On-site Waste Water Management Systems

On-site waste water management systems (OWMS), sometimes referred to as "septics", are options for some properties (residential, rural, commercial and industrial) within the City of Greater Geelong that are unsewered.

When considering buying a block of land or building on a block, check with Barwon Water to find out if the property is serviced by sewers, or if sewer extension work is proposed and what time line is proposed for the block to be serviced.

What you need to know

Under the Environment Protection Act 2017, a permit is required to be issued from Council to construct, install or alter any part of an OWMS. Legal penalties apply for work carried out without a permit.

The permit consists of a two-stage process:

  • A ‘Permit to Alter/Install’ an on-site wastewater management system.  This permit must be issued before a building permit can be issued. 
  • An ‘Approval to Use’ the on-site wastewater management system.  This permit must be issued before a building Certificate of Occupancy can be issued by a Building Surveyor. 

What you need to do

If the property is unsewered, you will need to either pump your wastewater long distance to the nearest sewer or install an approved onsite wastewater management system.

If you are considering a pump to sewer system you will need to approach Barwon Water to discuss access, approval and costing for this method of disposal.

If you want to install an approved onsite wastewater management system you, your plumber or builder can make application to us using our OWMS Application Form.

A full, up-to-date list of all approved systems can be found on the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) website.

Where the daily flow rate of the waste exceeds 5000 litres per day, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) of Victoria, not Council, is the regulatory authority responsible for issuing Permits and supervising the On-site Wastewater Management System Installation.

What we will do

Application process 

We will assess your application and if approved we will issue you with a Permit to Install/Alter an OWMS.

We can only issue permits for OWMS that have:

  • A valid Certificate of Conformance Number (which can be found on the EPA website)
  • daily flow rates not exceeding 5000 litres per day.

You must have this permit prior to installation of the OWMS by your plumber.

Permit process 

There may be other inspections of the system at different stages of installation and connection to your OWMS. This will depend on the type of system you have installed.

It is important that a minimum of 48 hours notice is provided to the Environmental Health Unit to give sufficient notice to complete inspections.  The property owner and/or the plumber should liaise with Council during all inspection stages.

Approval process

A final inspection is required to sign off on the OWMS and issue an approval to use. When a final inspection is required you or your plumber must telephone the Environmental Health Officer on 03 5272 4411 or email us - [email protected] to book the inspection. Please allow a minimum of five business days to allow the approval to use to be issued.

When it has been established that the OWMS meets the requirements we will issue an Approval to Use OWMS. 

Only then can you start to use your waste water system. Using your OWMS before an ‘Approval to Use’ has been issued can result in a penalty infringement notice.

What you need to know 

You will need to familiarise yourself with the EPA On-site Wastewater Management - Code of Practice.

Maintenance of OWMS

The responsibility for maintaining an onsite wastewater management system falls to the property owner. 

A properly maintained OWMS will help prolong the life of the system and prevent it from failing prematurely. A failing system could result in a public health risk and expensive repairs or replacement of the OWMS.

Treatment plants must be regularly maintained by a professional service technician as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Maintenance reports must be forwarded to council.

Under EPA Act 2017 and EPA Regulations 2021 property owners must:

  • ensure the OWMS does not pose a risk to human health or the environment
  • ensure the OWMS is maintained in good working order
  • ensure the contents of the OWMS do not overflow
  • retain all records of system maintenance for up to five years for the life of the system and make available for Council inspection if requested; and
  • provide written information to a person occupying the property (such as a tenant) regarding the correct operation and maintenance of the system.

Failure to comply may result in enforcement action such as infringement notices or prosecution.

Page last updated: Wednesday, 14 February 2024