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You are here: Home / Licensing / OSSF / Choosing a Septic System (On-Site Sewage Facility System)

Choosing a Septic System (On-Site Sewage Facility System)

Reference table to determine the type of septic system (OSSF) that is suitable for your property. Brief descriptions of treatment and disposal systems.

Some links provided below will take you off the TCEQ Web server. These links are provided solely as a courtesy. Because the TCEQ has no control over the posting of material to these sites, the agency cannot take responsibility for their continued validity and maintenance.

Before an on-site sewage facility (OSSF), or septic system, can be constructed, installed, altered, extended, or repaired, the site must first be evaluated by a licensed site evaluator or a licensed professional engineer. Use the table below to determine which systems are suitable (S=Suitable, U=Unsuitable) for a property based on the results of the site evaluation.

On-Site Sewage Facility (OSSF)9Soil Texture or Fractured Rock10
(Most restrictive class along the media1 or 2 feet below excavation)
Minimum depth to groundwaterMinimum depth to restrictive horizon1
Disposal Method
Treatment
Class IaClass Ib, II,8 or III8Class IVFractured RockMeasured from bottom of media7Measured from bottom of media7
Absorptive Drainfield2
Septic Tank
§285.33(b)(1)
U S U U 2 feet 2 feet
Absorptive Drainfield2
Secondary Treatment
S5 S U S5 2 feet 2 feet
Lined E-T2
Septic Tank
S S S S N/A N/A
Lined E-T2
Secondary Treatment
S S S S N/A N/A
Unlined E-T2
Septic Tank
U S S U 2 feet 2 feet
Unlined E-T2
Secondary Treatment
S5 S S S5 2 feet 2 feet
Pumped Effluent Drainfield3
Septic Tank
U S S U 2 feet 1 foot
Leaching Chamber2
Septic Tank
U S U U 2 feet 2 feet
Leaching Chamber2
Secondary Treatment
S5 S U S5 2 feet 2 feet
Gravel-less Pipe2
Septic Tank
U S U U 2 feet 2 feet
Gravel-less Pipe2
Secondary Treatment
S5 S U S5 2 feet 2 feet
Drip Irrigation
Septic Tank/Filter
U S S U 2 feet 1 foot
Drip Irrigation
Secondary Treatment/Filter
S5 S S S5 1 foot 6 inches
Low Pressure Dosing
Septic Tank
U S S U 2 feet 1 foot
Low Pressure Dosing
Secondary Treatment
S5 S S S5 2 feet 1 foot
Mound4
Septic Tank
S S S S 2 feet 1.5 feet
Mound4
Secondary Treatment
S S S S 2 feet 1.5 feet
Surface Application
Secondary Treatment
S6 S6 S6 S6 N/A N/A
Surface Application
Non-standard Treatment
S S S S N/A N/A
Soil Substitution2
Septic Tank
S S U S 2 feet 2 feet
Soil Substitution2
Secondary Treatment
S S U S 2 feet 2 feet

1 An absorptive drainfield may be used, if a rock horizon is at least 6 inches above the bottom of the excavation, see §285.33(b)(1.

2If the slope in the drainfield area is greater than 30% or is complex, the area is unsuitable for the disposal method.

3Can only be installed in an area where the slope is less than or equal to 2.0%.

4Can only be installed in an area where the slope is less than 10%.

5Requires disinfection before disposal. A form of pressure distribution shall be used for effluent disposal into fractured or fissured rock.

6Requires vegetation cover and disinfection.

7When no porous media exists, measure from the bottom of the excavation or pipe, whichever is less.

8May require gravel analysis for further suitability analysis—see §285.30(b)(1)(B).

9If OSSF is located within a Flood Hazard, see §285.31(c)(2) for special planning requirements.

10Includes fissured rock.

All OSSFs require surface drainage controls if slope is less than 2%.

Treatment and Disposal System Descriptions

Treatment Systems

Primary treatment

Secondary treatment

  • Proprietary treatment units (aerobic tanks)
  • Standard intermittent sand filters

Non-standard treatement

Primary treatment:

  • Septic tanks:
    • can be used as a primary treatment method for an OSSF
    • are to be constructed in accordance with §285.32(b)(1).

