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Rule Changes for On-Site Sewage Facilities

Check this page regularly for information on the status of this staff-initiated project on rulemaking for on-site sewage facilities (OSSFs)—including septic systems or holding tanks—plus opportunities for stakeholder input and resulting agency actions.

Stakeholder meetings are scheduled to identify specific rule changes that will allow for enhanced clarity and more effective regulation of OSSFs throughout Texas.

All provisions of Title 30, Texas Administrative Code (30 TAC), Chapter 285 are being considered during this project. In addition to the changes associated with input from stakeholders, the project is implementing legislative changes to the Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 366 by House Bill 4087 (88th Legislature, Regular Session, 2023).

The project goals are to accomplish all the following:

  • Improve the clarity and consistency of Chapter 285.
  • Modernize requirements to reflect the current practices and capabilities of the OSSF industry.
  • Implement House Bill 4087.

Rulemaking may commence in one of three ways:

  • The petition process
  • Staff-initiated rulemaking
  • Legislatively-directed

This project was initiated by both the staff and the legislature. We will consider input from stakeholders through stakeholder meetings, written comments, and other methods.

The tentative project timeline is:

  • Stakeholder meetings: December 2023 to March 2024
  • Close of stakeholder comment period: March 13, 2024
  • Anticipated TCEQ commissioners agenda proposal: June 26, 2024. The first draft of the revised Chapter 285 rules will be proposed to the TCEQ commissioners. The meeting will be open to the public for comments.
  • Anticipated public hearing and comment period: July 12, 2024, to August 12, 2024. You can provide comments on the proposed amended language at the public hearing.
  • Anticipated adoption date: December 4, 2024

TCEQ is eliciting comments from the regulated community and citizens of Texas via virtual or in-person stakeholder meetings Dec. 7, 2023 through March 6, 2024. After all comments are received TCEQ staff will make recommendations to TCEQ commissioners at an agenda meeting anticipated for June 26, 2024.

Stakeholder meetings will include a TCEQ presentation on the status of the project and changes being considered. You may provide oral comments in meetings and ask questions after we hear all comments.

You may also submit written comments. See Submit Stakeholder Comments in Writing below.

Stakeholder meetings:

Tuesday Jan. 9, 2024 - 2:00 p.m.
Beaumont Regional Office
3870 Eastex Fwy.
Beaumont, Texas 77703

Wednesday Jan. 17, 2024 - 10:00 a.m.
TCEQ Corpus Christi Regional Office
500 N. Shoreline Blvd., Ste. 500
Corpus Christi, Texas 78401

Tuesday Feb. 13, 2024 - 2:00 p.m.
TCEQ Tyler Regional Office
2916 Teague Dr.
Tyler, Texas 75701

Wednesday Feb. 21, 2024 - 2:00 p.m.
TCEQ Headquarters (Bldg. A, Room 172)
12100 Park 35 Circle
Austin, Texas 78759
Option Available (Microsoft Teams Live Event )

Wednesday March 6, 2024 - 1:00 p.m.
Waco Convention Center (Brazos North and South)
100 Washington Ave.
Waco, Texas 76701

If you have special communication or other accommodation needs, contact Office of Legal Services at 512-239-1802 or call 1-800-RELAY-TX (TDD). Please make these requests as soon as possible.

Submit Stakeholder Comments in Writing

You may submit written stakeholder comments using one of the following methods—Please use only one method per comment:

  • By mail:
    Program Supervisor, MC 205
    Texas Register/Rule Development Team - Office of Legal Services
    Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
    P.O. Box 13087
    Austin, Texas 78711-3087
  • By fax:
  • Online through the TCEQ Public Comment system . File size restrictions may apply.

All comments should reference rule project number 2024-009-285-CE. We will review and consider all comments we receive but will not formally respond. All written stakeholder comments must be submitted by 11:59 PM on March 12, 2024.

Tips to provide comments most effectively:

  • Identify who you are and why the regulation affects you.
  • Explain why you agree or disagree with the proposed rulemaking.
  • Be direct in your comment.
  • Offer alternatives, compromise solutions, and specific language for your suggested changes.

For additional information on the rulemaking, please contact the Program Support and Environmental Assistance Division at 512-239-0400 and ask to speak with OSSF Program staff about rule project number 2024-009-285-CE.

Changes to all subchapters are being considered. The following list includes many of the possible changes. Printable project information and list of changes coming soon.

Subchapter A: General Provisions (Sections 285.1-285.8)

  • Update the applicability of the rule to match the Texas Health and Safety Code and update and add new definitions.
  • Update and add new definitions,
  • Include conditions of an OSSF permit.
  • Introduce performance-based permits for non-residential permits as an option for permitting authorities.
  • Require physical address on application.
  • Allow for approval of OSSF systems on multiple non-residential properties with affidavit indicating that the properties cannot be sold separately.
  • Update OSSF affidavit and maintenance contract requirements.
  • Clarify that permits are not automatically approved if an Authorization to Construct is not issued within 30 days.
  • Allow third party inspections (properly licensed individuals) on newly installed or repaired OSSFs.
  • Allow exceptions for some small industrial emitters.
  • Clarify the requirements for approving variances, for manufacturers to make parts available to homeowners, and the requirements of maintenance contracts.
  • Revise the requirements for Executive Director review of nonstandard system applications.
  • Clarify and update testing and reporting requirements.
  • Clarify the applicability of 30 TAC 285.8.

