Septic Systems

Septic Systems


Septic Program Information

Summit County’s Septic Program protects public health by making sure that septic systems work properly. It is important that sewage does not leak onto the ground or into groundwater sources. They make sure that septic systems are designed, installed, and maintained in ways that meet State and local standards.

Information and Education

One of their main goals is to provide information for homeowners about how to keep their septic systems working properly. They do this through offering information on the installation and maintenance of septic systems.

Site Evaluations and Permitting Process

The largest part of their onsite program deals with the septic permit process. This includes evaluating the soils at a site, reviewing and approving permit applications, and checking the installation of systems.

Click here for the Septic Permit Application.

Investigating Septic Complaints

The Environmental Health Division also responds to complaints about septic systems and leaking sewage.

Septic Tank Permit Requirements

The Summit County Health Department oversees the permitting of septic tanks. To obtain a Septic Permit to install a septic tank, the following steps must be taken:

Conduct at percolation test.

Percolation is the rate at which water will absorb into the soil. Water absorption must not be faster than one inch per minute or slower than one inch per hour.

A percolation test can be conducted by:

  • A licensed engineer.
  • Someone that has been certified by the State to conduct a percolation test.
  • The homeowner can conduct the test provided someone from the Health Department comes by during the test.

The Health Department will accept the results from the licensed engineer or State certified tester.

Appeal Process for Failed Percolation Test

If the test fails, the homeowner can bring it to the Health Department and present it to the Director for review. If it is rejected, the homeowner can then take the test results to the Board of Health for appeal.

Health Department Septic Tank Permitting Policy

All small subdivisions are required to conduct a percolation test that can cover 3 to 5 housing lots. Large subdivisions can use representative numbers.

Individual lot owners still have to get a percolation test for their property for each septic tank.


Types of Septic Systems in Summit County

  • Shallow Trench System – the trench is dug one foot or less (no deeper than one foot into the soil). Draining is either through a perforated pipe and drain rock or a chambered system.
  • Standard Trench System – the trench is dug down four feet or less. Can utilize either type of draining system.
  • Deep Trench System– the trench is dug down to seven feet. The draining system is mainly drain rock with the perforated pipe line on top of the rock.
  • At Grade with Capping Fill– the bottom of the absorption field is at the ground surface.
  • Alternative Systems– for more information on these types of systems, call Bob Swensen at 435-333-1584.


How a Septic System Works

A typical septic system has three main components:

  • A septic tank;
  • An absorption field; and 
  • The soil.

Microbes in the soil digest or remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater.

Key To The Rockies Real Estate will help you navigate through this process easily. You are in good hands with our group of trained real estate professionals.

Septic Tank

  • The septic tank is a buried, watertight container typically made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene.
  • It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out (forming sludge) and oil and grease to float to the surface (as scum).
  • It also allows partial decomposition of the solid materials.
  • Compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the absorption field area.
  • Newer tanks generally have risers with lids at the ground surface to allow easy location, inspection, and pumping of the tank.

Absorption field

  • The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the absorption field for further treatment by a biomat and the soil.
  • The partially treated wastewater is pushed along into the absorption field for further treatment every time new wastewater enters the tank.
  • A reserve absorption field, required by many states, is an area on your property suitable for a new absorption field system if your current absorption field fails.
  • Treat this area with the same care as your septic system.

Ideas to Maintain Your Septic System

  • Conserve water to reduce the load on the septic system. For example, do laundry throughout the week instead of all at once; use flow reducer nozzles on showers; install water-conserving commodes.
  • Tree roots that invade your septic system can do major damage. Keep trees at least 100 feet away from the septic system. Trees with aggressive roots, such as willows, should be planted even farther away.
  • A soggy drainfield can’t handle waste effectively, so design landscaping, roof gutters, and foundation drains to divert excess water away from the septic system.
  • Never flush cat litter, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, paper towels, facial tissues, coffee grounds, cigarette butts, or similar items down the toilet. They’ll quickly fill and clog your septic tank.
  • Use garbage disposals wisely. They can double the amount of solids added to a septic tank. Consider installing a top-of-the-line disposal, which will grind waste into smaller particles that break down more quickly when they reach the system.
  • Do not overuse heavy cleaners, especially those containing bleach. They kill beneficial bacteria in the septic tank, so solids can’t break down as quickly.
  • Do not pour grease down the drain. It will eventually clog your drainfield. If that happens you’ll need an extensive (and expensive) septic system repair–and if there’s no space for a repair drainfield you will have serious problems establishing any type of septic system.
  • Do not pour hazardous chemicals down the drain. They can harm your septic system and will eventually find their way into the groundwater.
  • Do not drive over the drainfield, build a structure on top of it, or cover it with concrete or asphalt. A few years ago, there was a home for sale in our area with an above-ground swimming pool built on the septic drainfield. That’s a definite don’t!
  • Do plant grass on the drainfield to minimize soil erosion.
  • Some professionals recommend a monthly dose of an enzyme product that adds beneficial bacteria to the septic system. Others say it isn’t necessary and won’t improve the performance of your system. Bottom line, septic additives are not expensive, so they can’t hurt. I know several people who swear that flushing a few packets of yeast each month is a great way to keep septic systems in shape.


  • More water conservation: check plumbing for leaks, reduce water levels for small loads of laundry, and use a displacer to reduce the amount of water needed to flush the toilet.
  • Never attempt to open a septic tank yourself. The gases in it are dangerous. Call a professional pumping company to empty the tank as required.
  • Some garbage disposals periodically inject small amounts of enzymes into the drain. Keep the reservoir filled–you won’t have to remember to add enzymes on a monthly basis.
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