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On Site Sewage Management Systems

All forms of domestic wastewater are a potential risk to human health and the environment, in areas where reticulated sewer is unavailable wastewater is to be managed by an ‘On-Site Sewage Management System (OSSM)’ there are various forms of OSSM systems, the most common types of systems include: conventional septic systems, aerated wastewater treatment systems, grey water treatment systems and composting toilets. All types of systems are required to have a ‘Certificate of Accreditation’ issued by NSW Health. (

Incorrect management of OSSM systems has been identified as being a significant risk to both public and environmental health, as effluent leaking or failing systems can seep into and contaminate water sources and cause an environmental impact up to 50Km downstream of where the system is located without people becoming aware of this occurring.

During 1998 Changes took place to NSW legislation which nominated Councils as the regulator to ensure compliance and the satisfactory operation of all OSSM systems located within their local government area (LGA). Essentially this means that regardless of the age or type of OSSM system, all systems are required to have a current ‘Approval to Operate’ that is issued by the Council. (

There are currently approximately 1550 OSSM systems that Council is aware of located within the Tenterfield LGA. These systems are then broken down into two levels of risk classifications which includes ‘High Risk’ system which basically covers systems that are located on small allotments, are pump out systems, systems that have a history of failure, systems that are located in a domestic water catchment area or are within close proximity of a watercourse, Generally all other systems which fall outside this range are classified as ‘Low Risk’.

You can view Councils Onsite Sewage Management Policy located here..

Councils Environmental Health Officers have implemented an inspection program to continuously carry out routine inspections of all systems in the LGA to ensure that they all have a current ‘Approval to Operate’. The ‘High Risk’ systems will be inspected every 1 to 3 years, whilst the ‘Low Risk’ systems will be inspected every 5 to 7 years. Systems that are not functioning satisfactorily will be required to be upgraded to an acceptable standard to protect public and environmental health prior to the issue of an ‘Approval to Operate’. Failure to obtain an ‘Approval to Operate’ may result in further regulatory action from Council which may include the issuing of notices or orders to the owner of the land for failure to upgrade the existing system.

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