Public health agency for Snohomish County
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The wastewater program provides the following services: field and regulatory review of proposed on-site sewage disposal systems, drainfield repair designs for owner-occupied residences, operational reports for existing systems, complaint investigations and enforcement, certification/licensing of septic pumpers and installers within Snohomish County, and technical assistance to the general public
Permit Process for Septic Systems
Acquiring an onsite sewage system (OSS) permit can be a lengthy process. State and local rules and regulations require that you first hire a licensed professional who will evaluate your site, design a system, and complete the permit application process with our office.
Permit Process
List of Permit Process steps:
  1. If you are planning to install a new onsite septic system, you must secure the services of an On-site Wastewater Treatment System Designer or Professional Engineer.
  2. The designer or engineer will evaluate your property by looking at the size and topography of the site, soil conditions, proximity to surface water and other pertinent conditions. He or she will then submit an application and design to Snohomish Health District that is unique and specific to your property.
  3. A sanitarian from SHD will review the site with the application and design to make sure that it is in compliance with state and local rules and regulations. If the design is disapproved, you and your designer will receive a letter that explains why. The designer may be able to address these concerns by submitting a redesign.
  4. Once the design and application are approved, they will be mailed to you. An approved application is valid for two (2) years and can be renewed for an additional two (2) year period with written concurrence from the system designer, payment of a renewal fee, and review and approval from the SHD. Issuance of the installation permit is subject to conditions specified in the application approval.
  5. After you receive a permit for the septic system, you will need to hire a certified installer.
  6. The designer will inspect the completed installation and submit an as-built to SHD. A sanitarian then performs a final inspection and if approved, the system can be covered.
Construction of Onsite Sewage System for New Residences/Structures
  • An application approval is not a permit for installation of the onsite sewage disposal system. An SHD sewage disposal installation permit for new structure or residence will not be issued before the city/county building permit is issued and will remain valid concurrent with the city/county building permit.
    Note: If the building permit is withdrawn, revoked, or expires, the installation permit will no longer be valid.
  • If an individual water supply (i.e. well) is proposed, you may be subject to the requirements of House Bill 2929, the Growth Management Act, Section 63, regarding demonstration of an adequate and potable water supply.
  • The Washington State Department of Ecology has closed the Carpenter-Fisher subbasin in north Snohomish County to new groundwater withdrawals. See the Carpenter-Fisher link in the Resources section below for more information on Ecologys website.
  • If an "Application for an Individual Water Supply" is submitted concurrently with an "Application for an Onsite Sewage Disposal Permit", the fee is less than if it is submitted on its own.
Additional Information
  • Designer's and Engineer’s fees vary and are not set or regulated by the SHD or Department of Licensing.
  • The SHD is not a county or state agency, but instead is an independent municipal corporation, a District.
  • For specific information or questions, call 425.339.5250 and ask to speak with a field sanitarian, or email us.
  • For information regarding a well driller, contact the Department of Ecology at 425.649.7000.
  • For information about licensed Designer or Professional Engineers check the Washington State Department of Licensing web site or call 360.664.1568 for DOL Customer Service.
Types of Septic Systems
The following is a list of septic system types currently installed in Snohomish County. If you don’t know what type of system you have, see our Online Service application: Septic As-Builts. You will be able to see what your septic system looks like, and what type it is.
The sewage from your house enters a large two compartment septic tank, where the solids settle out. The liquid (effluent) then flows to the drainfield where it is disbursed through perforated pipes in the gravel trenches. In some cases, a pump is utilized if the drainfield is upslope from the septic tank. The effluent trickles through the gravel where it reaches the soil. The soil filters and treats the effluent, removing bacteria and other pollutants before reaching the groundwater.
Properly operating and maintaining your drainfield will greatly reduce the potential contamination of ground and surface water. As a homeowner, you can save thousand of dollars in costly repairs if you take care of your on-site sewage system and use it properly. Please click on the following links for specific operation and maintenance information for your septic system.
Septic As-Built Records
Snohomish Health District offers an online database of septic system records for properties in Snohomish County. These electronic records contain septic as-built drawings, system type and in some cases notes on septic maintenance and other permit activity.
Septic Systems Inspection
Upon request and payment of the appropriate fee, the Snohomish Health District will conduct a field inspection of an existing septic system.
