Onsite Wastewater Management Systems


It is important for the health of the community and the environment that waste water is disposed of by the approved standards set out by the Environment Protection Authority.

If a property does not have reticulated sewerage connection, this means the installation and maintenance of an approved onsite wastewater management system (OWMS) is required.

Find your bin day...
Filter Results
Showing 0 results.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No items found.
There are no results to display, please search again.

Permits and Licences

Under the Environment Protection Regulations 2021, Wellington Shire Council provides permits to:

  • construct
  • install
  • alter an OWMS of up to 5000 litres a day.

The system you install must be approved by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). A full list of approved systems is available on the EPA website.

The EPA Code of Practice – Onsite Wastewater Management provides standards and guidance to ensure the management of onsite wastewater (up to 5000 L/day) protects public health and the environment, and uses our resources efficiently.

Before installing or altering any part of an OWMS, the owner must have completed a 2021/22 Application to Install or Alter an Onsite Wastewater Management System (OWMS) Form. A Permit to Install/Alter must be issued for works to commence.

Permit application forms should be fully completed, signed and returned to council with:

  • A fee of $734.65 for a new installation
  • A fee of $734.65 for a major alteration to an existing system
  • A fee of $559.90 for a minor alteration to an existing system
  • Scaled site plans showing proposed construction and OWMS installation site, existing structures and driveways, adjoining roads and properties, any water courses or supplies and the north point
  • House floor plans
  • A copy of the Land Capability Assessment (if required - please refer to application form). For a list of Land Capability Assessment providers please conduct a Google search or use the Yellow pages.

We will reply with confirmation of any further requirements regarding your OWMS installation once your application is received. When all legislative components of your installation process are complete and an onsite inspection has been conducted, a permit to use your OWMS will be issued.

Note: The installation of the OWMS must be completed within 2 years of the date of issue of the permit to install/alter.

The Environment Protection Act 2017 (EP Act) creates a General Environmental Duty that applies to all Victorians. If you own or use an OWMS, including septic tank systems and secondary treatment systems, the GED applies to you. It also applies to how you construct, install, alter, operate and maintain the system, deal with faults or system failures and manage your waste.

Guidance for owners & occupiers of land with an OWMS ≤ 5000 litres on any day (including septic tank systems)

For larger systems serving multiple tenements, shops, hotels, motels, restaurants and commercial or industrial premises, additional permits or works approvals and licenses from planning authorities may be required under the Environment Protection Act 2017 from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

Plans and Inspections

Applications for permits to install an OWMS must be accompanied by a floor plan of the building or dwelling, along with a detailed site plan and a to-scale plan of the proposed OWMS. An initial inspection of the site will then be held by the Environmental Health Officer accompanied by the owner or owner's representative and plumber in order to confirm the most appropriate system to be installed.

A permit to install will then be issued, and any subsequent changes required after this time will need to be submitted in writing and may incur an additional inspection fee and a $69.00 reissue of permit fee.  A second/final inspection by the Environmental Health Officer will take place after your OWMS has been installed but prior to the tank and effluent disposal system being backfilled and covered.

Note: Plumbers and drainers are advised that prior to notification to the Environmental Health Officer for the final inspection, the plumber/drainer responsible for the installation shall ensure that all works are in accordance with the approved plans and specifications and permit to install.  A Compliance Certificate which has been lodged by the plumber/installer with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) must be submitted to Council before an approval to use can be issued.

Request a copy of onsite wastewater management system plans

To request a copy of OWMS plans, please complete the form available on the link below. The current fee for the application is $69.00 inc GST. Application will not be considered complete until the fee is paid.

