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Septic Systems


A permit from the Department of Health is required to install, replace, or repair a septic system in St. Joseph County. On-site septic systems must be properly designed, installed, and maintained in order to protect groundwater, surface water, and the health of St. Joseph County residents. The Department of Health also investigates complaints regarding failed septic systems and improper installation and maintenance of systems.

To apply for a septic permit, a permit application, permit fee, and soil report from a certified soil scientist must be submitted to the Department of Health. The permit and soil report are reviewed, and minimum design specifications are issued by the Department of Health. The applicant will then provide the specifications to a licensed septic installer to design the system. The applicant then takes the minimum design specifications to registered septic contractors to get bids for the installation. The selected contractor will then submit a design to the Department of Health for review and approval. The Department of Health reviews the design and conducts an on-site inspection. Deficient designs are returned to the septic contractor for revision. After the review, design review, and on-site inspection meet all requirements, the Department of Health prepares site-specific approval requirements and issues the permit.

After the system is installed according to the issued permit and all State and County requirements, the septic contractor calls the Department of Health to arrange a final inspection. Contractors must call the Department of Health 24 hours in advance from the desired final inspection time. The system may be used after the Department of Health passes the final inspection.

For further information on the septic permitting process or concerns about septic systems in general, please contact the Department of Health at (574) 235-9721.


  1. Does the area for the septic system really need to be protected from construction traffic before constructing my house and after installation?
  2. What can I plant on or near the septic system?
  3. What does a typical septic system look like, and how long does it last?
  4. Do those septic tank additives work?
  5. How often should my tank be pumped, and what about effluent filters?

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