On-site Sewage Management

If you live in or rent a house that is not connected to Sydney Water sewer mains, then chances are that your yard contains an on-site sewage management system. If this is the case then you have a special responsibility to ensure that your system is working well.

Common on-site Sewage Management Systems (septic systems) include:

Aerated Wastewater Treatment Systems

An Aerated Wastewater Treatment System (AWTS) is a purpose built system for the treatment of wastewater.

An AWTS consists of one or two tanks which contain a series of chambers. Wastewater enters the first chamber and solids settle to the bottom to form a sludge layer. The scum layer, containing fats and greases collects at the top of the chamber and the partially clarified wastewater flows in to the second chamber.

In the second chamber the wastewater is aerated and treated further by biological activity. A third chamber allows additional clarification through the settling of any remaining solids. The treated effluent is finally disinfected before irrigation can take place.

AWTS require ongoing servicing and maintenance every quarter by a suitably experienced service contractor. For more information regarding the servicing and maintenance requirements for an AWTS please refer to our fact sheet.

Conventional Systems (Septic Tank and Transpiration Bed)

A Conventional System typically consists of a septic tank with a transpiration bed or trench.

In circumstances where the transpiration bed is located higher than the septic tank a second tank, known as a holding tank is required this allows for the pump assisted transfer of the liquid effluent to the transpiration bed or trench.

Septic tanks treat both blackwater and greywater, but they provide only limited treatment (primary treatment) through the settling of solids and floatation of fats and greases.

Wastewater that has been treated in a septic tank can only be applied to land through a covered soil or absorption system, as the effluent is still too contaminated for above ground or near surface irrigation.

For more information regarding Conventional Systems and their maintenance requirements please refer to our fact sheet.

Sewage Management Strategy

Camden Council's Sewage Management Strategy came into force on the 17 July 2006. This Strategy relates to all unsewered allotments within the Camden Council Local Government Area and puts forward the framework for both the Approval to Install and Approval to Operate a Sewage Management System processes.

Camden Councils Approval to Operate Program

Section 68 of the Local Government Act 1993 states that Council Approval is required to operate an OSSM system.

 All on-site sewage management systems are required to be inspected and registered with Council. When council is in your area undertaking inspections you will be notified via mail and invited to book an inspection time.

 Each system will be inspected and once passed will be categorised into: 

  1. Low (inspection required every 6 years);
  2. Moderate (inspection required every 4 years); or
  3. High risk (inspection required every 2 years). 

Note: Commercial systems may be inspected annually.

Inspection categories are allocated based on system type, age and any health or environmental risks associated with the system.  For more information regarding Camden Councils Approval to Operate Inspection Program please refer to our fact sheet.

For additional helpful hints on how to maintain your system including buffer distance requirements please refer to the following fact sheet.

Pre-purchase Inspections 

Council now provides pre-purchase inspections on septic systems for a small cost.  This allows a potential property purchaser to be informed of the current working condition of the septic system you are about to inherit. 

To organise for a pre-purchase inspection permission from the current property owner is required.  An application for a pre-purchase inspection form is required to be completed and submitted to Council accompanied by the appropriate fees in accordance with Camden Councils fees and Charges. 

Application for Approval to Install

All new on-site sewage management (OSSM) systems and modifications to existing OSSM systems within the Camden Council Local Government Area require the prior approval of Camden Council under section 68 of the Local Government Act 1993.

Approval is required for any modifications to your system, including:

  • External Drainage (including the connection of additional drainage)
  • Tanks (including replacement and repair)
  • The disposal area (including replacement or modification to)

Approval is required to be obtained from Council prior to any works commencing.

If you Install, alter or conduct major repairs to your septic system without Council Approval, chances are you will be caught which can result in heavy fines. 

To avoid fines ensure you contact Council's Environmental Health Branch on (02) 4654 7777 before completing any works on your septic system to obtain further advice regarding the need for approval. 

Did you know?

If you are involved in organising for works to be completed on a system (e.g. an owner or Real Estate Agent) or are involved in completing any works (e.g. Plumber or supplier) you can also be held liable. It is important to ensure that you confirm with the property owner that the works you are about to engage or complete have the prior written consent of Council.


Application Forms - Domestic Systems

All relevant application forms for the Approval to Install process are linked below. The information sheet provided below has been developed to assist you in understanding the application process.

Please Note: The applicant is required to comply with the Sustainable Effluent Application Areas provided by Council. Unless specifically requested by Camden Council Wastewater reports will not be accepted. 


Application Forms - Commercial Systems

All applications for Approval to Install Commercial Sewage Management Systems shall comply with Camden Council's Sewage Management Strategy. Such application shall be made using the following forms:


Application Forms – Proposed Subdivisions

All proposed subdivisions within the unsewered allotments of the Camden Council Local Government Area will be required to demonstrate compliance with section 21.7 of Camden Council's Sewage Management Strategy.

Section 21.7

"(c) for a proposed subdivision where the Sydney Water Corporation sewer is not available, the minimum area permitted for the land application of effluent from a proposed on-site sewage management facility is to comply with the sustainable effluent application areas provided by Council, and shall be designed to cater for a minimum of a 4 bedroom dwelling".

"(d) where a proposed subdivision includes an existing dwelling, the assessment will need to demonstrate that, the subdivision will not impact on the dwellings existing wastewater management system, or a suitable provision for satisfactory wastewater disposal has been made."

The sustainable effluent application area for a proposed subdivision can be  obtained by submitting the following form. Note: on submission of this form all fees shall be paid in accordance with councils fees and charges (fees are applicable per proposed allotment)

De-Sludging Companies

Regular de-sludging of the primary chamber of all on-site sewage management systems is an important on-going maintenance requirement. The frequency of de-sludging is dependant on many factors, however it is generally recommended that you have your system de-sludged every 3-5 years.

Unfortunately Council is unable to provide names of companies who provide this service due to Fair Trading Laws, however please follow the instructions below to obtain further information on the De-sludging companies that may service the Camden Council LGA:

    1. Visit the Yellow Pages

    2. Type in 'septic tank cleaning services' in the area of 'Western Sydney'

    3. Press Search

When you find a service providers, you will need to ring these companies to see if they service the Camden area.

Important Note: Residents with AWTS are urged to be careful when having their systems de-sludged, particularly if you have a single tank system. The internal compartments within these systems, particularly with older systems have a tendency to collapse under pressure if not pumped out correctly. If you own an AWTS it is strongly recommended that you seek further advice and guidance from your service provider prior to having your system pumped out.