Septic System Information and Installation Guidelines

The onsite wastewater team works with property owners and developers to ensure that septic system installations are completed in compliance with minimum standards established by State Residential Rule 410 IAC 6-8.3, Commercial Rule 410 IAC 6-10.1 and the Elkhart County Private Sewage System Ordinance 2012-153. The goal of the program is to assure that onsite sewage systems are designed and installed according to the requirements of applicable code and to protect public health by preventing wastewater from contaminating surface or drinking water supplies and preventing disease transmission via septic effluent.

Each year the Elkhart County Environmental Health Division's Onsite Wastewater Staff reviews plans for and inspects the installation of hundreds of onsite wastewater systems. Several types of systems are used throughout the county including the conventional septic tank and trench system utilizing stone or septic tank and gravel less chamber systems. Tire chips are now another option to consider for soil absorption trenches. ISDH authorized their use on January 3, 2006, on a one-for-one basis, volumetrically. They are used as a substitute for stone in absorption field trenches. We also utilize pump-assisted and pressurized systems such as flood-dosed or elevated sand mound systems when site limitations prohibit the use of a conventional system. The environmental health staff is also monitoring several experimental systems consisting of an aerobic treatment device or a recirculating media filter treatment device followed by drip irrigation.

Watch a quick video on how to install a new septic system including how to pull a permit, the process itself, and pricing.

Subdivision Review:

Administrative subdivision plans submitted for review and approval must contain the information required by the Environmental Health Technical Review and Development Standards and the Wastewater Treatment Assessment Matrix. All soil borings must be provided by a registered soil scientist.

Onsite Evaluations:

An onsite evaluation/soil boring is an actual physical visit to the lot or location where an onsite sewage system is proposed. An onsite evaluation/soil boring is required to be completed and submitted to this office by a Registered Soil Scientist prior to any consideration for a permit for an onsite sewage system. A Soil Scientist will provide direct detailed soil analysis to be reviewed by ECHD staff for the purpose of providing minimum requirements for the proposed system. See Elkhart County Ordinance 2012-153, Section 7. ECHD staff will provide soil analysis for a repair/replacement system where the system is in failure.

Minimum Requirements:

State and local Ordinance requires certain minimum criteria to be satisfied prior to a permit being written or an onsite sewage system is installed. This information is conveyed in writing to the owner/applicant. The system type, size, and location criteria are provided in a format relative to the number of bedrooms in the home.

Note: Any minimum requirements provided which indicate the installation of a Flood Dosed or an Elevated Sand Mound/Pressure Distribution System MUST be submitted with the appropriate worksheet.

Requirement for Permit Application and Permit:

All septic tanks, dosing chambers, ATU’s, and the soil absorption field installations require a permit to be obtained from ECHD prior to any installation of said items. The installation of these components must be provided by a registered installer. A list of registered installers is provided at the ECHD office. Permit applications may be obtained there as well. These may be obtained at the ECHD, Environmental Health Services Division offices at 4230 Elkhart Rd, Goshen, IN 46526.

New/Repair/Replacement of Onsite Sewage Systems:

Commercial: Onsite soil investigations/soil borings for commercial properties must be provided by a Registered Soil Scientist. All soil boring information must be sent to the Indiana State Department of Health for review and minimum requirements to be provided. Once minimum requirements are provided, a "to scale" system drawing must be submitted to either ISDH or ECHD with the appropriate application and fee, depending on who has purview over the project. Applications sent to the ISDH must have an engineer's or architect's stamp on the drawing. Typically system designs at 750 GPD or less maximum daily design flow are referred to the ECHD for plan review an do not require an engineer's or architect's stamp. All others and special projects will be reviewed by ISDH. Notice will be provided by ISDH concerning plan review authority at the time minimum requirements are issued.

Residential/Commercial: New Construction See Septic System Permit Procedure Guide.

Residential: Repair/Replacement Onsite soil investigations/soil borings may be performed by an ECHD Staff or a Registered Soil Scientist.

Use of existing systems: Use of existing onsite wastewater systems in conjunction with new home construction/replacement is prohibited unless all of the following conditions are verified and confirmed:

  • Proof/record of ECHD permit having been issued, inspected, and approved.
  • Adequate capacity/system sizing (septic tank capacity and soil absorption field area) for the proposed use.
  • Direct observation of system functioning (no obvious signs of failure) is required and may be provided by a septic hauler. The septic hauler must provide a report as to the functioning, capacity, and condition of the existing system. The tank(s) must be pumped and cleaned for this evaluation of the tank(s) and absorption field.
  • Provide a "to scale" drawing as required to ensure isolation distances will remain intact.
  • A set of floor plans for the home reconstruction/replacement.

"To Scale" Drawings (Click for example) "To Scale" drawings are required with all application submissions for an onsite sewage system permit. The scale shall be 1"=10' to 1"=50'.

Any minimum requirements provided which indicate the installation of Flood Dosed or Elevated Sand Mounds/Pressure Distribution Systems MUST be submitted with the appropriate worksheet.

Experimental Technology: Please contact the ECHD at (574) 971-4600 for specific detailed information. The use of this technology requires an operating permit and an operation and maintenance contract for the life of the system, plan review by the ISDH, and will likely require testing of the effluent quality for five (5) years. Operating permits are good for three years and renewable with proof of an "in effect" service contract for maintenance and payment of the permit fee.

"Do It Yourself" System Installation: A homeowner may install their own onsite wastewater treatment system; however they must contact the ECHD regarding the requirements to obtain a permit.