The inspection includes a complete review of the file, and a visual inspection of the site to observe signs of septic system failure present on the ground surface or surface water, and visible physical features which may impair the proper operation of the septic system such as driveways, patios, sheds, additions etc.
The report does not constitute a representation, warranty, or guarantee as to whether or not the system is actually functioning at the time of the inspection, nor representation or warranty as to the future functioning of the sewage disposal system.
Signs of Septic Systems Failure
How do you know if your system is failing? Here are some possible signs:
  • Sewage is surfacing on the ground over the drainfield or septic tank
  • There is a strong sewage odor
  • The ground above the drainfield is soggy, and has unusually lush vegetation
  • Sewage is backing up into the house
  • Slow draining fixtures
Now that you know, what do you do?
  1. If you think you need a septic system repair, the first thing to do is contact a certified installer. The installer will be able to look at the multiple elements of your system and possibly determine where the failure is originating from.
  2. The installer may then recommend that you contact a licensed designer to design a repair for you. All repairs required a permit, and application must be made to Snohomish Health District by a licensed designer.
  3. Once the repair is approved, you will receive a letter in the mail. You must hire a certified installer to complete the work. They will call the SHD and request the permit be issued for installation.
  4. The installer will notify your designer when the repair is complete. The designer will return to your home to be sure that the repair was installed correctly, and then submits an as-built to SHD. An as-built is a visual record of your septic system that we keep on file.
  5. A sanitarian from SHD will come to your home for final inspection to make sure the installation is correct and the as-built is an accurate depiction of your repaired septic system.
Septic System Maintenance
The longevity of your onsite septic system relies heavily on the way that you care for it.
Maintaining your system involves monitoring not only what goes into it, but also scheduling regular pumping for your septic tank and protecting the system from surface water and drainage, soil compaction, and other activities or site development that might negatively impact the system and eventually cause it to fail. Additionally, some system types require additional routine maintenance. The Washington Administration Code, Chapter 246-272A-0270 details these homeowner maintenance responsibilities.
Below is a list of helpful links with information about protecting and prolonging the life of your system.
  1. Inspecting your tank – It’s not so bad...really!  web
    Thurston County Public Health & Social Services Department
  2. On-site Out of Sight – On-site Sewage System Homeowner’s Manual  web
    Kitsap County Health District
  3. Pumping Your Septic Tank  web
    Washington Sea Grant Program
  4. Septic Sense, Scents, Cents: Supreme Insights to the Fearless Flush  web
    Washington Sea Grant Program. OSS overview
  5. The Truth about Septic System Additives  web
    Kitsap County Health District
  6. Understanding and Caring for Your Septic Tank System  web
    Washington State Dept of Health and Washington State University Cooperative
  7. What to Expect During a Septic Tank Pump Out  web
    University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension
  8. What You Can Do To Extend the Life of Your Septic System  web
    University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension
Septic Systems Contractors
The Wastewater program provides information about Pumpers, Installers, Monitoring and Maintenance Specialist and Designers/Engineers who can work in Snohomish County. Here is the of list Snohomish County Certified Pumpers, Installers and Monitoring and Maintenance Specialists.
Monitoring and Maintenance Specialists
Monitoring and Maintenance Specialists are certified by Snohomish Health District (SHD). Monitoring and Maintenance Specialists who possess a certification from a county other than Snohomish must also be certified by SHD prior to conducting business in Snohomish County. Certification requires that candidates pass both portions of the O&M provider exam administered by the Washington On-Site Sewage Association with a minimum score of 70% on each portion of the exam in addition to meeting the 2 year experience requirement. They must also show proof of current registration with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Licensure may also be secured through reciprocity provided that the licensing county meets SHD’s testing and experience requirements. (Please see SHD Sanitary Code Chapter 8.7 for more information on licensing requirements).
Septic tank pumpers are certified by Snohomish Health District (SHD). They must pass an exam and show proof of insurance. Pumpers based outside of the county must be certified by SHD prior to conducting business in Snohomish County.
Individuals proposing to install an on-site sewage system in Snohomish County must first be certified by the Snohomish Health District (SHD). Installers who possess a certification from a county other than Snohomish must also be certified by SHD prior to conducting business in Snohomish County.
