Frequently Asked Questions
Community Sewerage Program Information
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Community Sewerage fact sheets
About the Community Sewerage Program
Why do we need to build a piped sewerage system?
Many septic systems in our Community Sewerage areas are old, poorly maintained or don’t comply with modern regulations.
Ageing septic systems can leak untreated or poorly treated wastewater into other properties, drains and waterways, potentially polluting the environment and putting public health at risk.
They also create boggy yards and unpleasant smells.
Septic systems work by gradually releasing wastewater so that it’s absorbed by soil and plants on the property. Septic tanks can fail due to the following reasons:
The property may be too small.
The soil may be high in clay content so it doesn’t absorb the wastewater.
There may be a layer of rock or hard to break through soil beneath the surface.
The property may be too steep and so the wastewater runs off before it is absorbed.
Seasonal issues - often septic tanks work in summer but fail in winter when the soil is wet and evaporation rates are low.
Many properties have ‘split systems’ where toilet water is treated by the septic tank and wastewater from the kitchen, shower and laundry flows into the stormwater system. This wastewater isn’t treated and flows straight into our creeks, rivers and bay polluting our waterways.
A piped sewerage system has been assessed as the best option to address these issues in Community Sewerage areas.
Why do timeframes for getting a piped sewerage system change? Why isn't my area being serviced sooner?
Annual budgeting and resourcing of the Community Sewerage Program mean a limited number of properties can be connected to piped sewerage each year.
We must also consider new information about the environmental and public health risks posed by poorly performing septic tanks. We do this in consultation with EPA Victoria, councils, the state government and Melbourne Water.
If a proposed Community Sewerage area presents a higher risk to the environment or public health, we’ll prioritise this area in the five-year plan we provide the Essential Services Commission, our independent regulator, for their review. Known as a Price Submission, this plan details the services we’ll offer each year and the prices customers pay.
We have also experienced unforeseen issues and delays bringing a piped sewerage system to certain areas.
Do I have to connect?
Once it’s ready, you don’t have to connect to the new sewerage system provided your onsite sewerage system is working effectively and in accordance with Section 3 of the EPA Code of Practice - Onsite Wastewater Management and council onsite wastewater system permit conditions.
Your local council may require you to periodically demonstrate this compliance. In the future, when your system is no longer meeting these requirements you may want to consider connecting to the piped sewerage system.
I would like to connect to the sewer now. What’s the process?
Being able to connect to the sewer straight away depends on the location of the existing sewer and/or those planned to be constructed as part of the Community Sewerage Program.
To find out what’s involved in connecting your property to the nearest, existing sewerage system, you can apply for free Preliminary Servicing Advice.
If your property is within the Community Sewerage Program area, a ‘bring forward’ cost will apply and you must connect using our preferred method for providing piped sewerage services (e.g. a pressure sewer or gravity sewer system).
If your property is outside the community sewerage area, or you don’t want to use our preferred method for sewerage services, you are able to connect at your own cost where feasible to do so.
I have a vacant lot within a Community Sewerage Area. Can I connect to the sewerage system?
In most cases, yes. All properties located within our Community Sewerage Areas are eligible to connect to the sewerage system, unless the vacant lot is the result of subdivision.
We’ll fund a sewerage service for the equivalent of a single residential connection and connection must be made to the new sewerage network.
If more capacity is required you, or your developer, will be responsible for the cost of additional on-site equipment to accommodate greater wastewater output.
Before you build, please apply for free Preliminary Servicing Advice. Costs to connect may vary based on when your area was provided with a sewerage service.
I have two residences on one block. Can I get two connection points?
No. Under the Community Sewerage Program, each lot with a registered title is entitled to one connection point. If your residences are both registered under a single title, you will be eligible for one connection point only. Further connections can be arranged at your cost.
To apply for a secondary connection, please apply for free Preliminary Servicing Advice.
Is the sewerage network designed with future expansion of housing or sub-divisions in mind?
When we design a new sewerage system, we include allowances for expected development based on existing government planning schemes and assume all properties along the sewer pipe path will be able to connect to it.
If you’re developing a property, you’ll need to apply for free Preliminary Servicing Advice. If, at the time of connection, the sewerage system needs to be changed to accommodate the development, you/the developer must fund any upgrades to the sewerage system. This is consistent with any development in our service area.
What are the different types of sewerage systems used?
Properties in Community Sewerage Program areas will have either a gravity or pressure sewer system, or a combination of the two – called a hybrid system:
Gravity sewer systems rely on gradually sloping pipes that allow the sewage to flow naturally downhill, away from your property and into the pipes in the street.
Pressure sewer systems feature a small pumping unit on each property which pumps the household sewage to the pressure sewer located in the street. In some areas, both gravity and pressure connections may be used.
The design of the sewerage system is different for each area and the type of connection point a property will get (gravity or pressure) depends on a number of factors, such as land slope and proximity to the nearest existing sewer.
If your property is to receive a pressure connection point, it’s because it has been chosen as the best way of providing sewerage services for your property.
My property and/or the street I live on slopes downhill – why do I need a pump unit?
In most cases, where there is a downhill slope, properties will be serviced by gravity. In some cases, properties must be serviced by a pressure system to allow sewage flows to be pumped over a hill further downstream in the sewerage network.
