Septic Systems

Sewage System Permit

The first step is to have your property evaluated to determine the size and location of the septic system before siting a house, structure, or well. It will be easier to move buildings on paper if you need to, due to setbacks or the size of the system. To do so, you must hire a state certified evaluator to conduct a soil and site evaluation. They will excavate at least 3 test pits (two in the primary sewage disposal area and a third in the reserve disposal field area) to a depth of 12 feet and determine the capacity of the soil to absorb water and any limiting conditions. The evaluator will then design a septic system that matches your development desires to the available space.

You must have the soil and site evaluation completed before applying for a sewage disposal permit. Applications are accepted and processed through the Cochise Health and Social Services (Health Department) offices. If an alternative system (composting toilets are an alternative system) is necessary (due to limiting conditions, such as, lack of soil, high groundwater, impermeable layers, etc.), the evaluator will recommend that you design a system to compensate for whatever the limiting condition is. The application for an alternative system may be reviewed by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality or the Health Department depending on the system chosen.

Site & Soil Evaluator

A qualified Investigator/Evaluator can be either:

  • Arizona registered professional engineer
  • Arizona registered professional geologist,
  • Arizona registered sanitarian
  • Individual with a certificate of training from a course recognized by ADEQ

Care & Maintenance

Improperly maintained and failing septic systems are common sources of water pollution and potential public health hazards. The following are to assist you in maintaining your septic system for optimal sewage treatment and maximum life span:

  • The septic system is an underground two-part sewage treatment and wastewater disposal system. It is composed of a septic tank and a leach field. Sewage flows by gravity into the septic tank where the solids are removed, and some treatment occurs. The remaining liquid flows to leach fields where it is further treatment occurs and allowed to soak into the soil.
  • It is recommended that the septic tank be pumped every 3 to 5 years of normal household use. Contractors are listed in the telephone book (in the yellow pages under Septic Tanks and Systems-Cleaning). If solids from the tank are allowed to enter the leach field, the life of your system could be drastically diminished, causing expensive repairs much sooner than would usually be expected.
  • To locate where your septic tank system is, consult your Cochise County Environmental Health Division office nearest you. If your house is not too old, the office may have a record of where your septic tank is located in reference to your home. Another way would be to probe the yard to see if you can physically find it. Your yard may contain certain clues, such as a cleanout pipe. This line leads directly to the tank, which is usually 10 feet or more from the foundation of the house. A plumber or septic tank pumping company can also locate the tank for you.
  • Newer septic tanks have an effluent filter inside of the second chamber of the tank before the outlet or discharge pipe. The purpose of the effluent filter is to prevent solids from infiltrating into the leach fields. Effluent filters must be periodically cleaned. It can be cleaned by removing it from the tank and rinsing it with running water. You or your septic pumper can clean these filters. Cleaning is usually recommended at least once each year.
  • The efficiency of the septic system is related to the quantity and quality of the wastewater. All leaking fixtures should be repaired as soon as possible. In normal quantities, household cleaning products would not have any harmful effects. Disinfectants (such as bleach), pesticides, herbicides, paint, solvents, or oils should not be disposed of in the septic system. The addition of chemicals or bacterial enzymes is not recommended.
  • Septic system failure is usually indicated by either the backing up of sewage into the home or by surfacing effluent in the leach field area. When this occurs, you must determine the cause and correct the issue. It may mean that the septic tank needs pumping, and/or the leach field's ability to handle the inflow of effluent is decreasing. Surfacing effluent is considered a public health hazard. It requires immediate correction, such as pumping the tank and possibly obtaining a repair permit from EHD if repairs to the septic system need to be done.