Septic Systems & Sewage

Homes that are not on public sewer require an individual on-site sewage disposal system – more commonly known as a septic system. You must have a permit from the Health Department prior to the construction, replacement, repair, or upgrade of a septic system by a licensed contractor. 

A repair involves replacing components of the septic system (other than drain field) to correct a deficiency. An upgrade involves adding more to the design of your septic system than the minimum specifications require, such as the additional of a Best Available Technology (BAT) unit. A permit is not needed for routine maintenance of an existing septic system.

Each septic system must be individually designed to ensure it is adequate for the planned home, use, and the environmental conditions of the property. Property owners may select and prepare the areas they wish the Health Department to evaluate for on-site sewage disposal. However, the Soil and Site evaluation process is expensive and may be very time consuming. Therefore, we recommend contracting the services of licensed professionals skilled in land development and knowledgeable about the evaluation criteria.  Licensed professionals have diverse qualifications and may be helpful in selecting the best area for on-site sewage disposal. 

​The Environmental Health Division will conduct an evaluation of your plans for the on-site sewage disposal system, which includes:

  • Reviewing the site’s topography; 
  • Reviewing/evaluating building plans to properly size the septic system;
  • Gathering water table and soils information; 
  • Assess the need for use of Best Available Technology (BAT)
  • Conducting percolation tests; and 
  • Issuing permits. 
Perc Property Status Reports

A percolation test (perc test) must be completed by Environmental Health before a septic system permit can be issued. Perc tests determine the rate at which soil can absorb the liquid which will be discharged by the septic tank. 

Subdivision lots or individual parcels of land which have been previously “perced” and approved are not guaranteed to qualify for a Sanitary Construction Permit. Your property may have had a percolation test done previously at the time of subdivision. In order to receive up to date information regarding sewage disposal and water supply on a particular property, you may apply for a Property Status Report.

While perc tests do not expire, site conditions may have changed over time, information necessary to generate design specifications may not exist, or regulations may have changed, all of which could result in could result in a prior approval being determined as no longer valid or limit our ability to issue a septic construction permit. 

A Water and Sewer Verification is also required before Perc Test Applications can be processed in cases where existing wells and septic systems are on the parcel of record.​

Percolation Tests

A percolation test (perc test) must be completed by Environmental Health before a septic system permit can be issued. Perc tests determine the rate at which soil can absorb the liquid which will be discharged by the septic tank. 

By Maryland regulation, perc tests must be conducted at the time of year when water levels are expected to be highest at the proposed site. Generally, this occurs between January and May. However, the time period may change some based on the precipitation, or lack thereof, received in a given year.

Because of this regulation, it is important to keep the following timing considerations in mind:

  • Perc test applications take up to 30 days to process, which does not include the testing window.
  • It is strongly encouraged that perc test applications be submitted prior to December 1 each year.
  • Applications received after December 1 will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and may be deferred to the following testing season – meaning the next calendar year. 
  • Final determinations of site suitability take a minimum of three months. 

In cases where existing wells and septic systems are on the parcel of record, a Water and Sewer Verification is also required before Perc Test Applications can be processed.​

Completing a perc test involves the following steps:

  1. Homeowner provides an initial site plan showing area(s) to be tested. This plan must include any existing structures, wells, septic system, body of water, and/or “wet” areas within 200’ of the proposed test(s) locations.
  2. Homeowner arranges for licensed contractor for the soil pit test
  3. Contractor installs piezometers (4” pvc pipes) as instructed by the Health Department 
  4. Preserve test sites and access to them until the conclusion of the evaluation process. This means there should be no major disturbances to the test area, ensure that the test wells are not damaged, and avoid activities that compact the soil. Farming is not an issue and does not need to be curtailed in the test area. 
  5. Create and submit for comments and approval a surveyed site plan.   
  6. Record the approved site plan at land records.  

Items 5 and 6 will also require submission and approval from the County government Department of Planning and Codes

Upon the completion of a successful perc test, the Health Department will provide specifications for the construction of your septic system. See next section.

Sites that do not have a successful perc test are not conducive to conventional, below-grade, septic systems. However, these sites may be candidates for an at-grade or sand mount system. Further evaluation is necessary to confirm the site is suitable. However, it is not guaranteed that a sand mount system will work for all sites and the site must be evaluated to confirm.

