Effluent Disposal Systems

Waste Water

All buildings that produce wastewater are required to connect to either the main sewer or an approved effluent disposal system. For most properties this will mean connecting to the Water Corporation’s reticulated sewerage system. To see if a property is connected, or can be connected to sewer, please contact the Water Corporation on 13 13 95. If sewer is not available an Application to Construct or Install an Apparatus for the Treatment of Sewage must be lodged with the Shire’s Health Services. In accordance with the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1911, properties within 91m of a sewer connection will not be given approval to install an onsite effluent disposal system. Instead they must connect to the sewer and this may require the extension of the sewer system.

There are a variety of systems available which range from conventional septic systems (tanks and leach drains), Aerobic Treatment Units (known as ATUs) and Greywater re-use systems. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right type of system for a property and this might include:

  • Whether there is adequate space to accommodate the system
  • The location and distance of water bodies
  • The depth to groundwater
  • Other requirements may apply

Conventional Septic Systems

Conventional systems generally incorporate two septic tanks and two leach drains although there are some systems with a single baffled tank.

See the Department of Health's Understanding Septic Tank Systems information sheet for more details.

Aerobic Treatment Units (ATUs)

ATUs are a more advanced effluent treatment system than septic tanks, however they are not an alternative to a sewer connection. They treat the water via chlorination and wastewater can be dispersed into garden areas, though it must not be used on vegetable gardens. Phosphates are also required to be removed if the system is near water bodies as they can contribute to algal growth. ATUs are required to be serviced quarterly by a qualified person and a copy of the service report sent to the Shire.

A formal application and approval process must be followed prior to installing an ATU. Contact the Shire Environmental Health Services on (08) 9071 0676 to discuss your requirements.

Department of Health

Grey Water Re-Use Systems (GRS)

GRSs are used to filter waste water from bathrooms, laundries and sometimes kitchen sources for use in the garden. The systems are not connected to toilets (known as 'black water') because of the high bacterial load which can cause severe illness.

There are many products available on the market, however the system you choose must be on the approved GRS list from the Department of Health. The type of product that suits your household needs will be dependent on your water usage and the dispersal area available. Your plumber should be able to advise you on which system is most suitable for your situation.

To install a GRS an application must be made to the Shire of Esperance together with the applicable fees. It is an offence under the Health (Treatment of Sewage and Disposal of Effluent and Liquid Waste) Regulations 1974 to install a GRS without approval and an offence to use the GRS without a permit.

The Department of Health's Using Greywater and Guidance Note for Garden Irrigation Using Greywater Diversion Devices information sheets provide further details.

Decommissioning an Effluent Disposal System

Septic tanks are commonly used in areas where sewer connection is not available. The Shire of Esperance has sewer connections available to many suburbs and, as such, septic tank systems are not an approved method of disposing of waste water where a connection to sewer mains is available.

If you have an existing septic tank but are not sure where it is located on the property the Shire may have such records shown on building plans. To request a copy of the plans, where available, contact Environmental Health Services on (08) 9071 0676.

If you would like to discontinue the use of your septic tank and connect to mains sewer it is recommended that you decommission the system. Decommissioning is important as disused systems can become unstable over time and collapse, creating quite a hazard and the potential for accidents.

Septic tank decommissioning is a requirement when:

  • The property is sold. The new owner has a legal obligation under the Health Regulations (Treatment of Sewage and Disposal of Effluent and Liquid Waste Regulations 1974) to decommission the system within 60 days after settlement of the property
  • Building extensions encroach on minimum clearances from the system. Septic tanks must be located at least 1.2 metres from any building or boundary and leach drains/soak wells must be located 1.8 metres from any building or boundary
  • The permitted use of the development changes (e.g. from residential to commercial use)

What does Decommissioning a Septic Tank Involve?

  • Pump out all septic tanks, soak wells, leach drains or other on site disposal systems using a registered liquid waste contractor
  • Remove the tanks or, if this is impractical, break the base of the tank
  • Backfill all tanks, soak wells and leach drains with clean fill
  • Keep the receipt from the contractor to prove that decommissioning has been completed

Decommissioning a Septic Apparatus

Applications for multiple dwellings and premises that produce more than 540 litres of sewage per day must be approved by the Department of Health.

Once assessed, the approved plans and associated conditions will be returned to the applicant along with a copy being sent to the owner as an Approval to Construct. Once the system has been installed the installer will need to contact the Shire's Health Services for a final inspection to be undertaken. If the system has been appropriately installed and complies with the conditions of approval a Permit to Use will be issued. Please note, it is an offence to occupy a house or use a system without a Permit to Use having been issued.

For additional information or assistancee contact Environmental Health Services on (08) 9071 0676, email shire@esperance.wa.gov.au or call into the Shire Administration Centre on Windich Street.