Buying Tips: Septic Systems

Some homes in Breckenridge have Onsite Wastewater Systems (OWS) also called Septic Systems. Such systems, if constructed and maintained properly, can provide a reliable and efficient means of wastewater treatment and disposal at a relatively low cost. The main components, buried in the ground, usually consist of a septic tank and an absorption field, also called a leach field. Septic tanks are normally constructed out of precast or cast concrete, or fiberglass. Metal tanks are not allowed because they will corrode quickly due to the acidic nature of sewage.

The function of the tank is to trap and separate solids from the liquid and to serve as an environment for anaerobic bacteria, which decompose the solids. The tank serves to capture the solids while allowing the clear liquid to be released into the absorption field. A standard absorption field is comprised of a series of narrow trenches or a bed partially filled with washed gravel surrounding perforated pipes. The soil purifies the liquid by breaking down its biodegradable components, and by filtering out micro-organisms. Soils tests, site inspection and a septic permit from the Summit County Environmental Health Department are required before installing a Septic System.

OWS Use Permit Required

The Summit County Board of Health has instituted a County Regulation requiring sellers to provide buyers of homes with an OWS Use Permit ($75) prior to or at closing. A homeowner doing major remodeling may also need a Use Permit. This Use Permit is issued by the Summit County Environmental Health Department approving the continued use of an existing septic system. The Use Permit Form along with a list of Summit County approved inspectors, septic tank pumpers, a chart for suggested septic tank pumping frequency, a list of licensed soils engineers and septic installers and forms for a septic permit can be obtained at the Summit County Government website (hyperlink to or by phone at 970.668.4070. Contact an OWS Use Permit approved inspector to arrange the septic pumping and inspection and ask them to submit the Use Permit Inspection Report Form to the Summit County Environmental Health Department Contact this approved inspector for more information: Snowbridge Roto-Rooter, 970.453.2339

OWS Use Permit Not Required

The Summit County Environmental Health Department does not require a Use Permit when:

  1. The Septic System was installed and approved within 5 years of closing date.
  2. Owner has obtained a permit to repair the system.
  3. Subject system was installed but has never been used.

Obtain a written waiver from the Health Department if the Use Permit is not required. It is recommended that you obtain the inspection even if not required, as there could be a problem with the Septic System.

Septic System Maintenance

To maintain a properly functioning Septic System, it is important to perform periodic inspections and maintenance. The Summit County Environmental Health Department recommends that you conduct annual inspections on your Septic System and periodically pump your tank. To decrease solids accumulation and prolong the time between pumping, avoid use of garbage disposal units as they can nearly double the solids accumulation in the tank. To protect and prolong the life of the absorption field, homeowners should take the following precautions: