On-site Wastewater Treatment Systems
San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) is the regulatory authority for on-site wastewater treatment system (OWTS) permitting in La Plata, Archuleta, and San Juan Counties. SJBPH has regulated OWTS, also known as septic systems, since 1967. Due to updated State of Colorado standards, SJBPH adopted new local Regulations that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
- 2018 Regulations (as adopted)
- Colorado’s Regulation 43 (contains most of the design standards for OWTS)
- Frequently Asked Questions about OWTS
NOTE: On Jan. 1, 2019, it will be mandatory in all three counties to have most OWTS inspected prior to sale. Click the “Transfer of Title” tab below for more information on getting your property ready for sale under the new requirements, and for Inspection Forms, Applications, and a list of local inspectors.
Application forms and further information for Permitting, Inspections, and Installer and Cleaner Licenses can be found on the appropriate tabs below.
To submit applications, inspection requests and other documents to the OWTS team, do one of the following:
- (Preferred) Open the form in Adobe Acrobat, fill out the form and sign it digitally using the Acrobat “Fill and Sign” tool. Save a PDF copy and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the form and address of the property in the subject line.
- Print the form, fill it out by hand, then scan your completed and signed form, and email the scanned PDF file to email@example.com with the name of the form and the address of the property in the subject line.
- Submit the completed, signed form in person at either of our office locations: 281 Sawyer Drive, Durango; or 502 South 8th Street, Pagosa Springs
- Mail or ship the completed, signed form to San Juan Basin Public Health, ATTN: Environmental Health, 281 Sawyer Drive, Durango CO 81303
To make payment for septic system applications, inspections, or other services, do one of the following:
- (Preferred) Pay online with credit card or e-check. Select “Onsite Wastewater” in the Payment for field, write the name of the form in the Description field, and write the address of the property in the Invoice Number/Customer Name field.
- Pay in person with check, credit card or cash at either of our office locations: 281 Sawyer Drive, Durango; or 502 South 8th Street, Pagosa Springs
- Mail or ship a check to San Juan Basin Public Health, ATTN: Environmental Health, 281 Sawyer Drive, Durango CO 81303. Write the name of the form and property address on the memo line.
Beginning January 1, 2019, most properties served by a septic system in Archuleta, La Plata and San Juan Counties will be required to undergo inspection prior to sale. This requirement helps identify failing and hazardous systems and protects property buyers from unforeseen repair obligations. In 2018, these inspections are optional.
- Transfer of Title Inspections: A Guide for Buyers and Sellers
- Application for a Transfer of Title Acceptance Document
- SJBPH Transfer of Title Inspection Form
- Buyers’ Agreement to Repair or Alter an OWTS (attach this form to an application where identified repairs/alterations will not be completed before closing)
- Buyers’ Agreement to Inspect an OWTS (attach this form to an application where an inspection could not be performed before closing)
Inspections for Transfer of Title purposes must be performed by an inspector certified by the National Association of Wastewater Technicians (NAWT). Inspectors can be found in two ways.
- As a courtesy, SJBPH maintains an unofficial registry of local certified inspectors. This list is not official or comprehensive and you should verify that an inspector’s certificate is current before contracting with them to do an inspection. There may be other certified inspectors on the NAWT website that do not appear on SJBPH’s courtesy list.
- Click here to search for an inspector on the NAWT website.
Inspection reports should be submitted on the following form: SJBPH Operating Inspection Form. SJBPH may accept reports on other NAWT-compliant inspection forms at its discretion.
SJBPH recommends having the septic tank pumped within 1-2 days of the certified inspection, and some inspectors may insist that it be pumped during inspection. Septic tank pumping may also be required depending on inspection results (if the inspection reveals that it has been too long since pumping). Confirm details with your chosen inspector, and click on the “Installers and Cleaners” tab above to find a licensed System Cleaner.
Inspection reports and reports from System Cleaners expire after twelve months. Inspection reports for Transfer of Title purposes must be submitted to SJBPH to obtain an Acceptance Document prior to closing.
Acceptance Documents expire at the closing of the property sale, or after twelve months, whichever comes first. All Acceptance Documents are contingent on proper permits existing for the septic system. Call 970-335-2060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy of an existing OWTS permit from a specific address or parcel number.
The following situations will be exempt from mandatory Transfer of Title Inspections:
- The OWTS received a final permit from SJBPH within the last four years.
