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Division of Land Use Regulation
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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Septic System

  • Overview
  • Freshwater Wetlands
  • Flood Hazard
  • Coastal
  • Tidelands

Septic systems or individual subsurface sewage disposal systems, are municipal approved systems which are designed to retain solids in a tank and discharge wastewater into the ground. Outhouses, dry wells, or similar facilities are not considered septic systems. Over time, septic systems malfunction and must be replaced. In certain situations, it is necessary to disturb wetlands and/or transition areas in order to repair or modify a malfunctioning septic system.  This may include the abandonment of an existing malfunctioning septic field and the creation of a new field.

Septic system installation, repair, and/or replacement may result in impacts to “special areas” that are regulated by the Department.  Therefore, multiple permits from the Division of Land Use Regulation may be required prior to site preparation or construction. The presence or absence of special areas can be rudimentarily determined using the Department’s online mapping service, NJ-GeoWeb.  Special areas within your project site may also affect the type of authorization required.  Therefore, it is important to closely examine a proposed activity relative to the sensitive areas which may be impacted.

The above tabs provide additional information on permit requirements relating to septic system projects.   For impacts to streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, flood plains, flood ways, riparian zones, please see the "Flood Hazard" tab. For impacts to special coastal areas, please see the "Coastal" tab. For impacts to Freshwater Wetlands, see the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab.  Information on Tidelands can be found by selecting the "Tidelands" tab.

The maintenance, construction, or reconstruction of a septic system within freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters requires a Freshwater Wetlands (FWW) permit. One FWW General Permit (GP) is available for this activity, a GP25.

(GP25-Malfunctioning individual subsurface sewage disposal (septic) systems) [Link] - May be obtained if you have are repairing or modifying a malfunctioning septic system within freshwater wetlands or transition areas and disturbing no more than 0.25 acres of those features. In addition, in order to obtain a GP25 you must have a letter from the local board of health with jurisdiction over the septic system stating that proposed septic system complies with state standards, is not an expansion of the system, a change in use, and that there is no alternative onsite location. Please note, a GP25 is not for a new septic system, a new septic systems is not permited in freshwater wetlands or transition areas without an (Individual Permit) [Link] (IP). An IP application would need to include a description as to why the project cannot be construction outside of regulated areas.

If the septic system itself is located below grade, its replacement or repair may qualify for either Permit by Rule (PBR) (a) 1 or (b) 4. 

Please be aware that any fill or grading associated with the repair or replacement of the septic system may also be a regulated activity and may require an Individual Permit.

The construction of a new septic system within coastal areas may require a permit.  The repair of a malfunctioning septic system at a single-family home or duplex may qualify for the below described exemption or General Permit.  Projects which do not meet the exemption or General Permit requirements may require a CAFRA, Coastal Wetlands, and/or Waterfront Development Individual Permit.

The “Jurisdiction” tab of the "Coastal Areas" webpage can help you determine which areas of your site may be regulated.  The availability of certain permits depends on the project’s location.

Potentially applicable Exemption:

  • The reconstruction, conversion, alteration or enlargement of any existing structure located within Upland Waterfront Development jurisdiction and more than 100’ landward of the mean high water line, provided there is no change in land use and the enlargement is less than 5,000 sq. ft. per N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.4(d)2.  Please see the aforementioned rule for complete requirements.

Potentially applicable General Permit (GP):

GP 5 - authorizes expansion or reconstruction (with or without expansion) of a single-family home or duplex

Please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center at (609) 777-0454 should you require further assistance.

Tidelands, also known as riparian lands, are all those lands now or formerly flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway; that is to say any land that is currently or was previously covered by tidal waters.  The State of New Jersey, and therefore the people of New Jersey, owns all Tidelands except for those to which it has already sold its interest in the form of a riparian grant.  It is important to note that the State generally does not own artificial waterways such as lagoons however, the State does claim those lands within a lagoon that were flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway which existed prior to the creation of the lagoon.

Septic systems that are proposed in an area that is currently landward of the mean high water line but was, at some point, flowed by the tide may require a tidelands grant.

A riparian grant, or tidelands grant, is a deed from the State of New Jersey selling its tidelands. Tidelands grants are generally only issued for lands that have already been filled in and are no longer flowed by the tide.

For more information on tidelands instruments, please see the tidelands section of this website.

For information and instruction on how to determine whether you are in an area that may require either a license or a grant, or for information how to apply for Tideland instruments please see the "Before you Build, Before you Buy" webpage.

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Last Updated: January 4, 2016