Septic Systems

Septic Systems Guidance, Policy, and Regulations

EPA has developed several documents outlining its mission, priorities and regulatory authorities as well as guidance and technical information to help communities establish comprehensive septic (onsite) management programs.

  • Guidance: Voluntary national guidelines and implementation tools to improve the overall management of septic wastewater systems.
  • Policy and Regulations: Congressional reports, program strategy, memorandum of understanding, and regulatory requirements for Class V wells.


Voluntary National Guidelines for Management of Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems
Guide to help communities establish comprehensive management programs so their decentralized systems function properly. The guide focuses on public education and participation, planning, operation and maintenance, and financial assistance and funding.
Handbook for Managing Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems
“How-to" guide for implementing EPA's Voluntary National Guidelines for Management of Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems. The guide describes a step-by-step approach to developing a community program for managing decentralized wastewater systems, including community examples, elements for sound management, and links to other resources.

It's Your Choice: A Guidebook for Local Officials on Small Community Wastewater Management Options
Booklet about wastewater management systems for communities serving populations fewer than 10,000 people presenting wastewater treatment options for community officials and decision makers.

National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Urban Areas
Guidance to states, territories, authorized tribes and the public about reducing nonpoint source pollution from urban activities.

Tribal Management of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems
Guide for tribal nations to design, maintain, and regulate onsite wastewater treatment systems.

A Plain English Guide to the EPA Part 503 Biosolids Rule
Guide for interpreting and implementing the biosolids rule which establishes requirements for the final use or disposal of sewage sludge (biosolids) and domestic septage.

Guidance Specifying Management Measures for Sources of Nonpoint Pollution in Coastal Waters
Guidance for states and territories on which management measures to include in state and territorial Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Programs.

Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination Guidance Manual 
Guidance on small municipal storm sewer systems regulated under EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System Phase II stormwater program. For communities and others establishing Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination programs and investigating non-storm water entries into storm drainage systems.

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Policy and Regulations

Report to Congress on Use of Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Systems
Examines the feasibility of decentralized treatment as a lower-cost option for small communities with wastewater treatment needs.

2014 Decentralized Wastewater Management Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
EPA and 18 partner organizations are joined by an MOU to work collaboratively at the national level to improve decentralized performance and protect the nation's public health and water resources.

Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Systems: A Program Strategy
Presents EPA's vision, mission, and actions to improve the performance of decentralized wastewater treatment systems and protect public health and water resources.

When Is a Septic System Regulated as a Class V Well?
Fact sheet to help regulators determine which septic systems to regulate as Class V wells.

Seepage Pits May Endanger Ground Water Quality
Fact sheet on the prohibition against and hazards of using cesspools for the disposal of sewage.

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