Septic Systems

The health department is responsible for licensing and inspecting residential and commercial on-site sewage disposal systems, investigating illegal discharges of sewage, and plan review of new on-site septic systems.

Whether you are building a new home, remodeling your existing home, or repairing an ailing septic system, a properly functioning septic system will benefit your neighborhood, your community, and the environment. Proper design, installation, and maintenance of your septic system can maximize the life of the system while providing excellent wastewater treatment. Failure of the system can be foul smelling and unsightly, and possibly contaminate your well water. The most serious documented problems involve contamination of surface waters and ground water with disease-causing pathogens and nitrates.

Sewage effluent is a concoction of many things including pathogenic microorganisms, which are capable of causing a variety of diseases such as salmonella, shigella, giardia, and E. coli.Sewage contains inorganic chemicals, such as nitrates, which at high levels can cause blue-baby syndrome. These contaminants are illegally discharged from homes often by means of old field tile connections and/or surface failures which can make their way to surface and drinking water supplies of Jay County.

Contact the Septic Division of the Jay County Health Department if you are planning to build a new house, remodel your home, or repair an existing septic system. A septic permit must be obtained before construction or remodeling begins, and must be obtained before theBuilding and Planning Department will issue a permit to build.

What do you need to know about buying a house with a septic system?

If you are interested in purchasing a home with a septic system, make the effort to be a smart consumer so that you don’t purchase a home with a failing septic system. Buyers can help protect themselves by having the septic system inspected by a qualified inspector. Also keep these items in mind when looking at purchasing a home:

* Contact thehealth department to learn whether there is information on record for the septic system.

* Check for visible signs of discharge from the system (including running wastewater, blackened soil or unusually green grass) or any sign of a sewer smell in the area of the system

* Ask the seller about the regular maintenance that was done on the septic system. When was the septic tank last cleaned and inspected? The septic tank should be cleaned every 3 to 5 years. If the system has not been maintained, it might not be a bad idea to hire a reputable pumper to clean and inspect the septic tank before closing on a house.

* Educate yourself on how to use and maintain a septic system. This is the number one way to prevent a costly repair or replacement of the septic system.

Septic System Maintenance

If you own a septic system, it is important that it be properly maintained. How often you need to pump the solids out of your septic tank depends on three major factors:

1. The number of people in your household;

2. The amount of wastewater generated (based on the number of people in the household and the amount of water used); and;

3. The volume of solids in the wastewater (e.g., using a garbage disposal will increase the amount of solids);

Although your septic system absorption field generally does not require maintenance, you should adhere to the following rules to protect and prolong its functional life:

1. Do not drive over the absorption field with cars, trucks, or heavy equipment;

2. Do not plant trees or shrubbery in the absorption field area, because the roots can get into the lines and plug them;

3. Do not cover the absorption field with hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt. Grass is the best cover, because it will help prevent erosion and help remove excess water;

4. Do divert surface runoff water from roofs, patios, driveways, and other areas away from the absorption field;

Homeowners wanting to take good care of their septic systems should make note of the following items that should never be flushed down the drain or toilet. These items can overtax or destroy the biological digestion taking place within the system or clog pumps and pipes;

Take care not to flush the following:

  • hair combings
  • coffee grounds
  • dental floss
  • disposable diapers
  • kitty litter
  • sanitary napkins
  • tampons
  • cigarette butts
  • condoms
  • gauze bandages
  • fat, grease, or oil
  • paper towels

NEVER flush chemicals that could contaminate surface and groundwater, such as:

  • paints
  • varnishes
  • thinners
  • waste oils
  • photographic solutions
  • pesticides
  • Mosquitoes are vectors that can carry and spread diseases such as West Nile Virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, and LaCrosse Virus. One of the most effective ways to control mosquito populations is to reduce the number and types of mosquito breeding habitats in your community. All mosquitoes require a water source to lay their eggs, which in the hottest part of summer can hatch into larvae within a week. To effectively reduce larval hatching, check your property for the following common potential residential mosquito breeding sites:

    * Fountains, Birdbaths & Water Gardens – replace water in these areas at least twice weekly, or ensure that the water is moving/circulating enough to discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs on the water surface.

    * Tires – Tires are especially notorious mosquito breeding sites. They should be properly discarded, covered or stacked in a shed or garage so that they cannot fill with water. If you have a tire swing, make a hole inthe bottom of it to allow water to drain out. If you cover them with a tarp, make sure the tarp itself is not collecting water.

    * Flower Pots, Garbage Cans, & Recycling Bins – these items can hold enough water to breed mosquitoes. Drain dishes under flowerpots every few days and after rainstorms or move them inside. Cover outdoor trash and recycling cans with tight-fitting lids at all times.

    * Downspouts & Gutters – clean them out to prevent a buildup of leaves and organic debris that can hold puddles of water.

    * Animal Troughs – clean out animal water troughs at least twice weekly. These are ideal environments for mosquitoes to breed.

    * Tarps – these are commonly used to cover log piles, boats, and pools, and they can hold enough water to breed mosquitoes. Make sure water does not collect in tarps used outdoors.

    * Wheelbarrows, Tubs, Kiddie Pools, & Unused/Un-chlorinated Pools – these should be stored upside down or under cover when not in use. Ensure that swimming pool covers are not collecting water.

    How else can you protect yourself and your family?

    * When possible, avoid places and times when mosquitoes bite; for most species – between dusk and dawn.

    * Use an insect repellant containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or any other EPA-registered insect repellent. Always follow product label instructions.

    * Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.

    * Make sure all windows and doors have screens, and that all screens are in good repair.

    * Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in an unscreened structure.

    For more information on Zoonotic andVector-borne diseases,


    For maps of current mosquito and human West Nile Virus cases in Indiana,


    For national data, fact sheets, and virology information,


    For additional information on a variety of pests and disease vectors,

    visit the Indiana Vector Control Association’s website at

    Public and semi-public pools in Jay County are governed by the Indiana State Department of Health Swimming Pool Rule 410 IAC 6-2.1 and the Jay County Pool/Spa Ordinance, which is enforced by the Jay County Health Department. Pools are inspected during periods of operation, to ensure that chemical levels, pool circulation and filtration, as well as safety requirements are met.

    What are recreational water illnesses (RWI’s)?

    RWIs are illnesses that are spread by swallowing, breathing in mist or aerosols, or having contact with contaminated water from swimming pools, spas, lakes, rivers, or oceans. Recreational water illnesses can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. Diarrheal illnesses can be caused by germs such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus and E. coli O157:H7.

    How are RWIs spread?

    Keep in mind that you share the water with everyone else in the pool, lake, or ocean.

    Diarrheal Illness

    If swimmers are ill with diarrhea, the germs that they carry can contaminate the water if they have an “accident” in the pool. A CDC study revealed that on average, people have about 0.14 grams of feces on their bottoms which, when rinsed off, can contaminate recreational water. When people are ill with diarrhea, their stool can contain millions of germs. Therefore, swimming when ill with diarrhea can easily contaminate large pools or waterparks. In addition, lakes, rivers, and the ocean can be contaminated by sewage spills, animal waste, and water runoff following rainfall. Some common germs can also live for long periods of time in salt water. So, if someone swallows water that has been contaminated with feces, he/she may become sick. Many of these diarrhea-causing germs do not have to be swallowed in large amounts to cause illness.

    Other RWI’s

    Many other RWIs (skin, ear, eye, respiratory, neurologic, wound, and other infections) are caused by germs that live naturally in the environment (water, soil). In the pool or hot tub, if disinfectant is not maintained at the appropriate levels, these germs can increase to the point where they can cause illness when swimmers breathe or have contact with water containing these germs.

    Why doesn’t chlorine kill these RWI germs?