Septic Permits

A new property must have a current percolation approval before you can apply for an On-Site Sewage Disposal Permit Application/Septic Permit Application. For a replacement system or repairs to an existing system, our office may already have the necessary information on file. Please call to verify.
The construction of all septic systems in Caroline County must be done by a septic installer who is licensed by both the State and the county health department. Download a list of licensed installers, email our office to receive a list, or you may review the list at our office.

Permit Process

The Septic Permit process includes the steps below. The process is the same for new septic systems, replacement systems, upgrades, or repairs to existing systems.  

  1. If you have not already received construction permit specifications as part of a recent perc test process, submit a Request for Sanitary Construction Permit Specifications for Site Plans
  1. Submit an On-Site Sewage Disposal Permit Application
  • The application must be accompanied by a site plan and floor plan. The floor plan does not need to be professionally prepared for existing structures. 
  • Septic permits for sand mound systems must be designed by an engineer or private consultant and be submitted as part of the application.
  • All required application fees are due and must be paid at the time of submission.
  1. Environmental Health staff evaluates property records and your plans to create minimum specifications for the design of your septic system and provides them to the homeowner. This sheet is used by the homeowner to get pricing for the construction of the septic system.
  1. The property owner and contractor must return the signed specifications (and all accompanying pages) to Health Department acknowledging the requirements and that system will be built to the specifications.
  1. The Health Department issues an On-Site Sewage Disposal Permit to the licensed sewage contractor. 
  1. The licensed sewage contractor installs the system and schedules necessary inspections with the Health Department.
  1. Health Department issues a Completion Certificate upon satisfactory completion of the septic system.

When applicable, our office will also review and approve parts of the application process necessary for building permits and Certificates of Occupancy through the Caroline County government’s Department of Planning and Codes online permitting system.

Documents & Resources:

Bay Restoration Fund

The Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) was created to provide grants to homeowners to upgrade on-site sewage disposal systems or septic systems to “Best Available Technology” (BAT) in order to improve the environment of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. BAT septic systems remove more nitrogen from septic discharge than other systems. 

Bay Restoration grants can also be used to connect septic systems to public sewer facilities, where available.  

Applications & Resources:

Bay Restoration Funding Requirements

Funding for grants is limited. Therefore, grants to homeowners for BAT septic system upgrades are prioritized according to Maryland law as follows:

  1. Failing septic systems in the Critical Areas
  2. Failing septic systems outside the Critical Areas
  3. Non-conforming septic systems in the Critical Areas
  4. Non-conforming OSDS outside the Critical Areas
  5. Other septic systems in the Critical Areas, including new construction
  6. Other septic systems outside the Critical Areas, including new construction

The Critical Area is generally defined by Maryland law as all land and water areas within 1,000 feet beyond the landward boundaries of tidal wetlands, the Bay and its tributaries.

Additionally, grant amounts are dictated by the income of the property owners:

  • Those with an annual adjusted gross income under $300,000 may be eligible for up to 100% of costs.
  • Those with an annual adjusted gross income over $300,000 may be eligible for up to 50% of costs.
  • Keep in mind that qualification for funding based on income is not a guarantee that funding for grants is available. 

Finally, all recipients of a Bay Restoration Fund grant for a BAT septic system will be required to enter into an agreement and easement with the Health Department and to have the system maintained annually by a licensed vendor.  


Certain decisions by Caroline County environmental Health staff related to septic systems and sewage disposal may be appealed to the Maryland Department of the Environment. These include:

  • Sewage disposal (COMAR 26.04.02) 
  • Water supply and sewage systems in subdivisions (COMAR 26.04.03)
  • Well construction (COMAR 26.04.04)
  • Water supply, sewage disposal and solid waste (COMAR 26.04.05)

These decisions may be in regard to the grant, denial, renewal, suspension or amendment of a certificate or permit required by statute (Application).  The authority to make these decisions is based in Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and/or through Delegation Agreement(s) with other state agencies.

See the Complaints and Appeals section of our website for complete information on the appeals process.

Sewage Contractors & Haulers

Businesses interested in installing septic systems and/or pumping septic systems in Caroline County are required to obtain a license from the Caroline County Environmental Health Department.

Commercial Liability Insurance must accompany the application with current fee. The following must be on the “Certificate of Insurance” in the “Certificate Holder” section:

Caroline County Health Department
Division of Environmental Health
403 S. 7th Street, Rm 248
Denton, MD 21629

Phone: 410-479-8045
Fax: 410-479-4082

Licenses must be renewed annually and expire on December 31st of every calendar year, regardless of when the license is applied for or renewed. 

State licensure is also required for soil consultants and home inspectors, but no additional county health department license is required.