County of Marin - News Releases - On-site Wastewater Treatment Systems

For Immediate Release
April 20, 2016

Key Milestone Coming for Wastewater Regulation

Water quality improvement is goal for on-site treatment system rules

San Rafael, CA – A comprehensive plan to regulate and oversee wastewater septic systems – used predominantly in the unincorporated areas of West Marin – will be brought before the Marin County Supervisors at a public hearing on May 10. The hearing is a key step before the plan is submitted for approval to a regional water quality governing body.

A new septic tank is installed near the shore of Tomales Bay.Improving wastewater systems in unincorporated areas of Marin is a big County government priority.
The Local Agency Management Plan (LAMP) has to be submitted to San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board by May 13 in order for it to be compliant with the State of California. The Marin County Community Development Agency’s Environmental Health Services Division will present the topic to the Supervisors on May 10 and go over how septic systems, now called on-site wastewater treatment systems, or OWTS, will be regulated to reduce public health risks.

There are about 8,000 parcels in Marin County that rely on OWTS.

“It is important for Marin County to have an approved LAMP because most areas in the county cannot meet the requirements of state policy,” said Rebecca Ng, who directs the County’s Environmental Health Services Division. “The proposed LAMP would allow us to provide local oversight of OWTS that are suited to the conditions of Marin.”

Ng said regional board’s approval of the LAMP would allow for implementation of alternate practices that meet or exceed minimum environmental protections and ensure the best opportunity for coordinated management of the systems.

The County has overseen OWTS and septic permits since the early 1970s within its codes and regulations, and several amendments have been added since then. AB 885, passed in 2000, required the development of statewide regulations of OWTS. The statewide regulations weren’t adopted until 2012 because of opposition by public and special interest groups. A single set of criteria for OWTS regulation was seen as too restrictive because of California’s wide range of geological and climactic conditions, so a risk-based tiered approach was adopted. Tier 0 (zero) is an OWTS that functions properly, and Tier 4 applies to those systems that require corrective action. The County’s LAMP has been prepared to obtain approval for OWTS management under Tiers 2 and 3 of state policy.

With the exception of the City of Novato, systems located within Marin’s towns and cities have been regulated under the County guidelines under memorandums of understanding with each municipality.

Learn more on the County’s webpage devoted to septic systems.


Rebecca Ng
Deputy Director of Environmental Health Services
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 236
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6907
Email: Rebecca Ng
Environmental Health Services