Nebraska Department of
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Onsite Wastewater Systems: Frequently Asked Questions
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What is soil fracturing by air injection and is it an acceptable method for rejuvenating a drainfield?
Can household “graywater” be used to water the lawn or plants?
My water well is located near a septic system drainfield. Is my water safe to drink?
- No. The discharge of wastewater is prohibited to the land surface from a dwelling, non-dwelling facility, building sewer, or onsite wastewater treatment system without Department approval.
- Wastewater means liquid and water borne wastes from a dwelling or non-dwelling facility. Wastewater includes both blackwater and graywater.
- Graywater is defined as all domestic waste excluding blackwater and including bath, lavatory, laundry and sink waste except kitchen sink waste.
How do I know if my septic system is failing?
- Have your well water tested regularly for nitrate and fecal coliform. Contact your nearest Natural Resources District office, local health department or local University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension office for assistance.
Is a composting (waterless) toilet subject to the regulatory requirements of Title 124 - Rules and Regulations for the Design, Operation, and Maintenance of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems?
- An obvious sign of a failing system is the discharge of wastewater to the ground surface such as a “daylighted” system or a discharge via an open pipe.
- By definition, a failed or failing system also includes a discharge of effluent or wastewater to:
- A cesspool, seepage pit, dry well, or leaching pit;
- An absorption system with less than four feet to ground water; or
- Which threatens to cause pollution of any air, water or land of the State, or which threatens public health.
Does the Onsite Wastewater Program approve onsite wastewater treatment system products or technologies?
- No. Provided there is no running water or plumbing connected to the composting toilet (i.e., no wastewater is generated).
- There are also no solid waste permitting or special handling requirements under Title 132 – Integrated Solid Waste Management Regulations for small composting operations as long as the device produces a “finished compost” (humus like material suitable for unrestricted use as a soil conditioner) and is operated in accordance with the manufacturers specifications. Finished compost should be spread and worked into the soil.
Can dental amalgam be discharged to a septic system?
- The Department does not have an approval process for products or technologies. However, the Agency can disapprove, restrict products and technologies or place conditions on their use through the issuance of a permit.
- The use of non-standard products or technologies in septic systems in Nebraska requires the submittal of an application for a construction/operating permit.
What types of wastes are “other than domestic wastewater”?
- No. Dental amalgam is primarily composed of liquid mercury and other metal alloys (tin, silver and copper) and is not suitable for disposal in septic systems. The discharge of dental amalgam may upset the biological waste treatment processes occurring in the absorption, infiltrative or evaporative system associated with a septic system and may also affect local groundwater quality.
- Onsite wastewater treatment systems, such as a holding tank, accepting non-domestic wastewater containing dental amalgam, are subject to the permitting requirements of Title 124. Waste accumulated in a holding tank will eventually require removal and may require a waste determination/testing in accordance with Title 128 – Nebraska Hazardous Waste Regulations to ensure disposal at an appropriate waste management facility.
- Domestic wastewater does not include process waste from any industrial, agricultural or commercial establishment, automotive or industrial chemicals or petroleum products, kitchen waste or wastewater from a restaurant or food preparation facility, water carrying animal waste or commercial process water or wastewater.
- Wastes that are not typical household wastes are not suitable for disposal in a septic system and include:
Note: This is not a complete listing. Please contact the Onsite Wastewater Program for further information on a particular waste type.
- Recreational vehicle (RV) wastewater tank disinfectants and deodorants;
- Chemicals from laboratories;
- Food production/preparation wastes from meat processing/butcher shops/restaurants;
- Chemicals and waste from veterinary clinics and dog kennels;
- Production wastes from a winery/distillery/brewery;
- Motor vehicle and equipment repair and maintenance shop wastes; and
- Hair salon products.
- The owner of a dwelling or non-dwelling facility proposing to construct an onsite wastewater treatment system for other than household type wastes must apply for and obtain a construction/operating permit from the Department.
Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Advisory Committee (OWAC)
System Design, Installation and Inspection
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
1200 "N" Street, Suite 400
P.O. Box 98922
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509