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Municipal Guide To Clean Water: Conducting Sanitary Surveys to Improve Coastal Water Quality

Wastewater Disposal Rules. Routine inspection and main- tenance will help to ensure that subsurface wastewater disposal systems function properly.55

Conduct research before surveying properties for waste disposal.

The background or known information can be docu- mented in the sanitary survey database and transferred to field datasheets before physically surveying properties. The municipality may have an HHE-200 form showing the de- sign of systems installed after 1974. The DHHS Subsurface Wastewater Program may also have HHE-200 forms on file.


A large percentage of domestic wastewater is comprised of “gray” water generated from laundry, dishwashing, bathing, etc. The rest is “black” water, human sewage from toilets. Unlicensed discharges of domestic wastewater via straight pipes, drains, etc. to surface waters are illegal and are not “grandfa- thered” methods of waste disposal in Maine.They must be replaced by an approved subsurface disposal system or connected to a sanitary sewer system.

Subsurface waste disposal sys- tems take many forms and the

technology is constantly changing. In general, they can be grouped

into cesspools, conventional sep- tic systems, proprietary systems, and alternative toilets such as out- houses and pits. A cesspool is any buried chamber (usually a covered hole surrounded by a rock wall) that allows wastewater to drain into the soil. Some cesspools have one or more overflow pipes or outlets that flow into a secondary soil absorp- tion system (leach field). Cesspools that overflow to water bodies or onto the surface of the ground are illegal and must be replaced with an approved wastewater dis-

posal system. Well-maintained and properly constructed cesspools can provide adequate wastewater disposal and those that are not ob- viously malfunctioning or causing a public nuisance are not illegal until they do malfunction.

Conventional septic systems in- clude three basic components: building sewer, septic tank, and a soil absorption system. The build- ing sewer is a pipe that delivers wastewater to the septic tank. Typical septic tanks are rectangu- lar concrete boxes or fiberglass tanks with sizes ranging from 750



Septic tank

Distribution tank

Leach field


A. A conventional septic system. Wastewater flows from the building sewer to the septic tank, then to the distribution box and then to the soil absorption system. B. A conventional 1,000-gallon septic tank. C. A soil absorption bed system. Other types of soil absorption bed systems include trench systems and seepage pits.57

Septic System Checkup:The Rhode Island Handbook for Inspection

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