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Septic/Onsite Sewage

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Welcome to the Office of Onsite Septic Systems

Onsite sewage disposal is a broad term used to describe a system that treats biological or chemical effluent in the place where it originated. In other words, it's your septic system, complete with a tank that sorts, stores and treats solids as well as a leach field that distributes the fluids over a sand and gravel bed. Your septic system is a critical part of your home. It should be treated with care to ensure its effectiveness in treating the effluent we produce in our homes. For new construction of a home, business, or other building from which sewage emanates, with sanitary sewer not available, an onsite sewage disposal system is required. Wayne County evaluates conditions for suitability of onsite sewage disposal, Fee system construction, and complaints of improper operation and maintenance of onsite sewage disposal facilities. Wayne County acts as the local permitting agency for all residential and small commercial onsite sewage treatment systems. All completed sewage systems must be inspected and approved by the Wayne County Department of Health, Human and Veterans Services.
Wayne County Onsite Sewage System Program Process (single/duplex site)
  1. Site/soil evaluations for new home sites.
  2. Site/soil evaluations for the repair/replacement for existing septic systems.
  3. Issues new or repair permits for installation of septic systems.
  4. Performs inspections of onsite sewage system installations for both new and repaired systems.
Perc Test Application

Repair/Replace Application

2024 EH Fee Schedule

What is an Onsite Septic System?

In areas where public sewer is not available, homeowners must install onsite sewage systems (also known as septic systems) on their property that will treat wastewater coming from their home.All facilities such as toilets, sinks, bathtubs, showers, washing machines, dishwashers, or anything else that generates sewage must be connected to a sewage system. Footing drains, roof drains, storm water pipes, and water softening waste should not be connected to sewage systems. These items should discharge away from the drainfield area, and in a manner that does not impact neighboring property. Also, water softener wastewater should not discharge near wells or surface water. Finally, in-ground automatic or timed watering systems (in-ground sprinklers) should not be installed atop where the septic system is laid needlessly adding to the water load on the field.
Onsite sewage systems must be designed according to Wayne County standards, and must be inspected and approved by an Environmentalist (health inspector). Sewage systems are different from municipal sewers because they have a limited life expectancy, which can be drastically reduced if the system is improperly used or not maintained.

What are typical sewage system components?

Pipe from House: All of your household wastewater exits your home through a pipe that flows into the septic tank.
Septic Tank: The septic tank is a buried, watertight container that holds wastewater long enough for solids to settle out (sludge) and oil and grease to float to the surface (scum). Solid materials begin to decompose, and anaerobic breakdown of bacteria takes place. Compartments and a baffle or outlet tee in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and entering the drainfield. The septic tank needs to be pumped every 3-5 years to remove the scum and sludge.
Drainfield: Every time new wastewater enters the septic tank, the same amount of wastewater (or effluent) exits the tank and is pushed into the drainfield. If the drainfield is overloaded with too much liquid, it will flood. This prevents treatment of wastewater, and may cause sewage to flow to the surface of the ground or back up into the house. A reserve drainfield is an area on your property suitable for a new drainfield system if your current drainfield fails.
Soil: Septic tank wastewater flows to the drainfield, where it percolates into the soil and is filtered. Natural processes remove most of the contaminants in the wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater. Aerobic breakdown of bacteria also occurs. Soil that allows for percolation, or drainage, is necessary for successful wastewater treatment.
What are signs of sewage system problems?
If a sewage system fails, obvious signs appear:
  • Toilets back up; drains won't drain.
  • Excessive moisture or waste water surfaces over the drainfield.
  • Foul odors come from the drainfield or septic tank
A failed sewage system is a health hazard to you, your family and your neighbors. Call the Wayne County Department of Health, Human and Veterans Services, Environmental Health Section at (734) 727-7400 at the first signs of failure, and we will assist you in your efforts to remedy the situation.
Site/Soil Evaluation
This assessment determines a site's suitability for installing a new onsite sewage system. Contact your local municipality to determine if municipal sewage treatment is available. Building Inspection agencies in Wayne County require either proof of municipal sewer connection or a sewage permit before building permits can be issued.
Why do I need a "Perc" test or soil evaluation?
It is necessary to have suitable soil if the drainfield is to function properly. Simply speaking, the most suitable soil would be well-drained sandy soil. However, there is great variation in types of soils within Wayne County. It is essential that a careful check be made of soil and drainage conditions before planning the installation and use of onsite sewage systems. The occurrence of saturated soil, or ground water, is an important factor since the sewage systems drainfield must be installed in well drained soil in order to function properly. In selecting a building site, factors such as soil drainage, permeability, topography and ground water must be considered and are best determined by a site/soil evaluation.
What do I need to do to have a soil evaluation performed?
To have a Site/Soil evaluation performed, you will need to complete the Application for Site Evaluation for Sewage Disposal System. The application must include:
  • Name, address and contact information for the owner of the property
  • 10-digit parcel identification number (tax i.d.).
  • Property drawing showing the proposed location of the home and septic system (active and reserve).
  • Legal description or survey.
  • Any proposed changes in the property such as a planned land split. Have proposed map of the proposed land split.
Contact an excavating contractor and select a few tentative dates for the evaluation. The excavating contractor will dig test holes for the evaluation. Excavating contractors can be found in the yellow pages under "Excavating Contractors" or "Septic Tanks & Systems - Contractors & Dealers." Schedule the soil evaluation with the Sanitarian.
A Most Important Note: Prior to performing any excavation it is your or the excavators responsibility to determine the location of any buried utilities and utility easements on your site. Call MISS DIG at 1-800-482-7171 for this information. Keep in mind that it usually takes a few days for MISS DIG to mark your utility lines!
How is the soil evaluation scheduled?
Sometimes the soil evaluation can be scheduled when you submit the application at the Environmental Health office. If you are not able to schedule at the time of application, call the Environmentalist a couple of days later to schedule it. Before calling the Environmentalist, get tentative times from your excavating contractor. In many cases, you can even have the excavating contractor schedule the soil evaluation appointment. Appointments can usually be scheduled within 5 business days of receiving a complete application. However, during certain seasonal peak construction times, it may take up to 10 business days to schedule the soil evaluation. Remember, it is your responsibility to coordinate the appointment with the excavating contractor and the Environmentalist, so make sure all parties are aware of the appropriate date, time and location of the soil evaluation.

