Onsite Wastewater Installation Assessment:
Onsite wastewater systems have been and will continue to be a viable option for
the treatment of wastewater in areas not served by centralized wastewater treatment
systems. Every state in the nation has a population served by decentralized (onsite)
wastewater systems. However, the extent to which this treatment option is being
utilized has not been measured nationally since the 1990 Census.
NESC, with support of industry and state regulators, has been working to gather recent data (2015 through 2018) on the installation of onsite wastewater treatment systems across the country. The first of two reports, focuses on 2015 data. If you would like to receive a copy of the report, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org . A second report will be available later this year (2020) assessing the use of onsite wastewater treatment systems with new residential and commercial development during the time frame of 2015 through 2018.
Knowledge of the current trends and the status of existing onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) will provide local, state, and federal government agencies with necessary information to appropriately allocate resources to ensure necessary environmental and human health protections. Manufacturers and contractors may utilize the report findings to identify market trends, opportunities, and potential coverage gaps.
Eighty-two percent (82%) of state regulatory/permitting agencies provided OWTS permit
information for the year 2015. This response rate excludes partial responses to
2015 Onsite Wastewater Installation Assessment.
Figure 1 breaks down local-level response rates, by state, ranging from
100% to no response.
Figure 1: Response rates to the 2015 Onsite Wastewater System Installation Assessment.
The assessment was broken down by the size of regulated OWTS. Participants were given
the option to select if they regulate: 1) single-family, residential onsite wastewater
systems only; 2) large (e.g., multi-family, commercial, institutional), onsite
wastewater systems only; or 3) both single-family, residential and large, OWTS.
The report shows 85% of the survey respondents regulate both single-family and
large, OWTS; 11% regulate large OWTS only; and 4% regulate only single-family,
OWTS. Many states have multiple agencies to regulate OWTS.
Onsite system permitting authorities vary from state to state and vary within a state depending upon system size, type, and/or physical location. Figure 2 depicts responses received from state regulatory agency representatives when asked to identify the level of government issuing OWTS permits within their respective state. Responses ranged from state-level to building departments having oversight of OWTS permits, with county-, state-, and city/county-level health agencies representing the vast majority.
Figure 2: Breakdown of OWTS permitting authorities/agencies across the United States.
Given the range of jurisdictions (i.e., level of government) regulating OWTS, it is a difficult task for state agencies to collect permit data. When asked if permit data is tracked, 56% of the state representatives responding stated system permits are tracked. Of those respondents, 54% track permits with self-developed databases, 31% use spreadsheets, and the remaining 15% use purchased databases such as Digital Health Department or Health Space.
Roughly 54% (1,691 of 3,149) of the permitting jurisdictions across the U.S. provided OWTS permitting data.A total of 262,648 new and repair onsite system installation permits were issued in 2015 by the responding jurisdictions.
New onsite systems (associated with new housing or commercial construction) accounted
for 59% of the permits issued in 2015, repair/replace permits accounted for 41%
of the permits issued in 2015.Note some jurisdictions do not record repair
installations and unfortunately, not all states distinguish between single-family
OWTS and large OWTS.
Figure 3 provides a breakdown by type of permit (new installation,
repair/replace) of OWTS permits issued. The "combined permits" category represent
data from those states that do not distinguish between single-family OWTS and large
OWTS. Of the permits issued in 2015 for new OWTS installations, 57% were for single-family
systems, 42% were for single-family or large systems, and 1% were specifically
for large systems. Concerning repair/replacement permits issued in 2015, the vast
majority of systems repaired or replaced were for single-family OWTS.
Figure 3: OWTS permits issued for 2015 by type.
Not all responding permitting jurisdictions provided reasons for OWTS repairs. Of
those responding, single-family OWTS repairs accounted for 15% of repair permits
issued and large OWTS repairs accounted for 22% of repair permits issued in 2015.
Repairs to both the septic tank and drainfield represented the largest category
of repairs for single-family and large OWTS, 47% and 51%, respectively, as shown
Figure 4: Breakdown of 2015 OWTS repair permits by system size.
If interested in obtaining an electronic copy of the full report, please email NESC