Costs to connect to the new sewerage system
How much will it cost to connect to the sewerage system?
You will no longer need to pay for maintaining and operating your septic system, nor the cost of replacing it with a newer septic system in the future.
If you’re interested in connecting to the new sewerage system, you will need to pay:
A licensed plumber to disconnect and make safe your existing septic tank, and to connect your property’s plumbing to the new pressure sewer unit or gravity connection point. For most properties, this cost will vary between $3,000 to $8,000 for pressure sewer and $5,000 to $15,000 for gravity systems.
The cost may be more for some properties depending on the distance of the house to the sewer connection point, ease of access to pipes and compliance of the existing plumbing at the property.
Costs vary depending on the layout and size of your property and we recommend you obtain several quotes from licensed plumbers for this work.
Ongoing Yarra Valley Water sewerage charges:
Sewerage system charge - a fixed charge for running, maintaining and repairing the sewerage system including sewer pipes and treatment plants
Sewage disposal charge – this charge pays for removing sewage from your property and treating it safely. The amount of sewage going down drains, sinks and toilets is based on your water use less a percentage of water we estimate is used outside.
Ongoing electricity costs to run the pressure sewer unit’s pump. This can range from approximately $40 to $70 a year.
What if I can’t afford to pay to connect?
We’re committed to working with you to help improve the affordability of key services for eligible customers. For more information or to discuss your individual circumstances, or to see if you may be eligible for assistance, please contact our Customer Support Team on 1800 637 316.
Pressure Sewerage Systems
What is a pressure sewer system and how does it work?
A pressure sewer system works by having pumping units located on each property to pump household wastewater to the sewer pipe in the street.
What is a pressure connection point?
A pressure connection point is where your household waste pipes connect to the sewerage system. Connecting your property to the pressure sewerage system requires new Yarra Valley Water components to be installed - called a 'boundary valve kit'. Once installed, you will only see the lid of the pump unit, the lid of the boundary valve kit and the control panel.
Note, customers pay to connect their household plumbing to the pressure sewer unit, not the boundary valve kit.
A typical boundary valve kit:
Who is responsible for installing and maintaining the pressure sewer system?
We’ll pay for the cost of constructing and maintaining the sewerage system and providing a connection point from your property to the pipes in the street. This includes the pump unit, boundary valve kit, discharge line and control panel. As the property owner, you’re responsible for installing and maintaining the plumbing on your side of the connection point. This includes the connection of the property drain.
Where will the pressure sewer equipment be located on my property? Do I get a say as to where it goes?
Yes, your preferences will be taken into consideration. We must also consider the location of your existing septic tank, your garden and landscaping, how we install and connect to the pressure sewer equipment, and the space needed to access the equipment for maintenance. A meeting will take place at your property with yourself (or the property owner) and our specialist delivery partner, Pressure Sewer Services Australia (PSSA), to discuss all of this.
After this meeting, PSSA will prepare a plan that shows the proposed location of the pressure sewer system components within your property.
You’ll receive an invitation to make an appointment for this meeting.
What happens if there is a power failure or the pump unit stops working?
The pressure sewer unit has emergency storage, which allows it to hold more than the average amount of wastewater produced by a household in a day. This gives maintenance staff a day to respond before the emergency storage volume is filled.
Our response times are typically within a few hours during business hours. If we’re notified of an issue after business hours, our maintenance crew will respond that day or the following morning, depending on the urgency of the job.
During a power failure, we recommend reducing household water use by:
- Taking shorter showers
- If a bath was filled, leave the plug in until after the alarm is cancelled or empty out the water onto the lawn using a bucket.
- Switch off any drainage (automated or not) from swimming pools or spas until 12 hours after the power is restored.
In the event of extended power outages, our customer service team can assess the status of the pressure sewer unit over the phone with you.
This assessment allows us to coordinate our approach and dispatch field teams, if required.
Our customer service team will also let you know how to identify if the tank is nearing full. If the tank fills, we either organise to pump out the storage tank or attend your property with a generator.
In June 2021, severe storms caused extensive and prolonged power outages in the Dandenong Ranges. Our customer service team provided timely call backs to pressure sewer customers, and there were no wastewater overflows from pressure sewer units during or after the weather event.
My property is required to have a pressure sewer unit and pipeline installed. Will you fix our gravel and bitumen driveways and any damage to existing water, power, gas or telecommunication infrastructure and vegetation during installation?
We try to minimise disturbance to your property as much as possible. The pipeline between the connection point and the front of your property is usually installed using a drill under the ground, so vegetation and driveways are not disturbed.
As part of the installation process, we’ll restore any existing surfaces to as close to their original condition. Before starting work we locate other infrastructure to ensure they avoid them. If any damage does occur, it will be rectified.
Gravity Sewerage Systems
What is a gravity system and how does it work?
A gravity sewerage system is made up of a series of pipes which slope slightly downwards to transport wastewater away from your property using gravity.
What is a gravity connection point?
A gravity connection point involves installing a pipe just inside your property boundary. The gravity connection point will connect your property’s drain to the sewerage pipe we’ll construct in your street or easement.