Basic Requirements

Basic requirements for OWMS installation are detailed below:

  • Unless otherwise approved by the responsible authority, no OWMS shall be constructed or installed closer than 2m to the foundations of any house or building or the boundary of any allotment
  • On sloping sites, effluent disposal should be on the low side to ensure water does not lay against, enter or affect the stability of any building
  • The aggregate for effluent disposal systems and sand filters shall be clean and uniformly graded according to the system
  • The OWMS shall be set out and constructed as shown on the plan approved by the responsible authority
  • The OWMS shall be installed so that the approved test mark or manufacturer's identification mark is accessible for examination until it has been inspected and approved

Building Regulations and Onsite Wastewater Management Systems

Under Section 132 of the Victorian Building Regulations 2008, a building permit for works in an unsewered area requires the Report and Consent of the relevant Council or a relevant OWMS Permit to Install.

This consent can be obtained by lodging the Application for Report and Consent for Works in an Non-Sewered Area with the appropriate plans and application fee. The Report and Consent need not be obtained if a permit to install or alter an OWMS in relation to that building application has been issued by Council for the works.

Care and use of your Onsite Wastewater Management System

This information advises you on how to care for and maintain the OWMS so that you obtain the maximum life out of it. Inappropriate use and failing to maintain the system can result in costly repairs.

  • Be familiar with the location of your system. A plan of the final installation was issued with the Approval to Use. Additional copies can be obtained by contacting Council.
  • Undertake periodic inspections of the OWMS and effluent disposal areas and ensure necessary maintenance is carried out to ensure satisfactory performance of the OWMS.
  • Ensure the effluent disposal areas are not obstructed, not driven on and stock is kept away.
  • Limit the use of household chemicals that can kill the bacteria that make your septic system work. Dilute chemicals where possible.
  • Ensure the septic tank is de-sludged on a regular basis by a suitable contractor.
  • Eliminate food solids and other foreign matter such as sanitary napkins from entering the system.
  • Ensure all modifications to the system are done with the consent of Council and by a qualified plumber or drainer.

Buildings, driveways, concrete slabs, tennis courts, swimming pools, garden beds, vegetable gardens, large trees, etc. must not be placed in or on effluent disposal areas or over tank. Generally bushes, shrubs and trees should not be permitted to grow directly over effluent disposal areas or sand filters in case the systems need to be dug up or for maintenance.

Ensure plants and grasses used near distribution fields are suited to the area and will not cause root obstructions or too much shade that can affect effluent evaporation.

The EPA provides further information on How to manage your own sewerage system.

Decommissioning Onsite Wastewater Management Systems

When existing premises are connected to a reticulated sewer system or a new OWMS is installed, all redundant OWMS are to be decommissioned using the procedure detailed below. This is to ensure that the redundant tank(s) do not cause any future public health or environmental problems.

Decommissioning should be done within 90 days of connecting to mains sewerage or a new system.


  1. Licensed plumber undertakes connection works from dwelling to reticulated sewerage system or new OWMS.
  2. All effluent and sludge is to be removed from the redundant OWMS by an approved contractor (for a list of contractors please conduct a Google search or use the Yellow pages).
  3. Contractor to apply lime to inside of tank and wash down. Resultant sullage water to be pumped out.
  4. OWMS inlet and outlet points are thoroughly sealed.
  5. A hole or holes adequate for drainage purpose is to be provided to the bottom of the OWMS.
  6. The concrete lids and portion of the OWMS walls are to be broken to ground level or below ground level.
  7. The OWMS are to be filled with solid, non-putrescible fill; with the ground surface made good. If settling of the fill material occurs over time it may be necessary to make good the ground surface with further fill.
  8. Subsurface irrigation pipe work (purple) may be removed for further landscaping. Care must be taken when touching any part of the system to avoid contamination from sewerage. Thorough hand washing must occur following works.
  9. Associated pumps and alarms can be removed.
  10. OWMS should only be removed from the ground if appropriate advice as been received from Council regarding structural footing and decontamination requirements.

Please complete the below form to provide evidence of decommission of an onsite wastewater management system (OWMS) and return to Wellington Shire Council.

Identifying Land in Catchment Areas

Before you purchase a parcel of land, you need to conduct several checks with relevant authorities to verify if the land can be built on.

Who do I check with?

