Septic Systems

Maintenance, Construction, Repair & Complaints

Sewage treatment and disposal is almost entirely performed by conventional septic systems, owned and maintained by property owners. In addition there are several community septic systems serving residential associations, which are maintained by the community served with oversight by the Madison Health Department/WPCA (Water Pollution Control Authority) and several on site sewage treatment plants serving particular properties with primary oversight by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and secondary oversight by the Madison WPCA.


Oversight of conventional septic systems consists of several parts: system maintenance, field investigations, new system and repair design, repair design, permitting, data collection and on-site inspection of all system installations.

Permitting & Appeals

All building permits and zoning appeals are reviewed by the Health Department to assess the impact of construction on sewage disposal needs. Guidelines for this review are part of the Connecticut Public Health Code.


Septic tanks should be cleaned on a regular basis, and commercial pumping companies are required to report to the town each time a tank is pumped. The WPCA maintains this information in a database and sends notices to property owners when tanks have not been pumped in five years.


Installation of new septic systems and repairs to existing systems are by permit and must be performed by licensed installers. Design and installation criteria are part of the Connecticut Public Health Code and permits are issued based on local interpretation of that code. Septic systems for new homes are usually designed by professional engineers, but engineered systems are not required for all new homes. That determination is based on space available and soil suitability. Most repairs are motivated by failure of an existing system or by system upgrades at the time of home improvement construction. System failures are usually reported by property owners or licensed installers. Occasionally failures are reported by neighbors or are discovered by Health Department during routine walkovers.

Investigating Failures

The Health Department investigates all reported septic system failures and property owners are notified of their obligation to repair them in a reasonable time. Each failure is entered into a database and is kept open until there has been resolution to the problem. For failures that are not repaired in a timely manner, there is a series of follow-up investigations and communications leading to issuance of a Public Health Order and court summons in worst-case scenarios.

The topics provide some discussion of the most common issues that arise for homeowners, prospective buyers and real estate agents. It is not intended to be comprehensive. Far more detailed information about septic systems, system inspections and home sales is available at the Department of Public Health website.