Subchapter B: Local Administration of the OSSF Program (285.10-285.14)

  • Update and clarify the methods by which implementation of 30 TAC Chapter 285 is delegated to authorized agents.
  • Clarify that the language in OSSF orders must be approved by the commission.
  • Include language that prohibits limiting technology or requiring specific technology for the entire jurisdiction of an authorized agent.
  • Include the ability of the commission to require updates to orders.
  • Add guidance for discussions between the commission and authorized agents before relinquishment or revocation, including the establishment of charge-back fees.
  • Address the electronic public notification methods that may be used.

Subchapter C: Commission Administration of the OSSF Program in Areas Where No Authorized Agent Exists (Sections 285.20 and 285.21)

  • Clarify the appeal process.
  • Clarify the complaint investigation process.
  • Evaluate and potentially increase the required fees (the application fee for an OSSF permit has remained the same since before 2001).
  • Include EPay as a method of online payment for permit fees.

Subchapter D: Planning, Construction, and Installation Standards for OSSFs (Sections 285.30-285.39)

  • Clarify when a professional engineer (PE) is required for professional designs and when a registered sanitarian (RS) is allowed to complete them.
  • Update and clarify restrictive horizon analysis.
  • Include exceptions within site evaluation requirements for waterless systems and holding tanks.
  • Update methods for evaluating soils.
  • Clarify requirements for floodway vs floodplain designs.
  • Clarify the applicability of the separation distance requirements as they pertain to specific parts of the OSSF.
  • Define that an OSSF includes everything from the stub out location to the end of the disposal field.
  • Allow for ‘as-built’ or ‘summary submittal letter’ certification by licensed PE for collection systems installed to Chapter 217 design standards.
  • Require flow equalization for multi-unit residential.
  • Clarify or add new technical requirements for:
    • effluent quality, filters, and disinfection
    • slope of a pipe and depth of gravity flow pipes
    • structural and dimensional requirements of tanks and tank abandonment
    • retention requirements and capacity of all treatment portions of a treatment train
    • equalization tanks
    • leak testing
    • proprietary products and products testing
    • high strength waste
    • nonstandard systems and their review
    • basic engineering or scientific principles
    • nitrate and fecal coliform limits
    • flow splitting
    • sequential vs serial loading
    • pump sizing
    • gravel-less lines
    • drainfield sizing
    • leaching chambers
    • drip irrigation
    • mound disposal
    • incinerator, evaporating, and composting toilets
    • alarms
    • emergency repairs
    • water softeners
    • reverse osmosis for residences vs commercial facilities
    • safety precautions

Subchapter E: Special Requirements for OSSFs Located in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone (Sections 285.40-285.42)

  • Update requirements and definitions to reflect changes to 30 TAC Chapter 213 and other regulatory changes regarding the Edwards Aquifer.

Subchapter F: Licensing and Registration Requirements for Installers, Apprentices, DRs, Site Evaluators, Maintenance Providers, and Maintenance Technicians (Sections 285.50 and 285.60-285.65)

  • Update requirements to allow professional geologists to perform site evaluations without becoming licensed site evaluators.
  • Clarify if maintenance providers are required to have maintenance technicians on staff or if maintenance providers can contract with maintenance technicians.
  • Clarify activities that may be performed by installers who are not licensed maintenance providers.
  • Clarify the requirements of designated representatives.

Subchapter G: OSSF Enforcement (Sections 285.70 and 285.71)

  • Include a requirement for handling standing or flowing wastewater during the 30-day repair period.

Subchapter H: Disposal of Graywater (Sections 285.80 and 285.81)

  • Clarify requirements for graywater systems and allowances for reducing disposal area size.
  • Include information on handling high-strength wastewater.

Subchapter I: Appendices (Sections 285.90 and 285.91)

  • Make all low-resolution figures legible.
  • Update the application rates figure.
  • Update setback requirements to match standard plumbing codes.
  • Revise the sample testing and reporting figure.
  • Remove and replace septic tank and Aerobic Treatment Unit (ATU) sizing tables.
  • Update wastewater usage rate table including:
    • Remove values for ‘flows without water saving devices’.
    • Clarify and standardize usage rates for multi-unit residential.
    • Revise values as appropriate and based on new research.
    • Clarify the basis of values for some facilities.
    • Include typical organic loading strength for some facilities.
  • Clarify and edit the testing and reporting requirements table.
  • Update the net evaporation rate table.
  • Clarify the meaning of secondary treatment, its applicability and requirements throughout the tables.
  • Remove references to external rules and include the specific requirements in 30 TAC Chapter 285.

Other Changes

  • Include limits for some form of Nitrogen.
  • Include more flexibility to design based on performance rather than just prescriptive.
  • Allow for innovative technologies.