- The transfer is not an arm’s length transaction (for example, inheritance, including a spouse)
- The transfer is creating or ending joint ownership, with one original owner remaining on the title
- Creating trusts and LLCs in the same name as the original owner
- Foreclosure (note: sales of bank-owned properties will NOT be exempt)
- Repair or alteration permits are active for the OWTS in question
The Transfer of Title Inspections requirement is delayed until 2019 to allow for more time for homeowners, real estate professionals, and the wastewater industry to prepare for the new requirements. For closings in 2018, obtaining an Acceptance Document is optional, but strongly recommended.
Anyone who wishes to install, construct, alter, or repair an on-site wastewater treatment system (OWTS) in Archuleta, La Plata, or San Juan Counties is required to first obtain a permit from San Juan Basin Public Health. Learn more about how to obtain an on-site wastewater system permit and prepare for site evaluation:
Please note: submitting an application for the installation of an OWTS does not guarantee a permit on marginal lots; marginal lots may be small in acreage, contain steep slopes, shallow bedrock, shallow groundwater or not meet setback requirements.
OWTS that will serve commercial properties or multifamily dwellings, and all OWTS located on unsuitable soil, high groundwater, high bedrock, or steep slopes must be designed by a professional engineer. On other sites, anyone may submit a design following a Site and Soil Evaluation, which determines if any of these conditions are present. Site and Soil Evaluations must be performed by Registered Soil Technicians. If you have the necessary qualifications to perform soil evaluations and wish to be added to the registry of Soil Technicians, contact SJBPH at 970-335-2030.
- Registered Soil Technicians (updated January 2019)
Regulations require that all OWTS be installed by a currently-licensed System Contractor and that the Contractor possess the authorization to construct the OWTS, signed by SJBPH, prior to breaking ground. NOTE: Contractor licenses expire on December 31 and may not have been immediately renewed. Confirm with your contractor that their license is current for 2019.
- Licensed contractors (updated October 2018)
Construction inspections of new OWTS are scheduled through the permitting process. Click the Permits tab above to learn more.
For mandatory inspections of existing systems for the purposes of transfer of title to the property, click the NEW – Transfer of Title tab above.
Information on this tab is for three situations:
- To request an inspection when required for a new building permit application or modular home permit application that proposes to reuse an existing OWTS.
- To request a voluntary inspection of an existing system for information purposes or to investigate a potential problem
- To request an inspection for purpose of finalizing an expired permit (check with SJBPH to confirm a new permit is not required before proceeding)
If one of these situations applies, follow the procedure below.
First, the septic tank must be pumped by a licensed system cleaner (if the tank was pumped within the last year, provide SJBPH that receipt and do not re-pump the tank). The cleaner will perform an inspection and report on the condition of the system. This report will detail activity(s) performed, septic tank volume, number of chambers in the septic tank, and any system deficiency(s), malfunction, or broken equipment observed, such as cracks, infiltration, overflows, or non-standard equipment. A copy of this receipt shall be provided to SJBPH, upon SJBPH’s request.
Second, using the form below, request that SJBPH perform an inspection of the surface features of the septic system. This inspection is accompanied by a search of SJBPH permitting records for the property in question.
- OWTS inspection request form (Do not use this form for transfer of title inspections. Click “Transfer of Title” above)
Please note, a five day notice is required for voluntary inspections and inspections for building permit applications.
Inspections of existing systems can also be scheduled with an Inspector certified by the National Association of Wastewater Technicians (NAWT).
Anyone intending to install an OWTS in 2019 must obtain a license from SJBPH. Individuals without a 2018 license who wish to be licensed for 2019 must take the 2019 contractors class. SJBPH offers the System Contractors Class several times throughout the year.
The first class will be:
- January 25, 9 a.m.
Additional classes will be held in April, July and October of 2019. Dates and times are subject to change. Advance registration is required! Call 970-335-2060 or email email@example.com to register. Licenses expire at the end of the calendar year.
Those Contractors who were licensed in 2018 and wish to renew their license were sent an email or mailed letter with a renewal packet. Please return the packets to SJBPH by March 31, 2019 to keep your license current. Contractors who are renewing a 2018 license do not have to take a 2019 class.
- Licensed contractors (updated October 2018)
- Installation Basics
- Registered Soil Technicians (updated January 2019)
SJBPH licensed cleaners:
- Superior Septic Services
- Ball Septic Tank Service
- Alpine Septic Service
- Rocky Mountain Sanitation