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Vermont Septic System Regulations

Jae Allen

Vermont is a state with more trees than people, and a relatively high proportion of buildings in the state use a septic waste system instead of mains or municipal sewers. This is, in part, because a lot of buildings in rural areas are a long way from mains water. Whether installing a new septic system, or carrying out work on an existing system, permits and requirements must be adhered to.


Before construction of a new septic system, or modification of an existing flow design, several permits may be required. These include a Vermont Potable Water Supply and Wastewater Disposal Permit, available from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation; any local septic or building permits required by local ordinance; planning and zoning permits; stormwater permits; Conditional Use permits for wetland areas, and Act 250 permits.

Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Environmental Assistance Office
103 South Main Street Cannery Building
Waterbury, VT 05671-4911
802-241-3589 anr.state.vt.us/dec


Every septic system in Vermont must meet the technical standards required by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (VANR). The VANR mandates that a septic system be isolated by certain distances from water sources and associated piping, or any body of water. The specific requirements for isolation distance vary by site and size of the septic system.


The sloping angle and direction of the ground in the area where a septic system is installed is also an important factor in determining whether a particular site is suitable for a septic system installation, and whether the site will meet VANR requirements for septic system location. Obviously, it is preferable for a septic system flow design to go downhill from the building it serves.


In order to meet VANR regulations, the soil at the intended septic system site must be suitable for the type of septic system installed. If the soil is well drained and has a low water table, a conventional or at-grade septic system can be used. If the soil is more poorly drained, with a higher water table, a mound system or pretreatment septic system would be more appropriate to meet the VANR requirements.


Larger septic systems which are permitted by Vermont's Department of Environmental Conservation are required to undergo annual inspections as a condition of the permit. The Department's requirements for the septic inspection and subsequent report are listed online.