Onsite Sewerage Management Systems (OSMS)

If your property can't connect to the Bellingen sewer network, you'll need to install and operate an Onsite Sewage Management System (OSMS).

You need Council approval in the way of a Local Government Application (LG) before you install, use, or make changes to an onsite sewage management system.

As a homeowner, it's important that you protect your health and the environment by understanding how to effectively maintain and operate your system.

On-site sewage management systems treat and dispose of waste water, they are also designed to;

  • prevent the spread of disease by micro-organisms
  • prevent the spread of foul odours
  • prevent the contamination of water
  • prevent degradation of soil and vegetation
  • discourage insects and vermin
  • ensure people don't come into contact with untreated sewage or effluent (whether treated or not) in their ordinary activities at the site
  • minimise any adverse impacts on the site and surrounding land's amenity
  • if appropriate, provide for the reuse of resources (including nutrients, organic matter and water).

Different types of onsite sewage management systems can include:

  • septic tank systems
  • aerated waste treatment systems
  • composting systems
  • greywater irrigation systems

Selling a property with an OSMS

As part of the property sale, most potential buyers will want a current Approval to Operate (ATO).

If your system's ATO has expired, you can request a Point of Sale inspection by filling in the Application To Operate / Transfer of Ownership - OSMS form found on our forms page.

Buying a property with an OSMS

If you’re purchasing a property with on-site sewage management system, it is recommended that you request the system has a valid Approval to Operate (ATO). Repairing or replacing an existing on-site sewage management system can be expensive and they are not covered in building inspections.

Once the sale is finalised, you’ll need to complete the Transfer of Ownership within 3 months of the property transfer (which updates the ownership details of the Council system). You can do this by filling in our Application To Operate / Transfer of Ownership - OSMS form found on ouforms page.

As a homeowner, it's important that you protect your health and the environment by understanding how to effectively maintain and operate your system.

Apply for an Approval to Operate

If your system's ATO has expired, you can request an inspection to be undertaken to obtain a new ATO.

You can do this by filling in our Application To Operate / Transfer of Ownership - OSMS form found on our forms page.

Installing/upgrading a new system

You will need a Local Government (LG) - Section 68 approval to install, construct or alter a waste treatment device, or a human waste storage facility such as a septic tank, or, a drain connected to such a facility or device. 

How to apply

Bellingen Council is still accepting Local Government Applications (LG) directly. Application Fees are payable at the time of lodgement. 

In most circumstances, Council will require a Wastewater Consultant's Report for a new system or an upgrade. 

Please contact Council's Environmental Health Officers or a Wastewater Consultant before submitting an application to discuss any issues specific to your application. 

Submit the following documents with your Local Government Application (LG).
  • A detailed site plan drawn to scale 1:200 or larger. The site plan must indicate the location of tanks, draw off pipes for pump out systems and disposal areas with relevant dimensions from boundaries, dwellings and watercourses for onsite disposal.
  • A dwelling floor plan indicating the number of bedrooms
  • System specification and NSW Health accreditation documents for all septic tanks and collection wells
  • Owners of systems with onsite effluent disposal will also need to submit plans and specifications detailing the design of their effluent disposal system including the type and size. Specifications must include scale drawings of location and spacing of any distribution and irrigation lines and any associated fittings including filters, flush valves, vacuum breakers, indexing valves and sprinklers.
  • Owners of systems with onsite effluent disposal are also required to submit a site-specific assessment report from a qualified Environmental Consultant
  • If the application is lodged by a person other than the owner, written consent from the owner, including their full name and contact details, must also be included with the application.

Councils inspection program

Following the Wallis Lake incident in 1997, where more than 400 people became ill contracting hepatitis A after eating oysters contaminated with human effluent, the State Government introduced amendments to the Local Government Act and regulations requiring Councils to implement strategies and guidelines to better supervise septic system installations and operation.

Routine inspections are conducted by our Environmental Health Officers or contractors and are based on the potential risk to humans and the environment whilst also protecting the Priority Oyster Aquaculture Areas (POAA) in the Bellinger and Kalang Rivers. 

Our routine inspections, are based on the systems Approval to Operates expiry date, inspections will be programmed and conducted on an ongoing and continuous basis around the Bellingen Shire. 


Do you need to be home?

No. Our inspector will knock on your door to introduce himself prior to conducting the inspection. If you are not home, our inspector will leave a Notice of Entry letter and return to the property within the week to conduct the programmed inspection. Please speak to the inspector or Council if circumstances are such that you require the inspection to be arranged for a specific day.


What can you do to assist us?

Clear overgrown vegetation from around your system, so an inspection can more easily be carried out and have your latest pump-out paperwork available if requested.


Does it cost the homeowner money?

Invoices will be sent out with your Approval to Operate.

Current fees for inspections can be viewed on Council Schedule of Fees and Charges. Fees cover inspection costs and well as Councils administrative functions to keep the program running.