    Chlorine in swimming pools does kill the germs, but the amount of time it takes to kill a certain germ in a pool depends on what kind of germ it is. Chlorine can kill most RWI germs in less than an hour, but some germs such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia can survive for days in a properly disinfected pool. Pool and spa operators rely on your help to maintain sanitary conditions in their pool!

    Protect yourself and others from recreational water illnesses (RWI’s) by:

    * Refrain from swimming when you have diarrhea – you can spread germs in the water and make other people sick

    * Avoid swallowing pool water or getting it in your mouth

    * Shower before swimming – lotions, makeup, sweat, etc. will make the chlorine less effective at sanitizing the pool water

    * Wash hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers – your germs can end up in the water

    * Take children on bathroom breaks or check diapers often – ONLY change diapers in a bathroom and not at pool side

    If you are bitten by any animal, whether a pet, stray, or wild animal:

    * Dogs, cats, and ferrets that bite a human must be quarantined (either in the home or at the animal shelter) for 10 days, even if it is up to date on rabies vaccines. If the animal is not ill after 10 days, you were not exposed to rabies.

    * According to State law any dog, cat, or ferret 3 months of age or older must be vaccinated against rabies with a 1-year or 3-year rabies vaccine by a licensed veterinarian.

    * If the animal has not had its rabies shot it must receive it as soon as possible after the quarantine period is over.

    * If the biting animal was a stray or wild animal, contact the Jay County Health Department immediately to discuss what further action should be taken. Wild animals or stray animals may be tested for rabies if they have bitten or scratched a human. Do not attempt to capture the animal yourself if you cannot do so without risking your safety. Contact animal control or a pest control service to capture the animal if the Health Department determines it is necessary to have the animal tested for rabies. The health department does not capture any animals.

    Which animals can transmit rabies?

    Indiana animals considered to be at highest risk of transmitting rabies to humans include bats, skunks, foxes, raccoons, and coyotes. Dogs and cats can also transmit rabies that they have acquired from wildlife, but pets are rarely found rabid in Indiana. The Jay County Health Department can help you evaluate the risk of rabies following an animal bite.


    What is rabies and how do people get it?

    Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. People get infected by rabies virus when a rabid animal comes into contact with a human by breaking the skin, as in bite wounds or scratches. Although rare, it is also possible to get rabies if saliva or other infectious material from a rabid animal gets into a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or open wounds. Wild animals such as opossums, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, and bats, as well as unvaccinated dogs and cats, may carry the disease and transmit it to humans and domestic animals.

    How can I tell if an animal has rabies?

    The only way to determine if an animal has rabies or not is through laboratory testing of the brain tissue. However, some of the visible signs that an animal might be rabid include: aggressive behavior, confusion, lethargy, attacking for no reason (unprovoked attack), excessive drooling from the mouth, partial paralysis and walking in circles. The strange behavior of rabid animals is due to the virus’s action on the animal’s nervous system. By the time an animal or human is showing obvious symptoms, the disease progresses very quickly, resulting in death.

    What can you do to help control the spread of rabies?

    * It is extremely important to keep your pets and certain livestock up to date on vaccinations for the safety of your animals and your family.

    * If you are bitten, scratched, or unsure, talk to a healthcare provider

    * If you encounter a wild animal displaying extremely unusual behavior, such as severe aggression, excessive drooling, staggering, or seizures, contact a pest control company or wildlife removal service to safely capture the animal and have it removed.

    * Leave all wildlife alone, including injured animals. If you find an injured animal, don’t touch it; contact local authorities for assistance.

    * In situations in which you find a bat in your home, and you cannot reasonably rule out the possibility of having been bitten (such as waking up to a bat in your bedroom or finding a bat in the room of an unattended child), have a pest control service capture the bat so that it can be submitted for rabies testing.

    * “Bat-proof” your home to prevent bats from entering.

    * Do not leave exposed garbage, food, or litter outside, as it is likely to attract stray or wild animals.

    For more information about rabies, visit

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