View this email in your browser

Washington County Septic Program

Spring is here, which means that construction plans, graduation parties, and other warm weather activities are moving to the top of our “to-do lists.”  Warm weather can also bring increased use of septic systems, as lake homes and vacation properties open for the season. As of 2018, Washington County has over 18,000 septic systems that serve both residential and commercial properties.
Properly functioning septic systems serve a critical need in areas without municipal sewers and collectively treat and dispose millions of gallons of wastewater annually. Like all pieces of infrastructure, septic systems require monitoring, maintenance, and eventual replacement at the end of its useful life. 

In line with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the goal of the Subsurface Sewage Treatment Systems Program (SSTS) is to review septic system designs, issue permits, and oversee required septic inspections to protect our ground and surface waters and prevent the incidence of disease. We are excited to share that in 2018, to safeguard the health and safety of Washington County residents, the SSTS program issued 298 permits for new or replacement septic systems, including 79 for new systems and 177 replacement systems. We also reviewed 490 compliance inspection reports for existing systems, issued operating permits for 41 advanced treatment systems, and processed over 3,000 maintenance records. These tank pumping events resulted in more than five million gallons of wastewater being removed from septic tanks.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve our programs and processes. Washington County employs  inspectors with a comprehensive academic background and advanced certifications in wastewater treatment, design, and inspection. In 2018, staff led the testing, development, and improvement of our online septic permitting and data management system. Residents and professionals can apply for permits online, look up historic records, as well as communicate and share information with our inspectors. In 2019, we plan to provide improved resources to residents and property owners on septic system functioning, care, maintenance, and inspection.

Compliance Inspection: Process and Roles

Septic system compliance inspections must be conducted by a licensed inspector certified with the MPCA. The MPCA regulates compliance inspection businesses and prescribes the compliance inspection process and report to be completed during the inspection. 

As required by the MPCA, during a compliance inspection each septic system must be evaluated for three main criteria: tank integrity or sealed tanks; evidence of overloading or surface discharge; and the soil separation or distance between the bottom of the system and a restriction in water flow. Minnesota regulations state that the soil separation or depth to restriction can be identified in two ways:

1. Conducting new soil borings and evaluating the system depth


2. Review and use of existing verifications completed as part of the design, permitting and installation process. Specifically, Min Rules 7082.0700, Subpart 4 B (2) states “A soil separation compliance assessment must be completed by a licensed inspection business or a qualified employee inspector with jurisdiction. Compliance must be determined either by conducting new soil borings or by prior soil separation documentation made by two independent parties. The soil borings used for system design or previous inspections are allowed to be used. If the soil separation has been determined by two independent parties, a subsequent determination is not required unless requested by the owner or owner’s agent or required according to local regulation.”

If a compliance inspection of an existing system indicates the system is non compliant the inspector must specify the reason for noncompliance of each component of the system. The compliance inspector is required to submit the compliance inspection report to Washington County within 15 days of the inspection. Compliance inspections are valid for three years. In addition, the County is directed by Minnesota state rules to follow-up on non compliant inspection reports and require the repair, replacement, or discontinued use of septic systems that are found failing to protect groundwater as prescribed in the MPCA compliance inspection process.

MPCA Compliance Inspections and Enforcement Staff: 

Steve Oscarson, SSTS Compliance/ Enforcement, 507-206-2604

Aaron Jensen, SSTS Program Supervisor, 651-757-2544

Brandon Montgomery, Soil Scientist

Nick Haig, Certification and License Program Supervisor, 651-757-2536

For more information on Compliance Inspections check:
MPCA Compliance Inspections for SSTS
Compliance Inspection Fact Sheet-Existing Septic Systems

Need a Septic Installation Permit?
Here's what to do...

Homeowners and septic contractors can apply for a Septic Installation Permit in two ways:
1. Apply online using our septic permitting portal
. You will need to create an account in to start a new installation permit application.

2. Apply with a paper form by downloading the application form

No matter which way you choose to apply for an installation permit you will need to submit the following completed information:
  • Complete Design Packet
  • Preliminary Site Evaluation Information
  • Soil Survey
  • Site Map
  • Soil Boring Logs (at least 4)
  • Percolation Test or Soil Pits

Type IV Systems Operating Permit:
What’s Required?

A growing number of properties in Washington County are employing advanced wastewater treatment technology in managing their onsite wastewater needs.  These types of septic systems, termed “Type IV” by the MPCA, require an annual Operating Permit from Washington County.

In Minnesota, all onsite wastewater treatment systems are required to provide adequate treatment. Treatment of wastewater is done in unsaturated soil and requires at least three feet of separation between saturated soil conditions and the bottom of the system to protect groundwater. When a site is unable to meet the requirement of separation or other limitations posed by the setbacks on a property, often advanced (Type IV) treatment is employed. Advanced treatment technology utilizes principles of aeration, disinfection, and denitrification so that wastewater entering the soil is safe by the time it reaches groundwater and drinking water wells.

Because Type IV wastewater treatment systems are more complex than Type I septic systems, they require monitoring and maintenance. Operating Permits are necessary to review the monitoring reports and test results and ensure these advanced systems are treating wastewater to optimum levels.

Numerous factors affect how well a Type IV system treats wastewater:
  • Wastewater Strength: Household cleaners, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, fats oils and greases and other products discharged into the wastewater can interfere with wastewater treatment.
  • Wear and Tear: Parts break, electronic connections fail, biological growth clogs operations, treatment media breakdown or compacts.
  • Design limitations: 2019 wastewater science and technology is smarter than ever. Some systems designed in the past are not operating as well as they would if they were designed today.
Operating permits and regulatory oversight of Type IV systems protects both public health and the environment and provide a framework for system owners, service providers and the county to discuss testing, performance and maintenance of these systems.

Welcome to Our New Staff

ImageTo ensure proper adherence to Minnesota state rules, the MPCA has a certification process for all professionals working in the septic or SSTS industry. These professionals include those that design, install, maintain, and inspect septic systems. County inspectors are included in this certification process and must complete training and pass rigorous examinations in the specialty areas of soils, design, installation, and inspection of SSTS. 

Last fall, the Environmental Protection Team welcomed two new inspectors, Barbara Pena (Left) and Paul O’Neel (Right). They are located at the Washington County Government Center in Stillwater. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Every day we receive inquiries from the public and septic contractors about various topics related to septic system regulation, permitting, installation, and inspection. In this section, as part of our commitment to serve you better, you will find some answers to those frequently asked questions.

How often does my septic system need to be maintained?
It is required that a valid maintenance report be submitted to the county no less than once every three years.
Does Washington County have financial assistance available?
The county has low interest loans and income based grant money available to repair or replace a septic system. For more information visit the following link.
Where can I find a licensed septic business?
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) licenses business and certifies individuals. They have a website that can be searched by county to find a septic contractor. 
Where can I find information about a septic system?
If Washington County has information about a given septic system, the information can be found on the online search portal. Finding the information is as simple as creating a user account and doing a search.
Where can I find information about a well on a property?
The Minnesota Department of Health regulates wells in the state. They have a tool call the Minnesota Well Index where information can be founded. If not found there we recommend calling them.
How much does it cost to replace a septic system?

The cost for a full septic system varies greatly depending on site conditions, and the type of system needed. The County recommends contacting a septic system designer for more information.


Stay Connected!

For questions and more information about Washington County Septic Program visit our website, email us or call us at 651-430-6655 or 651-430-6696.
Copyright © 2019. Washington County. All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.