Return to system selection table.

Secondary treatment options

For more information regarding the testing and approval of a secondary treatment unit, see §285.32(c).

Return to system selection table.

Non-standard treatment options

  • Non-standard treatment:
    • is usually all forms of:
      • activated sludge processes,
      • rotating biological contractors,
      • trickling type filters,
      • submerged rock biological filters,
      • recirculating sand filters, or
      • sand filters not described in §285.32(b)(2).
  • must be designed by a professional engineer when secondary treatment is required. Professional sanitarian can design when secondary treatment is not required.
  • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.

For more information regarding nonstandard treatment processes, see §285.32(d).

Return to system selection table.

Disposal Processes

Standard disposal processes

  • Absorptive Drainfieldsare:
    • constructed with perforated pipe and gravel.
    • installed by an Installer Class I or Installer Class II.
    • sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(b)(1).
  • Unlined Evapotranspiration (E-T) systems:
    • are constructed with either pipe and gravel, leaching chambers, or gravel-less pipe in either a trench or bed configuration and backfilled with sand.
    • can be installed by an Installer Class I or Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(b)(2).
  • Lined Evapotranspiration (E-T) systems:
    • are constructed similar to an unlined E-T bed with the exception of an impervious liner being placed between the excavated surface and the constructed disposal system.
    • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(b)(2).
  • Pumped Effluent Drainfields (PEDs):
    • dispose of effluent by use of a pump into small diameter perforated pipe in gravel.
    • can be installed by an Installer Class I or Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(b)(3).

Return to system selection table.

Proprietary disposal system options

  • Leaching Chambers:
    • are installed similar to an absorptive drainfield, however, the effluent is deposited into bottomless chambers that are linked together with solid walled pipe and are allowed a reduction in the absorptive drainfield sizing formula.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(c)(2).
    • can be used in the following systems as a substitute for pipe and gravel without any reduction in drainfield sizing:
      • E-T systems
      • Low-pressure dosed drainfields, or
      • Soil substitution drainfields.
  • Gravel-less Pipe:
    • are installed similar to an absorptive drainfield, except the effluent in deposited into corrugated pipe with either an eight-inch or ten-inch diameter that is wrapped with geo-textile fabric.
    • may also be used in E-T systems as a substitute for pipe and gravel.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(c)(1).
  • Drip Irrigation:
    • consists of small diameter pressurized lines containing pressure reducing emitters spaced at a maximum of 30 inches.
    • requires a design to be performed by either a professional engineer or professional sanitarian.
    • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(c)(3).

Return to system selection table.

Non-standard disposal options

  • Low-pressure dosed drainfields (LPDs):
    • dispose of effluent that is pumped, under low pressure, into a solid wall force main and then into perforated distribution pipe in gravel.
    • require a professional design by a professional engineer or professional sanitarian.
    • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(d)(1).
  • Surface application disposal:
    • is a method that disposes of secondary treated effluent onto the surface of the ground after Maintenance of On-Site Sewage Facilities(Septic Systems).
    • cannot apply effluent to unseeded bare ground or areas used for growing food, gardens, orchards or crops which may be used for human consumption.
    • must be designed by a professional engineer or professional sanitarian.
    • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.
    • is sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(d)(2).
  • Mounds:
    • are pressurized absorptive drainfields constructed above the native soil surface.
    • must be designed by a professional engineer or professional sanitarian.
    • can only be installed by an Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(d)(3).
  • Soil substitution drainfields:
    • are constructed similar to an absorptive drainfield with the exception that a 24 inch thick Class Ib and II soil buffer is placed below and all sides of the drainfield excavation to an elevation equal to the top of the porous media.
    • must be designed by a professional engineer or professional sanitarian.
    • can be installed by an Installer Class I or Installer Class II.
    • are sized and constructed in accordance with §285.33(d)(4).

Return to system selection table.