Wastewater System & Water System Design

Permitting For Vermont Properties


Aaron S. Fuller, LLC

Licensed Class B Designer

                        1-(802)-793-7484 Tel.                                                                                                                                                          4583 RT 2 Box #4

                         1-(802)-223-6880 Tel.                                                                                                                                                E. Montpelier, VT 05651



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Septic System Basics


A septic system is very complex. This content has been prepared to educate people about septic systems. Often people live by the very common motto “Out of site out of mind.”  The same people are often the first to call and ask for a replacement system design. The contents of this page should also help any septic system user avoid early failure.


Types of Systems


There are four types of septic systems


            1. Conventional system

2. At-grade system

3. Mound system

4. Pretreatment system


Soil and Site Suitability


The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (VANR) has set forth technical standards that every septic system must meet. Two main things considered are soil and site suitability. The soil must be well drained in order to use a conventional system or an at-grade system. Soils that are tend to have a higher water table, and water does not move through with ease, are prime soils for a mound system or pretreatment system. Once it has been established that the soils meet the VANR standards the next item of investigation is site suitability. There are several factors that can render a site useless for a septic system. The VANR requires that certain isolation distances shall be maintained in order to protect the health, and the environment. Water sources and any related piping is one of the most important things to protect with an isolation distance. A second thing that benefits from an isolation distance is a body of water. While isolation distances are very important when it comes to determining site suitability it is not the only thing. Another site component that is crucial in determining weather a septic system can be designed is the ground slope. These are the two main factors that determine what can be used for a septic system on a site.


Septic System Permits


There are two main types of permits that an individual will need in order to construct a septic system. Unless the site is exempt from permitting requirements. The first type of permit is called a Potable Water Supply and Wastewater Disposal Permit. There are several actions that will cause a site to obtain this permit. This permit is issued by the State of Vermont, and allows the construction of water, and wastewater systems. This permit also grants one the right to subdivide property. The second type of permit will be at the town or local level. Some towns have different names for this permit, also some town have more strict requirements for this permit. The most widely used name for a local level permit is a septic permit. Other commonly used names for these types of permits are building, subdivision, or occupancy. Some sites will require more that the two types of permits listed above. Other permits that may be required are, Act 250 permits, Wetlands permits, and Storm Water permits, just to list a few. Typically on a small scale project these other permits are not required.        


Signs of a Failing Septic System


A property owner should always keep an eye on their existing septic system. A failed septic system can cause unsanitary conditions that can lead to sickness or death in the community. Here are some signs that will help a property owner determine if a septic system may have failed.


1.      Sewage surfacing on the ground on near a septic system or at the septic tank.


2.      Spongy ground on or near the septic system.


3.      Sewage backing up into your house.


The first sign usually indicates that the field has failed. The second sign indicates that there may have been some unusual conditions that can result in failure if they are not attended to rapidly. The third indicates that you should have your tanks pumped, or that your field is failed. 


Still want more information


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A guide for sites that may need Potable Water Supply and Wastewater Disposal Permits.


Flow chart for permits required


Does your town have a confirmed planning and zoning process?


Is my property “Grandfathered”?


A homeowner’s septic system guide.


Summary of changes to the On-Site Rules effective January 1, 2005.