All buildings that produce wastewater are required to connect to either the main sewer or an approved waste water disposal system.

To see if a property is connected, or can be connected to Water Corporation reticulated sewerage system, 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 Environmental Health Services.

There are a variety of treatment options available:

  • Primary Systems (septic tanks and leach drains);
  • Secondary Systems ATU); and
  • Alternative Systems.

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right type of system for a property. This might include:

  • Adequate space to accommodate the system;
  • Soil type;
  • The location and distance of water bodies;
  • The depth to groundwater.

Wastewater Applications

Required Documents

  • Completed Septic-Application Form.
  • Copy of the plan and specifications of the proposed apparatus, showing the top and longitudinal section to a scale of not less than 1:50.
  • Copy of a site plan of the premises, to a scale not less than 1:100, showing:
    • The position of all buildings erected or proposed and the position of the proposed and any existing apparatus including setback distances.
    • The position, type and proposed use of all fixtures intended to discharge into the apparatus.
    • The position and setback distances of all drains, pipes, inspection openings, vents, traps and junctions in relation to buildings and boundaries.
    • The size of pipes and fittings and the fall of the drains.
    • Details of the proposed and any existing effluent disposal system and its setback distances to buildings, boundaries and trafficable areas.
    • The source of water supply to be used in connection with the apparatus if premises is not supplied by a non-reticulated mains supply.
  • Copy of a contract for effluent removal if the system is a holding tank.
  • Email all documents to health@esperance.wa.gov.au

Fees and Charges

Payment of fees are required prior to assessment, this includes the application fee, the permit to use fee and a local government report fee if applicable. If the business is not currently registered in our financial system, then we require you to fill out the New Customer form before we can issue an invoice.

Approval to Construct

Once the fees are paid, the Environmental Health Officer will review your application and either issue the approval to construct if under 540ltrs/day or will create a local government report for the Department of Health to evaluate. Your approval to construct will then come from them.

Permit to Use

Once installed you need to notify health@esperance.wa.gov.au so the Environmental Health Officer can inspect the installation and issue the Permit to Use.

Primary Treatment System

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.

Secondary Treatment System (ATU)

An Aerobic Treatment Unit (ATU) is a more advanced wastewater 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.

A qualified person is required to service an ATU quarterly, and the Shire receives a copy of the service report.

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

Further information can be found at the Department of Health WA.

Graywater Re-Use System (GRS)

The GRS is 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 'blackwater') because of the high bacterial load, known to 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 depend 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 information sheets on Using Greywater and Guidance Note for Garden Irrigation Using Greywater Diversion Devices provide further details.

Composting System

Information to come.

Decommissioning a Wastewater 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 assistance, contact Environmental Health Services on (08) 9071 0676, email shire@esperance.wa.gov.au or call the Shire Administration Centre on Windich Street.

Relevant WA State Government Legislation

Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1911