South Carolina's Flagship University

Regulatory Pathfinder
for Coastal Development in South Carolina

Private Citizens: Septic Tanks

Even though septic tanks are covered under the Nationwide Permit for Single-Family Housing this takes care of a Federal permit only. You'll still need a State permit.

OCRM "regulates the installation and operation of waste water treatment facilities, septic tanks, and landfills. Normal maintenance and repair of sewer facilities are exempted from the Department permit requirements by Section 48-39-130(D)." S.C. Code Regs. 30-12(J). No new individual septic tanks or repairs to individual septic tanks will be permitted when a public sewer is available for connection. S.C. Code Regs. 61-56(X).

If your septic tank will be serving more than one piece of property it will be considered a public collection and treatment facility and different rules will apply. S.C. Code Regs. 61-56(III).

An Individual Sewage Treatment and Disposal System is a system designed for initial treatment by either a septic tank (a watertight, covered receptacle designed and constructed to receive the discharge of sewage from a building sewer, separate solids from liquid, digest organic matter and store digested solids through a period of detention and biological conditioning of liquid waste, and allow the clarified liquid to discharge for final treatment and disposal) or an alternate system, which is any system for the initial treatment of sewage different from a septic tank for which standards have been established by DHEC. S.C. Code Regs. 61-56(II)(D)(1). Final treatment and disposal takes place through a trench or an alternate system. S.C. Code Regs. 61-56(II)(D)(2).

Your permit application should contain the following items:

  1. A DHEC Application Form with correction information so the feasibility of an individual system can be determined,
  2. A boundary plat, deed or other legal document that shows the lot size and boundaries. S.C. Code Regs. 61-56 (IV)(A).

A DHEC site evaluation will be done with your application. The permit and this evaluation will cost $100. S.C. Code Regs. 61-55(III). Prior to the evaluation you may have to clear site lines, post an identification marker in the lot's front center and place stakes at the proposed building's stub-out and existing or proposed well's corners or site. S.C. Code Regs. 61-56 (IV)(A)(4).

If the conditions that existed when the permit was issued change, the permit will be voided. S.C. Code Regs. 61-56 (IV)(B)(4).

The following are a few of the applicable standards for the construction and installation of waste water treatment facilities and septic tanks:

  1. Applications for construction in critical areas will be denied unless no feasible alternatives are available and no significant environmental impacts will result;
  2. When possible all construction and design shall ensure no effluent will be discharged into areas that would adversely affect shellfish or other marine resources;
  3. Critical areas should be avoided when siting sewage treatment systems. Structures other than actual pipelines like pump or lift stations will not be permitted in critical areas unless no feasible alternative exists;
  4. Areas of significant public use shall not be adversely impacted due to the construction of these facilities or the associated discharge pipes. S.C. Code Regs. 30-12(J)(2)(a)-(d).

Your site must meet these minimum conditions:

  1. The soil texture, depth to rock and maximum seasonal high water table elevation has to meet minimum DHEC standards;
  2. The maximum seasonal high water table elevation cannot be less than 6 inches below the bottom of the proposed soil absorption trenches or alternate system;
  3. There must be 12 inches or more between the bottom of the proposed absorption trench or alternate system and rock or other restrictive horizons;
  4. Your lot must be large enough so that no part of the system will be:
    1. within 5 feet of a building or property line, or under a guilding, driveway or parking area;
    2. within 50 linear feet of a private well or within a minimum distance from a public well as determined by DHEC;
    3. will be within 50 linear feet of the mean high water elevation for tidal waters or ordinary high water (within the banks) elevation (non-tidal waters) of an impounded or natural body of water, including streams and canals;
    4. within 10 feet of upslope and 25 feet of downslope interceptor drains;
    5. within 25 feet of a drainage ditch or 15 feet from the top of the embankment slope or cuts of 2 feet of more vertical height when the soil absorption area is going to be at a higher elevation than the invert of a cut, ditch or gully. S.C. Code Regs. 61-56(V).

Construction must meet these conditions:

  1. If your lot is on sloping terrain your soil absorption trenches must follow the contours of the land;
  2. Any rough grading of the lot must be done prior to installing the system if DHEC determines it is necessary;
  3. Before backfilling all dirt, mud and debris must be removed from the tank and backfilling shall be tamped to facilitate stabilization;
  4. If of a slab-type construction joints must be caulked or covered with heavy roofing paper or similar material;
  5. If of a 2-piece construction joined by tongue and groove, the joint must be cemented to prevent leakage. S.C. Code Regs. 61-56(VIII).

Requirements for Initial Treatment

Requirements for Final Treatment

Full Text of Regulations 61-56

Last Updated October 29, 2010


This project was supported through a generous grant from the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. The principal investigator is Professor Kim Diana Connolly at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Two law students, Keith Bartlett and Valerie Cochran, provided invaluable work toward project completion. Technical assistance with web design was provided by USC School of Law webmaster Tobias Brasier. Broken links should be reported to lawweb@law.sc.edu. This website is NOT intended as legal advice, and particularized analysis by professionals should be sought wherever appropriate.