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Septic Systems

What is a septic system?

A septic system is a private sewage system that is located and operated on the homeowner’s land. It is most commonly used in rural areas where no integrated sewage system is available.

What do I need to know about septic permits?

The Douglas County Health Department is responsible for the issuance of septic installation permits and the inspection of newly constructed and/or renovated septic systems located in Douglas County. If you are having a new private sewage system installed you MUST obtain a permit even if you (the homeowner) are installing it yourself. After the system is installed, it also must be inspected to be certain that it meets all governing federal, state and local codes.

How do I obtain a permit?

You need to contact the Douglas County Health Department to obtain a permit application. It can be obtained by calling 217-253-4137.

Private Sewage Disposal System Ordinance

An ordinance regulating private sewage disposal systems, the construction and/or reconstruction of such systems, and requiring an annual registration certificate for the private sewage disposal systems contractors within the limits of Douglas County, Illinois.

Septic permit/inspection

A Soil Evaluation must be performed by a soil classifier to determine the type of system to install and the size of the seepage field.

What about a Soil Evaluation?

  1. Anyone requesting a building permit on a new site that will have waste water output that does not have access to sanitary sewer must have a soil evaluation submitted. After the soil evaluation has been submitted to the office or the health department has signed off on it, a building permit may be issued by the Supervisor of Assessments office.

  2. Anyone with building additions that have added bedrooms must be notified of the seepage change requirements. Information will be handed out to the applicant and referral to the health department will be made.

  3. Soil evaluator information along with septic information will be available at the Supervisor of Assessments office or the health department for residents review.

I already have a septic system. How do I maintain it?

There are a variety of things most people need to know about their septic system. A lot of folks think that once the system is in place, they can forget about it. Unfortunately, that’s not true. The following is a list of septic system do’s and don’ts.


  • Do have your septic system pumped out every 3 to 5 years.

  • Do make certain your septic system is up to code.

  • Do conserve water to prevent overload to your system. A leaky faucet can cause too much water to flood your septic system.

  • Do know where your septic system is located. Keep a drawing for reference for when emergencies arise.

  • Do know the procedures for making repairs or remodeling your system. In Douglas County, to renovate your septic system, you MUST have a permit.


  • Do NOT use a garbage disposal without checking with your local ordinances, your system manufacturer AND your contractor to insure your septic system can handle the additional waste. Do NOT allow excess water from drains, pumps, or drainage paths to filter into your septic system.

  • Do NOT drive over or park on top of your septic system.

  • Do NOT dump non-biodegradables into your toilet or drain. Chemicals, grease, gasoline, oil, paint, pesticides, antifreeze, and other chemical liquids will cause dangerous run-off from your system as well as kill the microbes that make your septic system function

Are there any warning signs that my septic system is malfunctioning?

Yes! Warning signs include:

  • sluggish drains

  • sewage backing up into your home through the plumbing

  • outdoor odors

  • sewage surfacing onto the ground surface

  • presence of algae growth or black slime on the ground surface in the seepage field

If you notice any of these warning signs, your system should be evaluated for possible failure.

For more information on septic systems:

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