How do I?
2149 E. Napier
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
Phone: (269) 926-7121
BCHD staff protect the health and environment of the rural and suburban population of Berrien County by regulating the placement of on-site sewage systems for homes where a public sewer is not available.
About on-site septic systems
The septic tank is a buried, watertight container typically made of concrete, fiberglass,or polyethylene. It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out (forming sludge) and oil and grease to float to the surface (as scum). It also allows partial decomposition of the solid materials. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drainfield area. Screens are also recommended to keep solids from entering the drainfield. Newer tanks generally have risers with lids at the ground surface to allow easy location, inspection, and pumping of the tank.
The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the drainfield for further treatment by the soil. The partially treated wastewater is pushed along into the drainfield for further treatment every time new wastewater enters the tank. If the drainfield is overloaded with too much liquid, it will flood, causing sewage to flow to the ground surface or create backups in plumbing fixtures and prevent treatment of all wastewater.
A reserve drainfield, recommended in Michigan, is an area on your property suitable for a new drainfield system if your current drainfield fails. Treat this area with the same care as your septic system.
The health department recommends having your on-site septic system pumped every three years. Having your tank pumped will save you THOUSANDS in repair costs! In addition, a poorly functioning system can affect surface water quality.
Click here for a list of licensed pumpers in Berrien County.
Follow these simple do's and don'ts to keep your tank working properly:
Need financial assistance to pay for septic repairs?
USDA Rural Development (home improvement repairs)
Installing or replacing a septic system?
Homeowners or contractors must file an application with the health department to put in a septic system. Costs for permits can be found in the Environmental Health Schedule of Fees. See Environmental Forms for a septic permit application.
For more information call the Berrien County Health Department Environmental Health office at (269) 927-5623.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission- Septic System Care
US Environmental Protection Agency - How to Properly Care for Your Septic System