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Division of Land Use Regulation
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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Septic System
(Functioning/Malfunctioning)

  • Overview
  • Freshwater Wetlands
  • Flood Hazard
  • Coastal
  • Tidelands

Septic systems or individual subsurface sewage disposal systems are municipality approved systems for the disposal of sanitary sewage into the ground, which is designed and constructed to retain the solids in a tank and discharges the waste water to the ground. Outhouses, dry wells, or similar facilities are not considered septic systems. Over time septic systems malfunction and must be replaced. In certain situations, it is necessary to disturb wetlands and transition areas to repair or modify a malfunctioning septic system, which may include the abandonment of an exsiting malfunctioning septic field and the creation of a new field.

If your septic system is malfunctioning and you suspect that you are in a sepcial area that the proposed project will impact or you have been advised by your municipality that you need a Freshwater wetlands approval to fix your malfunctioning septic system you can click on any of the tabs above for more information.

Activities which may disturb special areas of the State that are regulated by the Department, including construction or reconstruction of a Septic System, may require an approval from the Division prior to construction. An area containing sensitive and endangered plant species for example, may be irreparably damaged by such activities. It is important therefore to closely examine a proposed project relative to the sensitive areas which may be impacted.

Construction or reconstruction of a Septic System may require multiple approvals from the Division, depending on the special areas impacted by the project. If you don't know what special areas are on your site, please check out the before you buy, before you build section of this website for guidance on determining if your site has one of these regulated special areas on it.

For information on Land Use permit requirements for construction or reconstruction of a Septic System within specific "special areas", please click on each of the tabs above.*

*For impacts to Streams, Rivers, Lakes, Ponds, Flood Plains, Flood Way, Riparian Zones and other water body related areas, please click on the "Flood Hazard" tab. For impacts to special coastal areas, please click on the "Coastal" tab. For impacts to Freshwater Wetlands, click on the "Freshwater Wetlands" tab. Information on Tidelands can be found in the "Tidelands" tab.

The maintenance, construction, or reconstruction of a septic system within freshwater wetlands, transition areas, and/or State open waters requires a Freshwater Wetlands (FWW) permit. One FWW General Permit (GP) is available for this activity, a GP25.

(GP25-Malfunctioning individual subsurface sewage disposal (septic) systems) [Link] - May be obtained if you have are repairing or modifying a malfunctioning septic system within freshwater wetlands or transition areas and disturbing no more than 0.25 acres of those features. In addition, in order to obtain a GP25 you must have a letter from the local board of health with jurisdiction over the septic system stating that proposed septic system complies with state standards, is not an expansion of the system, a change in use, and that there is no alternative onsite location. Please note, a GP25 is not for a new septic system, a new septic systems is not permited in freshwater wetlands or transition areas without an (Individual Permit) [Link] (IP). An IP application would need to include a description as to why the project cannot be construction outside of regulated areas.

If the septic system itself is located below grade, its replacement or repair may qualify for either Permit by Rule (PBR) (a) 1 or (b) 4. 

Please be aware that any fill or grading associated with the repair or replacement of the septic system may also be a regulated activity and may require an Individual Permit.

The construction of a new septic system within CAFRA or Waterfront Development jurisdiction or within an area of mapped coastal wetlands generally requires a permit.  The repair of a malfunctioning septic system at a single family home or duplex may be exempt as noted below or will require a general permit. If the project does not meet the requirements for an exemption or a general permit, the project will generally require a Waterfront Development or CAFRA Individual permit and /or a Coastal Wetlands permit.   

Please refer to the “Jurisdiction” section of the "Coastal Permitting" section of the website to determine which areas regulated under the Coastal Permit Program Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7-1.1 et seq.) and the Coastal Zone Management Rules (N.J.A.C. 7:7E-1.1 et seq.) occur on your site. The availability of certain permits and exemptions for a project depends on where your project is proposed. Additional information regarding the Division’s coastal program can be found on the “Coastal Permitting” section of this website.  Please contact the Division’s Technical Support Center for further assistance.

This exemption may apply to your project –-

  • The reconstruction, conversion, alteration or enlargement of any existing structure located more than 100 feet landward of the mean high water line, without change in land use and the enlargements are less than 5,000 square feet within Upland Waterfront Development jurisdiction. Please refer to to N.J.A.C. 7:7-2.3(d)2 for information on the requirements of this exemption.

This coastal general permit may apply to your project –-

  • Coastal General Permit 9authorizes the expansion or reconstruction of a single family home or duplex or accessory structures, such as septic systems, located landward of the mean high water line and not located on a bulkheaded lagoon lot.  For further information regarding the requirements of this general permit, please refer to N.J.A.C. 7:7-7.9.

Tidelands, also known as riparian lands, are all those lands now or formerly flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway; that is to say any land that is currently or was previously covered by tidal waters.  The State of New Jersey, and therefore the people of New Jersey, owns all Tidelands except for those to which it has already sold its interest in the form of a riparian grant.  It is important to note that the State generally does not own artificial waterways such as lagoons however, the State does claim those lands within a lagoon that were flowed by the mean high tide of a natural waterway which existed prior to the creation of the lagoon.

Septic systems that are proposed in an area that is currently landward of the mean high water line but was, at some point, flowed by the tide may require a tidelands grant.

A riparian grant, or tidelands grant, is a deed from the State of New Jersey selling its tidelands. Tidelands grants are generally only issued for lands that have already been filled in and are no longer flowed by the tide.

For more information on tidelands instruments, please see the tidelands section of this website.

For information and instruction on how to determine whether you are in an area that may require either a license or a grant, or for information how to apply for Tideland instruments please see the "Before you Build, Before you Buy" webpage.

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Last Updated: May 21, 2014