Certified Installer Examination
Certification required installers to undergo an examination process. This process consists of two parts:
  • Witten Exam
    The written exam is comprised of a combination of true and false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank and essay questions. The exam is worth 100 points with a total of 70 points needed to pass. The exam may be taken any time during our normal business hours, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Closed noon – 1:00 pm), excluding holidays. No appointment is needed. The length of time needed to complete the exam is approximately 2 hours. No resource materials, cell phones or other electronic devices are allowed during the exam except for a small calculator.
  • Field Review
    The field review follows the successful completion of the written exam. The field review consists of a site meeting with a Water and Wastewater sanitarian to discuss the results of the exam and also to review an installed on-site system ready for final inspection. This allows for a more hands-on discussion of installation principles and practices and is also an opportunity for the sanitarian to answer any questions the candidate may have.
After successful completion of the field review, a certificate application for installer and appropriate fee must be submitted along with a copy of a valid Dept. of Labor & Industries State Contractor’s License prior to issuance of the operating certificate. Certificates are valid for the calendar year in which they are applied for and are renewed annually.
Candidates are strongly encouraged to review the following material prior to sitting for the exam
Installer Exam Packet (6.3.3)
Contain Exam Resource Materials
Designers and professional engineers are licensed by the Washington State Department of Licensing. The link below will take you to the Department of Licensing ‘Professional Licensing Internet Query’. Select ‘Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems On-site Designer License’ or any of the engineering choices.
Rules and Regulations
The following documents contain guidelines used to regulate on-site septic system design and installation in Snohomish County.
If you have any questions regarding the content or application of information in these documents, please contact our office.
Recommended Standards and Guidance Documents about On-site Treatment Systems (RS&G's) (6.1.5)
The RS&G's are provided by the Washington State Department of Health.
SHD: Policy Regarding Aerobic Treatment Units and Disinfection Methods (6.1.5)
Snohomish Health District, Environmental Health
SHD: Policy Regarding Interpretation of Bedroom and Daily Flow Determination (6.1.5)
Snohomish Health District, Environmental Health
SHD: Policy Regarding Non-pressurized Storage Tanks for Individual Water Supplies (6.1.5)
Snohomish Health District, Environmental Health
SHD: Policy Regarding Operation and Maintenance: Alternative Systems Meeting Treatment Standards 1 and/or 2 (6.1.5)
Snohomish Health District, Environmental Health
SHD: Policy Regarding Reduced Size Soil Absorption Systems (6.1.5)
Snohomish Health District, Environmental Health
SHD: Policy Regarding Trench Separation (6.1.5)
Snohomish Health District, Environmental Health
SHD: Policy Regarding Watertight Tank Standards (6.1.5)
Snohomish Health District, Environmental Health
Snohomish Health District Sanitary Code, Chapter 8 (5)
The Sanitary Code is governed by the Snohomish Health District Board of Health.
WAC 246-272A: Onsite Sewage Systems (6.1.5)
Washington Administrative Code, Chapter 246-272A, Onsite Sewage Systems
The Snohomish Health District investigates complaints or problems with septic systems.
How To Report a problem with a septic system
Complete the Wastewater Complaint Form and send it to:
Environmental Health Division,
Wastewater Program
3020 Rucker Avenue, Suite 104
Everett, WA 98201-3900

OR email the completed form to:
The complaint will remain anonymous. The person filing the complaint will receive a reply regarding the situation after the initial investigation is complete. If you would like to contact Snohomish County Health District, please call 425.339.5250.
Appeals Process
All appeals must be submitted within 21 days of the date of the decision under dispute.
Contact Info
Phone: 425.339.5250
Office Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (Closed noon – 1:00 pm)
List of Wastewater Resources:
  1. Emergency Flood Sanitation  file
    Snohomish Health District, Environmental Health
  2. Example: Declaration of Covenant  file
    Legal Documents
  3. Example: Declaration of Easement  file
    Legal Documents
  4. Septic System Care  web
    General Septic System Information
  5. Sewer and Water Districts – Snohomish County  file
    List of Sewer and Water Districts in Snohomish County
  6. SHD On-site Sewage System Management Plan  file
    Snohomish Health District, Environmental Health
  7. Washington State Department of Ecology  web
    DOE Resources
  8. Washington State Department of Health  web
    DOH Resources

Last Reviewed and updated 1/26/2012