Program Education, Outreach and Resources

This is a simplified overview of how a septic system works.

depiction of wastewater system

Water runs out of your house from one main drainage pipe into a septic tank.

The septic tank is a buried, water-tight container usually made of concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene. Its job is to hold the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle down to the bottom (forming sludge), while the oil and grease floats to the top (as scum). Compartments and a T-shaped outlet prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drainfield area.

The liquid wastewater then exits the tank into the drainfield. If the drainfield is overloaded with too much liquid, it will flood, causing sewage to flow to the ground surface or create backups in toilets and sinks.

Finally, the wastewater percolates into the soil, naturally removing harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients.

The Regional Office Program issues water/wastewater permits (WW Permits) for soil based wastewater systems with flows of less than 6500 gallons per day, for potable water supplies (water supplies that are not public water supplies), and for municipal water and sewer connections. Permitting staff are located in five Regional Offices. Staff also administers the licensed designer program and reviews innovative and alternative systems for potential use in VT.

The regional offices map provides office, program and contact information for each region.

Licensed Designer Program information.


Septic Smart SealBe Septic Smart!

Over half the households in Vermont depend on septic systems or other types of onsite systems to treat their wastewater. Failure to maintain a septic system can lead to backups and overflows, which can result in costly repairs.

Even if you do not own an on-site septic system you are likely to use one at a friend’s house or camp, a business or a park facility. During Septic Smart Week, EPA provides septic system use and maintenance tips, including:

  • Keep it clean! Maintain your septic system to protect the cleanliness of your water well.
  • Don’t Strain Your Drain: Use water efficiently and stagger use of water-based appliances. This can improve septic system operation and reduce risk of failure.
  • Think at the sink! What goes down the drain has a big impact on your septic system.
  • Don’t overload the commode! A toilet is not a trash can. Disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can damage septic systems.
  • Protect it and inspect it! Regular septic maintenance can save homeowners thousands of dollars.
  • Shield your field! Tree and shrub roots, cars and livestock can damage your septic drain field.

For more information go to the SepticSmart website,, or click on Septic Smart Sam image above.

  • Household water well owners encouraged to use help hotline

Household well owners with questions about their water well system, water quality, or well construction can contact an information hotline operated by the National Ground Water Association at 855-420-9355 (855-H20-WELL). The Private Well Owner Hotline operating hours are Monday through Friday, 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM Eastern Time, except national holidays.

Information for Landowners








How do I test my private well?