On-site sewage management

There are over 4600 Onsite Sewage Management Systems in use in the Port Stephens Local Government Area.

There are over 4600 On-site Sewage Management Systems in use in the Port Stephens Local Government Area. System types include septic tanks with adsorption trenches or evapotranspiration beds; septic tanks that pump to sewer, aerated wastewater treatment systems, pump to sewer systems and effluent pump-outs.

All surface waterways and groundwater can be potentially affected by poorly operating on-site wastewater treatment systems. While a well maintained on-site system can be used to effectively treat and dispose of human effluent, systems that are poorly maintained and not operating well can introduce high levels of nutrients, micro-organisms and other pollutants to our waterways.

The On-site Sewage Management Program

Council's On-site Sewage Management Program has been operating since March 2000 following legislative changes by the State Government.

Council employs three full-time staff to run the program which is self-funding from associated fees. The program consists of several areas of operation underpinned by an On-Site Sewage Management Strategy. Areas of operation include:

The Local Government Act 1993 prescribes the operation of a system of sewage management as an activity that requires an approval to operate from a local Council.  As such every property operating an on-site system now requires an approval to operate.  This approval requires renewing annually for which a fee is payable. The fee is now conveniently included in the property rate notice.  Council maintains a database of properties operating on-site systems.

Existing systems are inspected by a Council Officer on a regular basis to ensure that they are operating correctly and being maintained in a satisfactory condition. Audited systems are inspected on either a 1, 2, 3 or 5 year frequency and then categorized as low, medium or high risk, depending upon sensitivity of the location, system type and the overall condition of the system.  Property owners are provided with prior notification of each inspection with inspection results forwarded to them following the inspection.

The Local Government Act 1993 prescribes the installation, alteration or construction of a waste treatment device or human waste storage facility as an activity that requires the prior approval of the local Council.  Before a system of sewage treatment or storage facility can be installed an application must be submitted to Council for assessment and determination.

On-site Sewage Management (OSMS) - Waste Treatment Device or Human Waste Storage Application Form

Our waste water team perform investigations into pollution incidents involving failing on-site systems. Financial penalties apply to anyone deliberately causing pollution of waters or lands.

In partnership with external organisations, we work on projects to understand how sewage systems operate and how they impact on our environment.

These projects provide valuable information which Council uses to evaluate the On-site Sewage Management Program. Council also undertakes regular routine and event based monitoring of surface waters to identify sources of pollution from various activities.