The Environmentalist observes the excavation looking for these items:
  • Evidence of a seasonal high water table.
  • Isolation distances to area wells, surface water, structures, easements, and property lines.
  • Topography, vegetation and drainage patterns.
  • Other site characteristics may be considered at the Sanitarian's discretion.
Who determines the location for the test holes/sewage system?
You should have an idea of where you would like to have the sewage system placed prior to the soil evaluation. However, the Environmentalist or excavating contractor may suggest a different area if the original area selected appears unsuitable. Keep in mind that the Environmentalist's role on the site is to provide expertise and guidance to assist the homeowner or builder in making these decisions. NOTE: The onsite system shall be placed at the approved test sites (active and reserved areas).
Who needs to be present at the soil evaluation?
The Environmentalist, excavating contractor, and property owner or his/her designated representative must be on site during the evaluation. Important decisions will need to be made and it is a good idea for the property owner to be present. At a minimum, you are encouraged to select your desired home location and drainfield area.
What if I am denied based on soil evaluation results?
You may file an appeal by submitting this form.
Installation of the Septic System
A valid permit is required which is issued by this Department. Its specifications are drawn from the results of the "perc" test / Soil Evaluation.
How do I apply for my septic system permit?
Submit a complete permit application to this Department with the application and fee.
The application must include:
  • Completed application form
  • Documentation of permanent street address if new construction (tax bill, township address form, etc.)
  • 10-digit parcel identification number (tax I.D.)
  • Copy of a certified survey and legal description (for new construction only)
  • Appropriate fees
Once these materials are submitted, an Environmentalist will review and issue the permit and or contact you within 3-5 business days to request additional information. At your request, permits will be mailed or picked up once issued.
How long are my permits valid?
You have one year from the time your sewage/well permit is issued to complete construction. After that, the permit must be rewritten and a fee assessed. If changes are made which require a site visit, an additional fee may be required.
What inspections are made during the construction of my septic system?
Your inspection schedule will be listed on your permit. The sewage contractor will contact us for the required inspections. All inspections will be made promptly (usually within 24 hours, excluding weekends and holidays). Please note that any deviations from your original plans must be approved before excavation/construction can begin!
Typical inspections include:
Drainfield Excavation Inspection: An excavation inspection is required on all drainfields. The Environmentalist must inspect the excavation before you place any sand fill or stone in the drainfield. This inspection ensures that the size and location of the drainfield are appropriate, and ensures that suitable soil conditions are available.
Sand Backfill: This inspection confirms the quality of the sand utilized for the field installation and the quantity, depth or amount of sand fill required.
Drainfield Placement: Stone and tile placement is inspected for quality of materials and construction.
Septic Tank Setting: As required according to permit specifications.
Pump & Pump Tank: If required according to permit specifications.
Final Earth Cover: Following final inspection, it may be necessary to conduct a final grading inspection, which determines whether there is proper cover over the septic tanks and drainfield, and that surface water is directed away from the installation.
Once approved, permit paperwork will be finaled out, signed and an as-built of the field installation will be prepared to record the field placement on the property. All completed sewage systems must be inspected and approved by the Wayne County Department of Health, Veterans and Community Wellness.
Wayne County Time of Sale (TOS) Program
In areas where municipal water and sewer services are not available, homeowners must rely on onsite septic systems to meet their needs. There is an ordinance in Wayne County (outside of the City of Detroit) in which homes with onsite septic systems are required to have them inspected for their function. The septic system needs to be satisfactorily functioning before sale of the home may take place. List Of TOS Evaluators.

2023 Registered On-Site Waste Water Disposal System Evaluators

TOS Ordinance Brochure

SepticSmart Week 2022

Each yea, EPA holds SepticSmart Week with outreach actvities to encourage homeowners and communitires to care for and maintain their septic systems.

During SepticSmart Week, EPA seeks to inform homeowners on proper septic system care and maintenance, assist local agencies in prompting homeowner education and awareness, and educate local decision makers about infrastructure options to improve and sustain their communities.

SepticSmart Week: September 19-23, 2022

Following links for Registered Septic Evaluator Use Only

Wayne County On-Site Sewage Disposal System Evaluation & Maintenance Ordinance (No. 99-527)
Contact Us

Geographic Area
Phone Number
Dave Wilson, Environmentalist
Wayne County South and Southwest
(734) 727-7417
Andrzej Borek, Environmentalist
Wayne County North and Northwest
(734) 727-7465
Michelle Lenhart Varran, R.S., Department Manager(734) 727-7448
*Please note, field staff are normally in the office M-F, 8:00AM-10:30AM. Please email with questions.