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Septic System Management

Individual septic systems treat wastewater in many areas of the Pinelands. These systems constitute much of the region's wastewater infrastructure, renovating wastewater through natural processes before recharging treated water to local aquifers.

The Pinelands Commission's land-use controls and environmental programs allow the use of conventional septic systems, which consist of a septic tank an effluent disposal field, where they are installed at development densities that are consistent with the environment's carrying capacity. The carrying capacity is determined in the Pinelands by using a mass balance Pinelands Septic Dilution Model, available for download on the Commission's website.

The Commission's Septic Dilution Model demonstrates that a conventional septic system, when serving a single-family residence, will meet Pinelands water quality standards on a minimum 3.2-acre parcel. The model also demonstrates that a high-performance, Pinelands pilot program treatment system is needed in order for a single-family residence to meet Pinelands water quality standards on parcels that are smaller than 3.2 acres. These high-performance, advanced treatment systems reduce nitrogen in wastewater by employing microbiological treatment processes and can be used to meet Pinelands water quality standards on parcels as small as one acre.

Both the Pinelands Commission's rules and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's (NJDEP) rules require conventional septic systems and advanced treatment systems, such as those authorized through the Pinelands pilot program, to be properly operated and maintained at all times.

Septic System Management and Maintenance Requirements

Periodic maintenance of all types of septic systems is essential to prolong the system's life and to prevent disease transmission and water pollution.

The Pinelands Commission’s rules require that owners of conventional septic systems have their systems inspected, cleaned and certified as functional to the local board of health once every three years.

Under the NJDEP's Water Quality Management Planning rules (N.J.A.C. 7:15) last amended November 7, 2016, County-wide Wastewater Management Plans must demonstrate that areas served by septic systems are subject to a mandatory maintenance program, such as an ordinance, which ensures that all systems are inspected periodically to determine if they are functioning properly.  

Under another set of NJDEP regulations, (N.J.A.C. 7:9A) adopted on April 2, 2012, owners of septic systems that incorporate "advanced pretreatment devices" (these include Pinelands Pilot Program systems) are required to: 1) Have a maintenance contract in place for the life of the system; and 2) To submit a copy of the renewed service contract to the board of health within 14 days of the expiration of the original service contract.

These NJDEP rules also require authorized service providers to notify the local health department within 30 days of a service contract's expiration. The rules specify that the failure of a system owner to maintain a valid service contract on an advanced treatment system constitutes a violation of the Water Pollution Control Act.

Pinelands Guidance on Septic System Management Programs

The Pinelands Commission has developed several resources to help Pinelands Area municipalities, boards of health and health departments to establish septic system management programs. These sources include: 

Onsite Wastewater Systems Management in the New Jersey Pinelands

Legal Basis and Regulatory Framework of Onsite Wastewater Management in the New Jersey Pinelands

Onsite Wastewater Systems Management Manual for the New Jersey Pinelands

For more information, please contact:

The Pinelands Commission's Planning Office at