What is an onsite sewage facility?
If your home is not able to connect to the sewer network, an onsite sewage facility will be required to treat and dispose of the wastewater from your sinks, showers, baths and toilets. These facilities usually comprise at least one in-ground tank and various methods of wastewater disposal.
Property owners are responsible for ensuring their on-site sewage facility is maintained and operates in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements and any conditions set by Council.
What is the change that will affect pump out septic systems?
From 30 June 2024, Council will cease pump out services to residential and commercial properties across Lake Macquarie City. This means that property owners with pump out systems will be required to seek their own service contractor to pump out wastewater from their pump out septic systems. Council will still be involved in monitoring and regulating the operation of pump out septic systems.
Why is Council changing the way it services these systems?
For more than 20 years, Council has provided residents and businesses with access to a contractor for the removal of liquid sewage waste. The way this service operates is no longer financially viable for Council. It is more affordable for Council and the property owners to seek out their own services. The number of properties with on-site sewage management systems is decreasing, which then increases the cost to properties that do continue to require the service.
How do I know if my system will be affected by the change?
If Council has sent you correspondence about the change, your system is affected by the change.
If you have a system, where the wastewater is pumped out by a truck (fortnightly or weekly for residential properties and as required for commercial properties) you will be affected by the change. If the wastewater from your septic tank is currently disposed on your property, either on the surface via sprinklers or below the ground, you will not be affected by the change.
How do I find a new service provider?
For possible service providers search the internet with terms such as ‘sewage removal services hunter area‘ or ‘sewage removal services near me’
What will Council require from me once I find my own service provider?
Council will require notification by phone or email of your new service provider.
Can I find out my final date for pump out by Council’s contractor?
You can contact Council on 02 4921 0333 or email [email protected] to enquire about obtaining this information. You will need to arrange a pump out service with your new provider for a date after 1 July 2024 when you estimate your tank will require a pump out and before your tank is full, to prevent any tank overflows.
When I engage my own service provider, will I be required to have the wastewater from my tanks pumped out on a fortnightly basis for a residential property?
Council will not require a minimum frequency for pumping out of wastewater. The frequency of pump out can be negotiated with your new service provider depending on water usage from your property.
Should your tank overflow, this is considered a breach of your operational approval conditions. You may then be penalised by Council, or an order may be served on your property to undertake an increase in service frequency.
Will Council assist me if I have problems with my new service provider?
You will need to ensure that your system can be serviced and if there are issues with the provider being able to carry out the service, you are advised to seek alternative arrangements and advise Council of your new service provider. The property owner is responsible for ensuring that wastewater in the system does not enter the surrounding environment.
Will my rates be amended once I find a new service provider?
After 30 June 2024, Council’s effluent removal service will cease. Your rates for the next rates period will be adjusted accordingly. If you believe the rates have been incorrectly adjusted, contact Council on 4921 0333 to speak with someone in the rates department. If you begin a service with a different service provider before 30 June 2024, please notify Council so we can cancel the service with our contractor. Please note, you will still be required to pay for effluent removal charges on your rates even if Council’s effluent removal service is not utilised.
Will my approval to operate conditions change?
There will be minor changes made to your current approval to operate document including but not limited to removing the requirement for a minimum fortnightly pump out frequency. An amended approval to operate will be sent out to property owners after 30 June 2024.
Tank capacity and water usage
Can I find out how big my septic tank and collection wells are?
Council may have records that show the volumes of any approved septic tanks and collection wells. You can contact 02 4921 0333 or email [email protected] to enquire about this information.
How can I monitor the contents of my pump out system to prevent the tank from overflowing?
There are two main ways to monitor your tank contents to prevent your tank from overflowing. One way is to physically check the contents of the tank/s by opening the inspection lid (usually the small, round lid located on the top of the tank). Inspection lids that have been concreted may need to be attended to so that lids can be removed.
A second method is to install a high-level alarm that is connected to a panel (usually in your house) that sounds an alarm when levels are nearing full. Please note that should you require an afterhours or weekend pump out service outside your regular service, this may attract a higher fee.
How can I reduce the amount of water entering my tanks?
You can install water saving fixtures in your house, use a shower timer, reduce the use of baths, flush the toilet only when necessary and choose water saving appliances to help reduce water use. Stormwater can be prevented from entering the tank/s by ensuring that there are no entry points for stormwater, the tank lid is located above the ground level and stormwater drainage on the property is maintained.
Are there any options to divert my grey water?
Grey water treatment systems accredited by NSW Health are available but require a Section 68 approval in unsewered areas.
Who is responsible for my onsite sewage system?
Under NSW legislation, the owner is responsible for ensuring that the facility on their property is maintained and operating as intended. This includes ensuring other occupants, including tenants, are aware of any maintenance requirements.
What if I don’t maintain my system?
A system that is not working properly can have a serious impact on people’s health, your surroundings, and the environment. Although Council will be allowing properties to use their own service provider, we will still be regulating the operation of the system and any non-compliances with the approval to operate. There are penalties for failure to maintain your facility under the Local Government Act 1993 and penalties under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 if wastewater from your system enters drainage systems or waterways.
What maintenance is required of my system?
Maintenance includes ensuring that:
- wastewater can be extracted from your tank/s which may include maintaining pipework to ensure there are no breaks or cracks.
- solids levels don’t reach the inlet/outlet pipes and prevent wastewater flow through the system. Having the system pumped out of solids when required.
- the standpipe where the service providers connect the hose for the pump out is free from obstruction and has a cap to cover the pipe.
- assistor pumps are turned on when pump outs are carried out.
- tank lids, inspection openings and seals around lids are intact and prevent stormwater from entering the tank or people from accessing tank contents.
- tank is located above the ground level to prevent stormwater entry.
- vegetation around the tank is maintained and items are not stored on top of tanks.
I have tenants at my property, what are they responsible for in relation to the pump out system?
The property owner is responsible for the maintenance of the system. Should wastewater be allowed to evacuate the system, you as the property owner could be penalised even if your tenant has caused the overflow. You are encouraged to advise your tenant to monitor the system, report any maintenance required and arrange for a pump out service if the system requires it outside of the scheduled service to prevent any overflows of the system.
Can I connect my property to the Hunter Water Sewer and avoid seeking my own service provider?
You will need to make enquires with Hunter Water in relation to whether your property can connect to their services. If it is possible, you will need to make application to Hunter Water and advise Council when your property is connected so that you can avoid the requirements of managing your pump out system with a new service provider.