A Section 32 statement is a document that is provided by the vendor to the potential buyer/s. The Section 32 is usually prepared by a lawyer and contains information that is relevant to the property such as covenants, easements and any other restrictions on the title. It also can contain planning information, particularly where land use can be restricted due to the zoning of the land.

You also need to check that there are no other water catchment conditions that could prevent you from building on the parcel of land, particularly in rural areas.

Make sure you contact the following people to check if there are any catchment conditions on the land:

  • Your conveyancer
  • Council planners
  • Local water corporations

What is the role of the Water Corporations when you purchase a property

A water corporation's role is to protect the catchment conditions and to make sure that building/development will not adversely affect water quality.

Water corporations have powers which are set out in section 55 of the Planning and Environment Act, 1987.

These powers allow Water Corporations to:

  • Approve a proposal
  • Approve a proposal with conditions
  • Reject a proposal

Any conditions imposed on a proposal are based around the protection of water quality and the health of the catchment

What is the role of the Catchment Management Authority when you purchase a property?

A Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) role differs from that of the Water Corporation's. Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) prepare regional catchment strategies and special area plans that address the importance of conservation, rehabilitation and sustainable use of the land and water resource (i.e. floodplain management).

Land Owner Land Capability Assessment

This information may assist you if Council have asked you to provide a Land Capability Assessment to support your proposal for a subdivision or installation of an onsite domestic wastewater management system.

What is an Land Capability Assessment (LCA)?

Land Capability Assessments (LCA) are evaluations undertaken by a private consultant to determine the ability of your lot or subdivision to sustainably and safely dispose of wastewater. An LCA is specific to each application. It seeks to identify the constraints presented by each lot, and provide a management strategy to overcome any issues. If it is possible LCAs are a means of supporting your application to Council to install or alter an onsite domestic wastewater system. If your lot is incapable of supporting wastewater disposal in a manner that is sustainable and safe, the LCA will state this. However, there is usually a viable solution to wastewater management for most properties and the land capability assessor should evaluate all wastewater options available to assist you.

A Land Capability Assessment has already been produced for my block. Do I need a new one?

LCAs are documents written for a specific application at a particular time. Generally, LCAs will not be relevant to an application other than the one it was written to support. If you have an LCA undertake on your property, the current circumstances on you block may not remain the same and may not have been adequately assessed. Therefore, you may require a new LCA. Sometimes it is possible for you land capability assessor to amend or adjust an existing LCA. In order to determine what you will require, consult your Environmental Health Officer (EHO).

When will I need a Land Capability Assessment?

You may require an LCA when:

  • Proposing a subdivision in an unsewered area.
  • Applying to install an onsite domestic wastewater management system on a property with significant site constraints (e.g. block <8000m2, close proximity to waterways, shallow ground water present, poor soil conditions or restricted area for effluent disposal).
  • Applying to install particular types of onsite domestic wastewater management systems where a Land Capability Assessment is a condition of the Certificate of Approval.
  • Applying to install an onsite domestic wastewater management system for use with an unusual proposal.

Consult Council's Environmental Health Officer (EHO) to determine whether you will require a Land Capability Assessment (LCA) for your proposal.

What should a Land Capability Assessment contain?

LCAs are specific to individual proposals and can vary in what they contain. Nonetheless, all LCAs must provide sufficient details of all aspects of the risk assessment, along with a comprehensive rationale for all proposed management strategies. The following is a general guide of what you might expect to be included in a LCA.

