EHS boring soil during a site evaluationThe On-Site Wastewater section of Environmental Health is responsible for protecting and improving the health of Alamance County citizens through a variety of responsibilities, which include the following:

  • Issuing or denying septic system permits (Improvement Permits)
  • Inspecting septic systems after they are installed to ensure proper installation by septic installer
  • Investigating septic system malfunctions and issuing repair permits based on that investigation
  • Monitoring advanced septic systems and systems with pumps to ensure that they are functioning as designed
  • Inspecting existing septic systems to ensure that buildings and other items are not constructed over the septic system which can lead to a system failure
  • Providing education and consultation to the public

To obtain a septic system permit, you must first complete an Improvement Permit/Construction Authorization Application.

Mail or bring the completed application and payment to:

Alamance County Health Department
Environmental Health Section
209 N. Graham-Hopedale Road
Burlington, NC 27217


We accept cash, checks, credit cards (Visa, Master Card, Discover) or money orders.  Make checks payable to: Alamance County Health Department


EHS evaluating soil in a pit

1.  After an application is submitted for an Improvement Permit, the assigned Environmental Health Specialist will schedule your evaluation.  If you made a request to meet the environmental health specialist at the time of the evaluation, he/she will call you to set up an appointment.

2.  The Environmental Health Specialist visits the site.  He/she will first look for the following items before proceding with the evaluation:

  • Property corners and sidelines are clearly identified with stakes and flagging
  • Building location clearly identified with stakes and flagging
  • Lot is accessible and does not need underbrushing/clearing

If the property lines and/or house location is not marked properly, there will be a revisit fee and the evaluation will not continue until this fee is paid and the property is properly prepared.

If the property needs underbrushing/clearing, the Environmental Health Specialist will notify the applicant and will not continue with the evaluation until the property is more accessible.  There is no revisit fee in these cases.

3.  The Environmental Health Specialist evaluates the site using the Laws and Rules for Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems in North Carolina.  An evaluation involves all of the following factors:

  • topography and landscape position (for example, is the slope too steep for a septic system or is the proposed septic system area in a depression?)
  • soil characteristics (soil texture, soil structure, clay mineralogy)
  • soil wetness (identified by colors of chroma as determined by reference to Munsell Soil Color Charts)
  • soil depth (to saprolite, rock, or parent material)
  • restrictive horizons
  • available space (is there enough space to fit a septic system and another septic system, called the repair area?)

The Environmental Health Specialist will auger soil borings to determine the soil characteristics.  In some cases, however, the applicant may be required to have pits dug (generally done with a backhoe) before the evaluation can be completed.

4.  The improvement permit will be either approved or denied and you will receive this in writing:

  • If approved, the Environmental Health Specialist will issue an Improvement Permit, which will show where the septic system must be located
  • If denied, the denial will list reasons for the denial and your right to appeal the decision and how to appeal

