This policy sets out the actions that schools with an on-site wastewater management system must take to maintain their system and minimise potential health and environmental pollution risks to students, staff, and neighbouring properties.
- In unsewered areas, an on-site wastewater management system is required to receive and treat wastewater from kitchens, toilets, bathrooms and laundries. The capacity and type of system required will depend on the maximum number of students and staff in the school as well as the land conditions.
- An on-site wastewater management system requires a council permit (system below 5,000 litres per day) or an Environment Protection Authority (EPA) licence for (systems above 5,000 litres per day).
- Permits and licences document the regular inspection and maintenance activities required to keep on-site wastewater systems operating correctly and to prevent pollution. Schools must ensure these activities are undertaken at the required frequency, with inspections to occur at least annually.
- Schools should familiarise themselves with the type of system in place, the system’s location, its performance, the potential risks, and any ongoing management activities required by the system’s Local Government Authority (LGA) permit or EPA licence.
- Schools must ensure system inspections and maintenance activities are documented and recorded in the Asset Information Management System (AIMS), with records kept for at least 2 years.
On-site wastewater management systems (OWMS) are necessary for schools not connected to a mains sewer. OWMS include septic tanks, composting toilets, and secondary treatment plants to treat, recycle or dispose of wastewater produced from toilets, bathrooms, kitchens, and laundries. Correctly maintained and operated OWMS protect the health of the school community and minimise the risk of environmental pollution.
Schools with OWMS are required to maintain and operate their systems in line with the 3 sections of this policy: identify, manage and monitor. Schools are expected to meet the costs of these activities using their student resource package funding.
As a first step, schools with OWMS must familiarise themselves with the type of system in place, the system’s location, its performance, the potential risks, and the ongoing maintenance program required. Refer to the of the Guidance tab for more information about the risks associated with improperly maintained OWMS, including measures schools must take to minimise these risks. Refer to the of the Guidance tab for more information about the different types of OWMS.
Schools must have valid, unexpired permits or licences for their systems. Licences and permits identify the regular maintenance and inspection activities needed to ensure that a system is safe and operational.
- For systems that can treat up to 5,000 litres per day, schools should refer to their OWMS permit issued by their LGA for information regarding the management of their system.
- For systems that can treat above 5,000 litres per day, schools should refer to their OWMS EPA license for information regarding the management of their system.
Schools without permits or licenses should contact their local council to determine whether an EPA licence is required. Some LGAs may impose additional compliance requirements. Schools can find out more by referring to the of the Guidance tab or by contacting their local council.
Schools must manage their systems through regular inspection, maintenance, and management, as required in their permits or licences. Additionally, schools must notify their local council of any system defects, and rectify any faults detected during regular system inspections.
To maintain system performance, schools must arrange servicing at the frequency specified in the LGA permit or EPA licence. Servicing must be undertaken by a VBA registered plumber or equivalent. OWMS manufacturers or suppliers of wastewater treatment plant are also permitted to service and maintain the system.
Schools must routinely monitor their systems by arranging regular inspections as specified in their licences or permits. Inspections must be undertaken by a VBA registered plumber or equivalent. Registered plumbers prepare a service report upon completion of inspections and maintenance activities, and the report must include the following information:
- the operating condition of the system (including confirmation that the system load and capacity is fit for purpose and within design limits)
- the maintenance that was performed
- the percentage of scum and sludge in the primary settlement tank
- any remedial work that was completed at the time of service
- any remedial work that is required and which the school needs to carry out.
Schools must notify their local council of defects that have not been corrected to minimise the impact of possible wastewater seepage on adjacent properties and lands. Some councils require maintenance reports to also be sent to them following each service. Schools can refer to their permits or licences to confirm exact LGA requirements. Refer to the and for information about responding to faults and failures associated with an OWMS.
The Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) monitors compliance of mandatory maintenance requirements (using AIMS where possible) and responds to non-compliance by providing direct support to schools. At a system level, the VSBA provides guidance and support through revision of policies and procedures. Refer to the for more information about the support VSBA provides to schools, including contact details.
Reviewed 11 January 2023