Tuesday, May 26, 2015   

On-Site Wastewater Permit Process

The applications for an Improvement Permit and/or Construction Authorization Permit are a vital part of the permitting process and must be accurately and thoroughly completed. North Carolina State Laws and Rules for Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems and the Brunswick County Board of Health require the application for an Improvement Permit and/or Construction Authorization Permit contain the information noted below. (Requirements for large wastewater systems are available from the North Carolina Department Of Environment And Nature, Environmental Health Division, website.)

Wastewater Permit Process Overview

Owner or Owner's Agent submits a completed wastewater system application to the Brunswick County Central Permitting Office.

APPROVED. Approval letter sent to Owner or Owner's agent: 1) stating conditions under which site approved; 2) specifying system type(s).

Owner or Owner's Agent has a soil/site evaluation conducted by the Brunswick County Health Department.

DENIED. Denial letter sent to Owner or Owner's Agent.

Improvement permit (site approval) issued.

Within 90 days of denial, Owner or Owner's Agent may request a second opinion from the Brunswick County Environmental Health Department.

Authorization for wastewater system construction or system design issued to Owner or Owner's Agent.
(Authorization may occur at same time improvement permit is issued or at a later date.)

Within 30 days of denial, Owner or Owner's Agent may file a Petition For A Contested Case with the state office of Administrative Hearing. (For more information, contact the Environmental Health Department.)

(Apply for building permit.)

Have on-site septic system installed by a wastewater system contractor registered with Brunswick County Ennvironmental Health Department, and have system inspected by Brunswick County Environmental Heath official.

If septic system installation approved, operation permit is issued.

With operation permit for septic system and well permit (if applicable) issued, Environmental Health Department authorizes release of electrical power to Building Inspections. Before occupying building, Owner or Owner's Agent must pursue Certificate Of Occupancy from Building Inspection Office.


If private well is required, applicant must submit a well application.

The property owner is responsible for identifying wetlands. From a permit consideration regarding on-site wastewater regulatory oversight, the Environmental Health Department asks the property owner to contact the area Corps Of Engineer's office when there is a question about a site. The Corps Of Engineers often has a backlog for wetland identification, as much as 6 months to a year. Typically the citizen is advised to contact a private consulting firm (e.g., soil science firm) who visits the site, flags out wetlands. Then a surveyor creates a survey plat which is given back to the consultant to submit this along with other documents to the Corps Of Engineers for approval. This regulatory process takes a lot of time, and the Environmental Health Department might not be able to render a decision without information provided.

Permit Application Checklist

The application form is used for both a site evaluation for a new septic system and for the recheck of an existing system. Both require a Construction Authorization Permit to be issued by the Environmental Health Department before a building permit can be issued. The application must contain at least the following information:

  • Owner's name
  • Mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Location of property
  • Plat of property or site plan
  • Description of existing and proposed facilities or structures
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of persons served
  • Other factors required to determine system design flow or wastewater characteristics
  • Type of water supply source and the location of proximal proposed and existing wells
  • Presence of previously identified wetlands
  • Proposed location of the septic system, structure, well, driveway, etc.
A Closer Look

Plat of property or site plan: The back of the application contains instructions to the applicant. The back may be used for the site plan diagram, or the site plan diagram may be drawn on a separate piece of paper and attached to the application. If a separate piece of paper is used, the same site plan can be submitted with any other permit applications. The site plan need not be drawn to scale, but the diagram should be as precise as possible in order for the Environmental Health Specialist to determine the space available for a septic system and the type of system needed. The site plan should show the following:

  • Property lines with dimensions.
  • The location of the facility and appurtenances.
  • The proposed septic system location.
  • The location of any wells proposed or existing on the parcel in question.
  • Wells and septic systems on adjacent parcels.

(See instructions for drawing a site plan and illustration.)

Site changes made after issuance of either the Improvement Permit and/or the Construction Authorization Permit may render the permits null and void. All information requested should be shown for both small lots and larger tracts.

NOTE: An application for an Improvement Permit valid for 5 years requires a site plan instead of a plat. An application for an Improvement Permit without expiration requires a plat.

Plat of property or site plan: If the application requests an Improvement Permit valid without expiration, then a plat is required instead of the site plan. A plat requires the following:

  • That the property to be surveyed by a registered land surveyor.
  • That the plat be drawn to a scale of 1 inch equals no more than 60 feet.
  • That the plat includes the specific location of the proposed facility and appurtenances, the design and location for the proposed wastewater system, and the location of water supplies and surface waters.
  • For subdivision lots approved by the local planning authority and recorded with the Brunswick County Register Of Deeds, a copy of the recorded subdivision plat that is accompanied by a site plan that is drawn to scale.

Number of bedrooms: For residential sites, it is important to know the number of bedrooms proposed and the number of occupants in the home. Septic systems are sized according to the number of bedrooms with a maximum of two people per bedroom. If the site is a duplex, apartment, or similar, the number of individual units and bedrooms per unit are needed in order to determine the sewage flow rate.

Wastewater characteristics: If a business is proposed, the type of business and the number of employees are needed to determine the sewage design flow rate. Some types of businesses will require additional information such as number of proposed seats for a restaurant or square footage of the facility used for a doctor office. Any process of the business that generates sewage characteristics other than domestic sewage must be identified. Examples are x-ray film processing, photo labs, funeral homes, car wash, and dog kennel. It is important for the application to be as detailed as possible in an effort to avoid preventable delays.

Type of water supply source: The type of proposed water supply source is required. Septic tank systems must comply with required setbacks from waterlines and all wells on the parcel or adjoining parcels. This includes whether the well is in use or disconnected. Wells that are disconnected must be properly abandoned. As mentioned previously, the location of a proposed well, existing well or any well in the area surrounding the lot must be shown on the back of the application in the site plan.

Proposed location: The property dimensions given must match the recorded plat. Furthermore, the dimensions given must match the dimensions shown in the site plan on the back of the application and must match the dimensions staked on the lot.

The application must be signed and dated by the property Owner or the authorized Owner Agent. This gives the Environmental Health Specialist permission to conduct the evaluation on the property.

Technical questions regarding the permit application and the Laws And Rules should be directed to Environmental Health at phone 888-428-4429 or 910-253-2250, or email your questions. Application process questions may be directed to Central Permitting office at phone 800-621-0609 or 910-253-2055, or email your questions.

Review the law requiring effluent filters for all new septic systems.

See also septic system general information including at detailed look at how septic systems work, how to maintain your septic system, etc.