Prismatic structureSubangular blocky structure

Cleaning a septic tank filter


Septic System Owner's Guide

      • Pump your septic tank regularly to ensure optimum performance of your system. Failure to pump the tank can cause clogging of the drainfield and subsequent failure of the system. Failing systems contribute to runoff of sewage which contaminates surface water. Click on this link to learn more about septic system maintenance and when to pump your tank.
      • Clean your septic tank filter regularly: The septic tank filter is found at the outlet end of your septic tank. Wearing a pair of latex gloves and proper eye protection, you can easily remove the filter from the septic tank. While holding the filter over the septic tank, remove any solids from the filter with a garden hose. Be sure all wastes from the cleaning process are entering the septic tank. Replace the filter and the lid at the outlet end of the septic tank.
      • Properly use your system: Disposal of toxic substances in the system can contribute to NPS pollution other than nutrients and pathogens that will degrade ground and surface water quality. Do not throw or dispose in your system chemical wastes such as engine oil, gasoline, pesticides, paints, solvents, and photographic chemicals. Contact your local landfill or toxic waste recycling site to dispose of these chemicals.
      • Protect your drainfield: It is important to ensure long life of the drainfield. If the system fails, sewage will surface in the drainfield and can runoff to nearby streams contributing to NPS pollution and posing a health hazard. Keep large trees and shrubs away from the field to prevent any root clogging or crushing the drainfield pipes. Do not drive or pave over the drainfield! The weight of vehicles can crush the pipes of the drainfield. Protect your septic tank: Keep as many solids out of your septic tank as possible. This ensures optimum performance of the tank and maximizes pumping time. Coffee grounds, grease and cooking oils, sanitary napkins, tampons, disposable diapers, cigarettes, facial tissues or other solid or paper wastes, cat box litter, mud and grit from cleaning automobile or machine parts can contribute to a faster solids build-up in your tank.
      • Reduce the amount of water you dispose in your system: By reducing the water usage, less water flows into the drainfield. Thus, the drainfield has more time to recover between effluent loads. Save water by turning off the water while doing something that does not require a constant flow of water. Take short showers e.g. less than 5 to 10 minutes. Use low flow fixtures in sinks, toilets, and showers. Run dishwashers and washing machines only with full loads. Repair leaky faucets. Do not empty into the septic tank roof drains, basement sump pumps, and foundation drains.
      • Contact your local health department if you have questions and/or to report failing systems!

Existing wastewater system authorizations are needed in the following situations:

  • Replacing a mobile home
  • Dividing property with an existing septic system on at least one of the remaining properties
  • Adding on to a home or business (excludes bedrooms or offices that will increase the daily sewage flow - an Improvement Permit is needed in these cases)
  • Any additions to your home where digging is required, such as a swimming pool, a cement patio, or a detached garage.
  • In some cases, when power/electricity is needing to be restored.

EHS probing a septic system

Existing Septic System Inspection Application

What is an Existing Wastewater System Authorization?

An Environmental Health Specialist will go out to your property and probe out the existing septic tank and existing drainfield.  If a determination can be made that the existing septic system is working properly and does not interfere with any new additions or replacements, and Existing Wastewater System Authorization will be granted.

Instructions for Obtaining an Existing System Authorization

  1.  Complete and submit application (FORM MUST BE FILLED OUT COMPLETELY) and submit appropriate fee to our Department.
  2. Any changes - all types of structures such as buildings, swimming pools, additions, etc. - MUST BE CLEARLY IDENTIFIED/STAKED OFF ON THE PROPERTY.
  4. Environmental Health Specialist will go out to check septic tank and drainfield.
  5. Environmental Health Specialist will approve or deny system.
  6. If the system is approved, the Environmental Health Specialist will draw up a septic tank permit (which is called an Existing Wastewater System Authorization) and give to you to take the Building Inspections Department (located at 217 College St., Graham, NC, 336-570-4059) to obtain the necessary permits from their agency.

***If the number of existing bedrooms is to be increased, then a soil evaluation/upgrade application must be completed. Refer to site/soil evaluation procedures.

Septic System Malfunction

Septic System Repair Application

Why Do Septic Systems Fail?

If your septic system looks anything like the picture above, or if you have sewage backing up in your home, your septic system needs to be repaired.  To begin this process, we advise taking the following steps:

  1. Contact our Department as soon as possible. Our phone number is (336) 570-6367.
  2. Complete a septic system repair application (no fee for this) and submit this to our Department.  Be sure to complete the homeowner interview form (page 2 of the repair application) as this greatly helps us determine possible causes for the septic system malfunction.
  3. Our Department will visit your property and evaluate the septic system malfunction.  An Environmental Health Specialist will try to determine causes for this malfunction, and what can be done to correct the problem.  After a determination is made, you will receive an improvement permit and authorization to construct(repair permit).
  4. Contact a septic system contractor once you receive your repair permit.


Certified Septic Installers

The Certified Septic Installers list provides you with all of the septic system contractors that are registered in Alamance County and that are certified in the state of North Carolina.  All septic system contractors must certified by the North Carolina On-Site Wastewater Contractor and Inspectors Certification Board.

For a list of certified septic operators, please click the following link:

Certified Operator List