  • Executive Summary Provides a summary of the report with all key points listed.
  • Introduction An introduction to the report, describing the purpose and the subject.
  • Background An overview, any objectives, background and limitations of the report.
  • Site Information Location, property title, lot size, planning zones and overlays, historical and proposed land use, features and use of surrounding land.
  • Key Site Features A detailed description and discussion of topography, soil types, climate, vegetation, drainage, propensity of flooding, proximity to catchment areas, and all relevant site constraints.
  • Infrastructure All existing and proposed services and their locations, services may include electricity, telephone, water, gas, sewerage, access.
  • Property Use Features Livestock, horticultural activities, location and use of dams and bores, location of building envelope, water use, impacts of proposed development.
  • Land Capability Land capability assessment matrix producing a risk rating, soil permeability rates and management protocols.
  • Effluent Treatment and Design Recommended wastewater treatment standards, wastewater system design and specifications, all relevant sizing calculations, and location of effluent disposal areas and reserve areas.
  • Management and Maintenance Protocols Ongoing management and maintenance requirements.
  • Conclusion A summary of key findings and recommendations of the report.
  • About the Author Details of those involved in developing the LCA.
  • Appendices Aerial photographs, site photographs, supporting documentation and references.
  • Laboratory Data Soil classification data and all testing details.
  • Maps Locality map, site maps of existing and proposed features, proposed subdivision layout, building envelopes, areas relevant to wastewater management.

Who can create a Land Capability Assessment?

The assessor must have suitable professional training and experience. Personnel undertaking or supervising data gathering and assessment should have a relevant and acceptable tertiary-level scientific qualification from a reputable training institution in a discipline such as civil or geotechnical engineering, soil science, agricultural science, environmental science, chemistry or physical geography. The qualifications should include specific knowledge of soil, soil hydrological and soil chemical processes.

There is however no licencing scheme currently in place for land capability assessors, so be sure to do your research and seek some local advice. You might also like to take a look in the telephone directory or conduct an online search for environmental consultants or surveyors.

Land Capability Assessments often require the completion of soil tests, site assessments and consultations between the land owner and the assessor. The development of an LCA is a lengthy process and in some circumstances, can take months to complete. If you have a strict timeline to maintain be sure to keep this in mind.

Onsite Wastewater Management System (OWMS) Plumbers Report

This report must be completed by a licensed plumber or drainer.  Please note that if the plumber/drainer identifies any issues that may impact on the operation of the system, Council’s Environmental Health Office will investigate the issue and may require the owner to carry out works to ensure compliance.

Responding to Power Outages

Wastewater from your home contains sewage from your toilet and grey water from your bathroom, kitchen and laundry. Wastewater contains human disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and parasites. Diseases can be transmitted to humans from wastewater if appropriate measures are not taken. The safe disposal of wastewater is therefore essential to protect your health and the health of others.  Ensure children and pets are kept away from wastewater.

  • Electrical power outages and floods can impact your Onsite Wastewater Management System (OWMS).
  • During power outages and floods, wastewater treatment can be limited and pose health concerns and hazards if not managed appropriately.
When without power
  • Limit water usage to essentials such as toilet flushing and hand washing. Laundry, bathing, showers, and dishwashing should be minimized or eliminated during the power outage.
  • Don’t let the water run while brushing teeth, shaving or rinsing dishes.
  • Don’t flush the toilet each time it’s used for liquid waste (where possible).
  • The septic tank can only hold about one-day’s supply of waste before it reaches capacity. Once capacity has been reached, stop all water use. Wastewater will begin to back up into the pipes and eventually will end up in the home if water is continually used.
Extended power outage
  • Stop all water use if electrical outage is extended for more than one day or the plumbing begins to drain slowly.
  • Slow-draining plumbing may indicate that the reserve capacity in the tank is exceeded and the system is full.
  • Consider options for alternative power supply if available – ie. Generator. Visit Energysafe Victoria for information using a generator safely.
  • Odours – Tanks may start producing an odour.  Contact an accredited Liquid Waste Contractor to arrange a pump out of your tank.
Once power is restored
  • Continue to conserve water for 24-48 hours to allow your system to catch-up and return to normal.
  • Allow the system to continue to operate normally until the water level recedes in the system.  A time dosed system may take a 24-hour period to have all of the stored water distributed and the high-water alarm deactivated.
  • For directions on restarting the OWMS, refer to your operations manual.
  • If you are unsure about the operation of your system, or you suspect a system failure contact your service provider, or plumber for assistance.
Wellington Relief Information Line

If you require support, please contact Council’s Relief Information Line on 1300 137 218 between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

In this section...

No items found.

You may also be interested in...

This page was last published on:
Thursday, February 24, 2022