Septic System

Septic System Ownership in Rhode Island

When homeowners live outside of the established water treatment system for their local county or municipality, a private wastewater treatment system, or septic system, is required for the safe disposal of solid waste. Septic systems require the oversight of licensed experts. In Rhode Island, the Office of Water Resources in the Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) regulates all wastewater management systems.

Getting a Permit

When installing a new septic system, or making any modifications to an existing one, homeowners must obtain approval. The permission process involves three stages:

  • Site-suitability: This provides preliminary assessment of the land to determine the appropriateness and feasibility of on-site wastewater treatment;
  • Design review: Checks that systems adhere the rules, regulations and standards established by the State; and
  • Construction Inspection: Licensed professionals must inspect all systems during installation to ensure proper use and suitable functioning.

Types of Septic Systems

Rhode Island allows two types of septic systems, conventional septic systems or enhanced (also known as alternative or innovative) septic systems. Enhanced systems usually include additional features designed to mitigate waste. These types of systems may be recommended after the site-suitability stage depending on the needs of your property. Specific components of enhanced systems may work to combat a variety of waste problems, such as reducing waste strength, pathogens, nitrate-nitrogen or any combination of the three.

Tips for Selecting a Licensed Installation Professional

The RIDEM maintains a list of licensed installation professionals, all of whom are qualified to help homeowners through the installation process. However, it is suggested that homeowners seek bids from two or more contractors before securing services. Asking for references is also considered normal practice. In addition, the contract should explicitly state the installation procedure and costs, including costs for any landscaping or property restoration needed after the installation is complete.

Helpful Contacts

Assistance for all home-related wastewater management issues and questions is available through the Department of Environmental Management at:

RIDEM
235 Promenade Street
Providence, RI 02908-5767
401-222-6800

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