Management Roles for On-site Sewage Systems

State regulators, local health jurisdictions, OSS professionals, and homeowners actively participate in on-site sewage system (OSS) management. Roles and responsibilities are different for each.

State Role

The State Board of Health adopts the rules and the Departments of Health administers them.

The Department of Health's On-site Sewage Program:

  • Works with the State Board of Health in administering Chapter 246-272A WAC - On-site Sewage Systems.
  • Reviews local health jurisdiction codes to ensure they are consistent with state regulations.
  • Provides technical assistance for OSS issues at the local level.
  • Reviews and approves proprietary on-site sewage systems.
  • Provides grant funding to the 12 Puget Sound local health jurisdictions to implement OSS management programs.

The Department of Licensing's Engineering and Designer & Inspector Licensure Programs:

  • Uses a rigorous process to assure practitioners accurately and competently apply the necessary knowledge to meet OSS codes.

The Department of Ecology's Water Quality Program:

  • Provides grant and loan funding at the local level for OSS repair and replacement programs.
  • Works with local health jurisdictions to identify pollution sources and implement clean-up programs in areas where OSS have caused or contributed to pollution.

Local Role

Local health jurisdictions (LHJs) permit and manage OSS in their counties. They certify professionals and issue permits for the location, design, and installation of OSS, and ensure requirements are met. LHJs:

  • Work with local boards of health to approve and administer local codes (rules) that meet the requirements in the Washington State Administrative Code, 246-272A On-site Sewage Systems or are more protective.
  • Use a permit program to review, approve, and inspect designs, installations, and repairs of OSS.
  • Use a certification program to assure professionals apply state and local codes for OSS designs, installations, inspections, and repairs.
  • Make sure OSS operation, maintenance, and monitoring are done correctly.
  • Evaluate and manage risks to the environment and public health from OSS. In areas where increased risks are identified, LHJs determine the appropriate management action. Some use Marine Recovery Areas and Enhanced Management Areas to manage OSS.
  • Develop and implement OSS management plans.
  • Find failing OSS and make sure they are repaired or replaced.
  • May manage loan programs to repair or replace failing OSS. Check with your LHJ to see if there are loan programs available for your area.

Homeowners Role

Homeowners must make sure their OSS function properly. Chapter 246-272A-0270(d) WAC requires that homeowners have the system inspected at least once per three years for gravity systems and annually for all others.

In addition, homeowners should:

  • Use the OSS properly and know how to recognize problems.
  • Know what type of system they have.
  • Know where their system is located.

With basic knowledge homeowners can make sure their OSS continues to function properly. Learning how to recognize and correct problems early on can mean the difference between an inexpensive minor repair and a costly system replacement.

For more information, see our Septic System webpage.

For questions, please contact the Wastewater Management Section at or call 360-236-3330.