Wherever possible, sewage and wastewater should be collected in community sewers connected to a central treatment plant. However, in most rural areas and in many suburban residential areas community sewers are not available. In that case, individual household onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) are installed to treat household waste.
Household Onsite Wastewater Treatment System An OWTS will adequately serve a home only if it is properly located, designed, constructed, and maintained. There are several variations of the basic OWTS design in use today. OWTSs are individually designed and/or adapted for a specific site. An individual private OWTS consists of two main components, a septic tank and a leach field or drain field.
Private Sewage / Wastewater Regulation The Environmental Health Unit regulates the private sewage / wastewater system program. Inspectors oversee the design and installation of OWTSs to ensure installation meets standards outlined in Article IV of the Sanitary Code of the Chautauqua County Health District and New York State Code Part 75.
Mandatory Inspection Program for Lakeshore OWTSs The program aims to protect private drinking water wells, reduce lake water contamination, and protect public health from short-circuiting OWTSs that are not adequately treating wastewater. Beginning in 2016, the Environmental Health Unit is required by the Sanitary Code to inspect all properties along Bear, Cassadaga, Chautauqua, Erie, and Findley lakes that meet the following criteria:
1. The facility/home or OWTS components are located within 250 feet of a lake. 2. The OWTS is unpermitted OR a permitted OWTS is 30 years old or older. 3. An OWTS is suspected to be in significant non-compliance with the Sanitary Code.
The program is being implemented because public health risks related to declining lake water quality are increasing in Chautauqua County. A factsheet has been prepared to address frequently asked questions.