The Amador County Environmental Health Department is responsible for protecting the public and the environment from potential adverse health and environmental impacts associated with on-site sewage disposal systems.
Septic system designs and proposals are reviewed and the systems are inspected at several different stages in the construction or repair process, ensuring conformance with applicable county codes. Permits are required for construction of a new septic system, various repairs, and installation of new tanks. Sewage disposal system applications are available online or at our office.
Types of Sewage Disposal Systems
Conventional Sewage Disposal Systems:
• Conventional sewage disposal systems are utilized on properties which have deep, well drained soils, adequate sanitary setbacks and appropriate topography. A conventional sewage disposal system consists of a dual compartment septic tank with effluent draining into a sub-surface leach field(s) containing either leach rock or plastic infiltrators.
Pressure Dosed Sewage Disposal Systems:
• When conditions on a parcel do not meet the criteria for conventional sewage disposal, but are not so restrictive as to require an alternative system design, a pressure dosed design may be appropriate. These systems are designed by a Registered Engineer, Geologist, or Environmental Health Specialist and submitted to our office for approval. Pressure dosing septic tank effluent has been found to enhance the treatment capacity of shallow poorly drained soils and mitigate certain site restrictions. A Pressure Dosed system consists of a septic tank and pump tank. The effluent is dosed out of the pump tank into sub-surface leach fields containing either leach rock or plastic infiltrators. When an adequate elevation difference exists on site, a siphon may be located in the second compartment of the septic tank to dose the leach lines, eliminating the need for a pump and pump tank.
Alternative Sewage Disposal Systems:
• An alternative system is a sewage disposal system such as a mound absorption system, evapo-transpiration beds (ET beds), drip emitter, drip irrigation systems, and intermittent sand filter systems that treat sewage and may not ultimately dispose of sewage through leaching in a subsurface leachfield or fields. Alternative sewage disposal systems are monitored for a minimum of five years after the permit has received a final signature, in order to ensure that the system is functioning as designed.
• There are areas throughout Amador County that lack sufficient, suitable soils or areas that have other physical conditions or properties (i.e. high ground water) which prevent the use of conventional on-site sewage disposal systems. Without the use of alternative sewage disposal systems it is likely that these areas would remain undeveloped.
Alternative Sewage Disposal System Monitoring:
• Monitoring is a condition of permit issuance, and is referenced on the declaration signed by the applicant when they submit plans for the alternative system, before the system is approved or installed.
• Any system is subject to damage due to weather, livestock, grading, or other activities. Part of the monitoring program is designed to benefit the permittee by trouble shooting problems that individual systems may have. This helps to prevent expensive problems down the road and gives property owners the chance to learn about proper maintenance and functioning of their system.
• The monitoring program also allows the Environmental Health Department to observe the type of alternative systems which are working best in certain areas of the county. The program gives Environmental Health staff the opportunity to learn more about wet weather trends and to be able to better identify land forms and soil conditions that work well for particular types of systems and those conditions that present unanticipated saturation problems. Ultimately the monitoring program gives us real world information that helps the Registered Environmental Health Specialists make better informed decisions and allows the Amador County Environmental Health Department to better serve the growing community.
• The Environmental Health Department will send letters to property owners prior to visiting the property to conduct monitoring. This gives property owners a chance to contact the department to schedule an appointment or address any concerns they may have about the program. Property owners are encouraged to be there during the monitoring inspection so that staff can answer any questions and address concerns about the particular system however, it is not required. The monitoring includes inspection of the alarm panel (making sure the water meter or cycle counter is functioning properly, and making note of its reading), the pump floats and alarm floats, and monitoring any standing water in the inspection pipes on the disposal field. In general, department staff will be checking for proper functioning and maintenance of the system as a whole.
• Onsite wastewater treatment systems subject to monitoring for the life of the system by the CSA currently include those that are designed with supplemental treatment and relaxation of soil and groundwater separation standards, and systems that do not discharge to the ground. Owners pay an assessment which is levied against the Property because of its inclusion in County Service Area No. 6.
Wet Weather Testing:
On properties where there is a concern about high groundwater levels, wet weather testing may be required prior to the issuance of a sewage disposal permit. Determination of depth to groundwater in areas that are known or suspected to have seasonal groundwater must be made during the wettest time of the year. The locations, depths and number of groundwater monitoring pipes shall be determined by the Environmental Health Department. An application for groundwater monitoring needs to be filed with this office prior to installation of the wells. The wells may be installed by either the property owner or their engineer. Groundwater monitoring shall be performed by the Department at several intervals during the wet season until the season is over. The shallowest depth to groundwater noted during this monitoring will be the controlling criteria for disposal system design.
Caring for Your Septic System:
As a homeowner of a septic system, it is your responsibility to maintain your system. If properly designed, constructed, and maintained, your septic system can provide long-term, effective treatment of household wastewater. If your septic system isn’t maintained, you might need to replace it, which can become quite expensive. A malfunctioning system can contaminate groundwater that might be a source of drinking water. Often when you sell your home, your septic system will be inspected and needs to be in good working order.
Sewage Disposal Links:
Amador County Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Regulations
Amador County Code, Title 14, Water and Sewage
Fee Schedule for Liquid Waste Program
Sewage Disposal System Application with Instructions
Sewage Disposal System Application
List of Licensed Contractors, Engineers, Geologists, Consultants
National Small Flows Clearinghouse
A Home Owner's Guide to Septic Systems
Electrical Power Outages and Onsite Wastewater Systems
Other Types of Liquid Waste
Graywater is untreated household waste water which has not come into contact with toilet waste. Graywater includes used water from bathtubs, showers, bathroom sinks and water from clothes washing machines and laundry tubs. It shall not include waste water from kitchen sinks or dishwashers.
Graywater Systems for Single Family Dwellings - California Plumbing Code, Chapter 16A
California EPA - Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board