a modification to, or a change in use of, a connected building.
If you plan on purchasing a property that has an existing permitted wastewater system or water supply, or will require a permit for a new wastewater system or water supply, you should know the rules that apply to the property/system. You should learn more about wastewater system regulations that pertain to a property if:
- You are purchasing a property with a wastewater system.
- You are selling a property with a wastewater system.
- You are purchasing a property that will need a wastewater system.
- You are planning on renovating a building or structure that has a wastewater permit.
- You think you may want to convert an existing building on a property.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Wastewater System and Potable Water Supply Permit?
- The permit is the approval by the Agency of Natural Resources for the design, location, and construction of a wastewater system and potable water supply for a building. The permit approves a specific use and occupancy of the building.
- Many permits have construction requirements that need to be complied with prior to the subdivision of land, or occupancy or change in use of a building. These conditions include inspection of the wastewater system and potable water supply and/or providing the Agency a final water supply design and/or water quality testing results.
- Some permits have on-going permit conditions. The permit condition may require that a vendor approved licensed designer, professional engineer or service provider conduct inspections of the wastewater system or water supply that needs to be filed with the Agency. On-going permit conditions are most often included in permits that have an Innovative/Alternative product as part of the wastewater system; a wastewater system using the performance standards of the Rules; or, wastewater systems designed to dispose of a large quantity of wastewater.
How can I find Information on a specific wastewater system or water supply that is permitted for a property?
- Your Regional Office will help you locate information about your wastewater system and water supply and a Permit Specialist can answer questions you may have regarding what State permits may be needed.
- The Wastewater Management Division’s Regional Office Project Database can be used to search for documents and/or plans associated with permits issued by the Regional Offices. Use the search function on the site to locate Wastewater (WW) permit associated with your property.
- A Qualified Licensed Designer may have been involved in designing your system. The designer will be identified on the wastewater permit on file at Wastewater Management Division’s Regional Office Project Database. The designer has the skills and qualifications that are required to evaluate a wastewater treatment system.
- Permits with on-going inspection of the wastewater system or water supply most often require the inspection be conducted by a vendor approved licensed designer, professional engineer or service provider. A landowner may use the licensed designer who designed the water supply or wastewater system or any other vendor approved licensed designer or service provider. Prior to January 1, 2014 I/A permits with annual inspection and maintenance requirements required that a vendor approved licensed designer or professional engineer oversee the inspections and maintenance. Beginning January 1, 2014 the State of Vermont will allow permit holders (previously issued and new permits) to utilize vendor approved service providers as well as licensed designers or professional engineers to oversee the inspections. This simplification should reduce costs to homeowners and simplify the inspection/maintenance compliance process.
What do I need to know if I have an Innovative/Alternative or Performance Based System?
The State of Vermont allows the use of Innovative/Alternative (I/A) systems when designing a wastewater system. I/A systems are used either to assist in overcoming site limitations that would otherwise not allow for the construction of a wastewater system on the property or to decrease the size of a wastewater system. The systems that are approved have specific permit conditions associated with their installation and operation.
Permit conditions for approved systems can be found in the I/A system approval. Permit conditions associated with the specific system in use have vendor and owner requirements that will require:
- Yearly Reporting
- Maintenance contracts
- Yearly Inspections; and
What do I need to know if I have a Performance Based System
A Performance Based system is designed based on site specific hydrogeological testing that demonstrates the ability of the wastewater system to function in compliance with the Wastewater System and Potable Water Supply Rules.
The permit conditions associated with performance based systems will require:
- Yearly inspections and reporting for the first three years of operation of the wastewater system.
How can I learn more about testing a wastewater system or water supply?
A permit that requires a wastewater system to be inspected and reported on a yearly basis most often requires the evaluation to be done by a qualified licensed designer or service provider. There may be a need to have the wastewater analyzed by an accredited laboratory. Only laboratories accredited by The National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Counsel (TNI) are approved to analyze wastewater.
Water supplies that need an inspection often require an analysis of the water for contaminants. The Department of Health or a laboratory certified by the Department of Health can analyze your water for the appropriate contaminants. The Laboratory should provide specific sampling instructions and the appropriate container for sample collection.
What are the consequences of not being in compliance with my Water/Wastewater (W/W) Permit?
If permit conditions and reporting requirements have not been met, the deficiencies may be discovered during a title search when a property is being sold or refinanced. Non-compliance may also come to light when new permits are applied for. When violations of the W/W permit are found, they may delay or negate the sale or closing of a home or property.
The Agency may also take enforcement action against a landowner in order to gain compliance with a permit condition.
What should I do if my wastewater system/water supply fails or I want to report a failed system?
Wastewater systems that have wastewater surfacing, backing up into the building or discharging to the waters of the State are considered failed systems. Water supplies that do not comply with the drinking water standards for total coliform, nitrate, nitrite, arsenic or uranium are considered failed supplies. A homeowner needs to abate the health issue and bring their system or supply into compliance. Guidance from their Regional Wastewater permit specialist is available. There are programs that provide financial assistance to qualifying homeowners that need to upgrade their systems.
If you want to report an apparent failed system or supply, contact your Town Health Officer. Health Officers enforce health laws and investigate possible public health hazards and risks within their municipality and take action to correct the failure.
How can I learn more about how a septic system works and how to prevent failures?