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Septic System Management

Individual septic systems treat wastewater in many areas of the Pinelands. These systems constitute much of the region's wastewater infrastructure, renovating wastewater through natural processes before recharging treated water to local aquifers.

The Pinelands Commission's land-use controls and environmental programs allow the use of conventional septic systems, which consist of a septic tank an effluent disposal field, where they are installed at development densities that are consistent with the environment's carrying capacity. The carrying capacity is determined by using a mass balance septic dilution model.

The Commission's septic dilution model is used to demonstrate that a conventional septic system, serving a single-family residence, will meet Pinelands water quality standards when used on a minimum 3.2-acre parcel. The model will also demonstrate that a high-performance, Pinelands pilot program treatment system is needed for a single-family resident to meet Pinelands water quality standards on parcels as small as 1 acre.

The Commission's rules and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's (NJDEP) rules require conventional septic systems and advanced treatment systems, such as those authorized through the Pinelands Pilot Program, to be properly maintained at all times.

Septic System Management and Maintenance Requirements

Periodic maintenance of all types of septic systems is essential to prolong the system's life and to prevent disease transmission and water pollution. Because septic sytems do not function properly unless they are maintained, the Pinelands Commission's and NJDEP's rules require periodic maintenance.

The Pinelands Commissin's rules require that owners of conventional septic systems have their systems inspected, cleaned and certified as functional to the local board of health once every three years. 

Commission rule also reuire owners of new Pilot Program septic sytems to obtain an initial operating permit from the responsible management entity (municipality, board of health or other designated entity) and to renew the permit every three years. Permits are renewable upon certification by a qualified service technician that: 1) The system remains covered by a maintenance agreement; 2) The system is in good repair; and 3) The system is functioning properly.

Under the NDEP's wastewater management planning regulatoins, (N.J.A.C. 7:15) adopted in July 2008, all septic systems throughout New Jersey must be subject to a mandatory maintenance program that ensures septic systems are periodically pumped out and maintained to ensure proper function. 

Under a different set of the NJDEP's rules, (N.J.A.C. 7:9A) adopted in April 2012, owners of septic systems that incorporate "advanced pretreatment devices" (these include Pinelands Pilot Program systems) are required to: 1) Have a maintenance contract in place for the life of the system; and 2) Submit a copy of the renewed service contract to the board of health within 14 days of the expiration of the original service contract.

The NJDEP's rules also require authorized service providers to notify the local health department within 30 days of a service contract's expiration. The NJDEP's rules specify that the failure of a system owner to maintain a valid service contract on an advanced treatment system constitutes a violation of the Water Pollution Control Act.

Pinelands Guidance on Septic System Management Programs

The Pinelands Commission has developed several resources to help Pinelands Area municipalities, boards of health and health departments to establish septic system management programs. These sources include: 

Onsite Wastewater Systems Management in the New Jersey Pinelands

Legal Basis and Regulatory Framework of Onsite Wastewater Management in the New Jersey Pinelands

Onsite Wastewater Systems Management Manual for the New Jersey Pinelands

For more information, please contact:

Ed Wengrowski: