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, and the southwestern portion of Hinsdale County (by Williams Reservoir). SJBPH has regulated OWTS, also known as septic systems, since 1967.
NOTE: As of Jan. 1, 2019, it is 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, Installer and Cleaner Licenses, and the availability of Personal Information in our database 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 are required to undergo inspection prior to sale. This requirement helps identify failing and hazardous systems and protects property buyers from unforeseen repair obligations.
If you are selling a property with a septic system that is more than four years old (as of the expected closing date), take the following steps:
- Before listing the property for sale, use the green banner link above to download a copy of your existing septic system permit. Check the approved use (including the permitted number of dwellings and bedrooms) and look for a final signature at the bottom or bottom-right of the permit (usually under “this system has been inspected and found to conform to the above requirements” or similar language). Permits were first required in 1967 and older homes may be served by unpermitted systems that still need inspection.
- If the system is properly permitted for the uses currently on site (as reported by the County Assessor), or appears to be older than 1967, have the system inspected by a third-party NAWT-certified inspector (see our courtesy list of local inspectors).
- If the system is not properly permitted for the uses on site, visit the “Permits” tab on this page to learn how to apply for a proper permit for the system.
- If the inspection cannot be completed prior to closing due to snow cover, frozen ground, etc., you may still legally sell the property if the buyers agree to have the inspection performed when conditions allow and to be responsible for all deficiencies identified. Use this form to apply for a Conditional Transfer of Title Acceptance Document (see submission instructions above) and attach a fully executed Buyers Agreement to Inspect.
- If the inspection finds that your system is functioning acceptably, use this form to apply for a Transfer of Title Acceptance Document at least two weeks before your expected closing date (see submission instructions above) and attach a copy of the Inspection Report you receive from your inspector.
- If the inspection finds that your system is not functioning acceptably, visit the “Permits” tab on this page to determine if you need to apply for a repair or alteration permit, or only need to perform maintenance on the system.
- If you only need to perform maintenance not requiring a permit, have the identified maintenance performed by a qualified professional and submit documentation that the maintenance is complete along with your Application for a Transfer of Title Acceptance Document.
- If repairs or alterations cannot be completed prior to closing, you may still legally sell the property if the buyers agree to complete the necessary improvements. Use this form to apply for a Conditional Transfer of Title Acceptance Document (see the submission instructions above), and attach a copy of your Inspection Report and a fully executed Buyers Agreement to Repair or Alter.
- Once you have applied for an Acceptance Document, pay the $60 administrative fee (see payment instructions above). If you pay online, write “Transfer of Title” in the “Description” field and write the property address in the “Invoice number/Customer Name” field.
- It generally takes SJBPH about three business days to review an Application for a Transfer of Title Acceptance Document and either issue an Acceptance Document or request more information from the applicant. Acceptance Documents are issued by email to all email addresses provided on the application. Once the document is issued, take it to your closing or provide it to your title company.
If you are selling a property with a septic system that is less than four years old (as of the expected closing date), you may be exempt from the Transfer of Title Inspections Requirement. Use the green banner link above to download a copy of your existing permit. If the date of the final signature at the bottom right is less than four years old on the closing date, the system is exempt from additional inspections at time of sale.
- Be aware that some buyers’ agents will add a requirement for a Transfer of Title Acceptance Document into real estate contracts, even if the property is exempt from the legal requirement to obtain one.
Certain types of transactions are exempt from the Transfer of Title Inspections Requirement:
- 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
- Note: sales of bank-owned and Public Trustee-owned properties are NOT exempt. In these cases, inspections may need to be ordered by the buyer.
Complete list of Transfer of Title forms and guidance documents:
- 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)
- 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.
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:
- How to Obtain an OWTS Permit
- Como Obtener un Permiso para un Sistema de Tratamiento de Aguas Residuales en el Lugar
- OWTS Permit Application
- 2018 SJBPH Regulations
- Colorado’s Regulation 43 (contains most of the design standards for OWTS)
- Frequently Asked Questions about OWTS
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 October 2019)
Regulations require that all OWTS be installed by a currently-licensed System Contractor and that the Contractor possess the permit to construct, alter or repair 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 August 2019)
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 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). A list of local certified inspectors can be found on the Transfer of Title tab above.
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.
Classes will be held:
- January 25, 9 a.m.
- April 26, 9 a.m.
- July 26, 9 a.m.
- October 25, 9 a.m.
All classes are held at the SJBPH Durango office at 281 Sawyer Drive. Dates and times are subject to change. Advance registration is required! Call 970-335-2060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org 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 August 2019)
- Installation Basics
- Las bases de la Instalacion de Sistemas Septicos
- Registered Soil Technicians (updated October 2019)
SJBPH licensed cleaners:
- Superior Septic Services (Durango, CO)
- Ball Septic Tank Service (Durango, CO)
- Alpine Septic Service (Pagosa Springs, CO)
- Rocky Mountain Sanitation (Pagosa Springs, CO)
- Southwest Septic (Mancos, CO)
San Juan Basin Public Health makes On-site Wastewater Treatment System permit information (including the name of the original permittee and address) available on our website.
In order to comply with §18-9-313 C.R.S. regarding the online availability of a law enforcement official’s (and live-in immediate family’s) personal information, we will accept written requests by law enforcement officials to have their personal information withheld from our website.
Law enforcement officials (as defined in §18-9-313 C.R.S.) who live in a residence served by an on-site wastewater treatment system permitted by San Juan Basin Public Health, and who were the original permittee for construction, repair or alteration of the system, may request to have their information made unavailable to the public on our website. SJBPH will only remove permits from the public database if they are associated with the law enforcement official’s name or the name of their live-in immediate family.
To request removal of public information from our public database, complete the following form and submit it to our agency with a copy of your driver’s license and your law enforcement official ID.
Completed forms may be submitted via email or mail as follows:
- Mail to San Juan Basin Public Health, ATTN: EH, 281 Sawyer Drive Suite 300, Durango, CO 81303
- Email to EH@SJBPublicHealth.org