While paying for municipal sewer use can be expensive, it can save you a lot of time and energy over the years! If you have a septic tank in your yard, you might be wondering if you can connect it to the city sewer to minimize your sewage upkeep.
You may be able to connect your septic tank to a city sewer. However, there are two factors to consider: the septic tank must be close enough to the sewer to connect and your city must approve your application for the permit to connect.
Now, if you want to learn everything there is to know about city sewer systems, as well as how to find out if you can connect your septic tank to the municipal system and how much it will cost, keep reading! This article has everything you need to know.
How Does A City Sewer System Work?
The first thing you need to understand before learning if you can connect your septic tank to a city sewer is how the system actually works.
A city sewer system removes waste water from your home and property, bringing it underground to a treatment and disposal facility.
Usually, all the drain pipes and toilets in a home connected to a city sewer system will be collected and drained into a main pipe which then connects to a larger network for removal.
City sewer systems keep our drinking water safe as the wastewater can never enter into the groundwater, but instead is safely transported through pipelines until it can be treated.
Once the wastewater arrives at the treatment facility, it is cleaned and contaminants are removed so that the water can be reused by the city.
It’s important to understand that while city sewer systems are common in many American cities, they are not available everywhere and are far less popular in rural areas as the pipes need to be much longer to connect dispersed homes to the main pipeline.
Differences Between City Sewer and Private Septic?
Now that you understand how a city sewer works, let’s talk about how a private septic tank functions and how the two systems differ.
Just like a city sewer system, a private septic tank needs to clean the wastewater that is drained from your home in order to keep the groundwater and, therefore, drinking water, safe to consume.
However, unlike a city sewer system, a private septic tank doesn’t transport the wastewater to a facility; the entire cleaning process is done right on your property underground in the tank.
The septic tank functions to separate waste water and allow a biological bacterial breakdown. Once the water is clean, it is dispersed back into the ground to mix with the natural groundwater.
Private septic tanks are common in America as many of the homes in the countryside and even suburban areas are still quite spread out. But although they technically are providing the same service as sewer systems, they can actually be quite a lot more work for the homeowner.
The biggest difference between the two systems is that when using a private septic tank as opposed to a city sewer system, it is your responsibility to clean and maintain the tank in order to keep your groundwater safe.
How Can You Find Out if City Sewer is Available?
It’s important to understand that the reason why many people want to connect their private septic tanks to a city sewer is because it makes their lives a whole lot easier! But unfortunately, a city sewer connection is not available for all homeowners.
To find out if a city sewer is available for your waste removal, you will need to contact the municipal building department in your town or city.
When you call the municipal building department, there are a few questions you should ask:
- Ask if there is a city sewer line near your address.
- Where exactly the sewer line runs.
- If your home has ever been connected to the city sewer line before.
The answers to these questions will help you decide how practical it is to connect a private septic tank to the system, and you will have all the information you need when contacting a contractor.
As well, if you’re new to the neighborhood or are shopping for a new home, you can also ask the realtor or nearby neighbors if there is a city sewer available.
What States Are More Reliant on Private Septic?
As you now know, city sewer systems are not available everywhere, and in many states, old and new homes rely on private septic to remove and clean wastewater.
And it’s important to understand that certain states are more reliant on private septic tanks as the city sewer systems are less available and reliable.
The states most reliant on private septic tanks include:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
The states with the most reliable city sewer systems are:
- New Mexico
- New York
While typically, states with the most rural areas also have the largest percentage of private septic tanks, many rural homes on the west coast and in the southwest do have access to a city sewer system.
How to Connect a Septic Tank to the City Sewer?
If a city sewer system is available in your area, you will certainly need to know the steps you should take to connect a septic tank to a city sewer.
And the very first thing you need to do is contact your local government to ensure it’s possible and allowed.
Then, after you’ve applied for the right permits, you can hire a professional contractor to connect the two.
It’s important to note that this project is quite expensive and can take up to a year depending on how far the septic tank is to the city sewer.
Step 1: Contact Your Local Government
First, you always need to start the process of connecting a septic tank to a city sewer by calling your local government.
As the laws, system setup, and options differ from state to state and even by county, it is vital that you speak directly to the municipal building department in your county for the correct information.
Luckily, you can find the phone number or email of the department by typing in “[Your county] municipal building department” into Google.
Once you contact them, you should have your address ready and make sure to ask if connecting to a city sewer line is possible, how far away the main pipe is from your septic tank, and which permits you need to fill out.
Step 2: Apply For Permits
If the municipal building department reports that it is possible for you to connect your septic to the city sewer, you then need to fill out and pay for the appropriate permits.
In most cases you will need at least one, if not all four of the following permits:
- Plumbing Permit: $50 – $500
- Building Permit: $50 – $300
- Septic Permit: $200 to $2,000
- Sewer Connection Permit: $400 to $1,600
Hopefully, you will already have a septic permit as you already have a septic tank! But in some counties, the permit needs to be renewed before connection is allowed.
It’s important to understand that every county is a little different, so you should be sure to ask which permits you need and how much they will cost before you start the project to ensure they get approved.
Step 3: Find an Experienced Contractor
The next step is to find the right contractor for the job.
As you probably already know, there are quite a few websites that connect you to experienced contractors. However, it’s important to understand that not every contractor can complete this task.
The best way to find a good contractor to connect your septic tank to a city sewer line is to select someone who has experience decommissioning a septic tank and connecting to a main pipe line.
They should have a solid team so that the project doesn’t take longer than it needs to, their price point should fit your budget, and they should be able to show they have connected septic tanks to sewer lines before.
If you want to skip step two, you can also ask your contractor if they will apply for the necessary permits for you!
Step 4: Decommission Your Septic Tank
Realistically, the experienced contractor you hire should have the skillset to decommission your septic tank. However, it’s important to understand that they do need to be licensed to do so.
You or the contractor first needs to apply for a permit to decommission the septic tank from the municipal building department in your county.
Then they will have to pump out and clean the tank before they can even begin connecting your sewage to the city system.
Luckily, decommissioning a septic tank does not make it inoperable. And if you want to open your septic tank back up over a few years, it’s certainly possible.
Step 4: Get the Project Surveyed
Finally, you need to get the project surveyed before the contractor can start connecting your septic to the city sewer line.
The reason why a professional surveyor is necessary is so that you can know where the sewer lines run near and on your property before starting to dig.
In order to find a professional surveyor, you can ask the municipal building department as they usually have a few connections. However, you can also find one online by searching for Professional Land Surveyors in your area.
Once they have surveyed the area and explained their findings to you and the contractor, the project of connecting your home to the city sewer system can finally officially begin!
How Much Does it Cost To Connect a Septic Tank to City Sewer?
Finally, now that you know how to go about connecting your septic tank to a city sewer, you might be wondering how much it will cost you.
There are several factors to consider when attempting to estimate the cost of connecting a septic tank to a city sewer:
- The first is whether the septic tank has ever been connected before or if you need to pay for a main line connection.
- Next, how far the city sewer line is from your septic tank.
- Also, what the city will charge you for the connection.
- As well as how much the contractor you hire will charge you for labor.
Overall, it can cost between $500 and $9,000, but the average cost is between $1,00 and $3,000 to connect a septic tank to a city sewer.
While you can connect to a city sewer if you have a septic tank, there are quite a few steps to follow before you can do so.
It’s vital that you first find out if it is available in your area, fill out the proper permits, and hire an experienced contractor who knows how to get the job done.
While it may cost quite a bit to connect your septic tank to a sewer line, many studies are now showing that septic tanks don’t work quite as well as they should and, therefore, using a city sewer system is the safer option.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.