What are RI Towns Doing?
Block Island
South Kingstown

The BIGHP Project

RIWIS (Rhode Island Wastewater Information System)

Onsite Systems Basics
Onsite treatment systems
Property owner's guide

Wastewater Manager's Toolkit
Creating a management plan
Drafting an ordinance
Developing treatment standards
Funding and staffing a program
Getting the message out
Tracking inspections
Achieving results

Onsite System Research and Assessment
Demonstration systems
Soil suitability
Using GIS for evaluation
Water quality monitoring

Training and technical support

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Achieving Results


Developing a Timeline

When starting a town-wide inspection program we recommend splitting the town into management districts – starting first with the critical areas. Although it is important to implement the program in a timely manner, you don’t want to move too quickly. If you send out more notices than the inspectors can handle, the quality of the inspections will suffer and the program will gain negative press.

We recommend researching the optimal number of inspections that can take place in your town during a given week. In most communities, this number is driven by the amount of septage the local wastewater treatment plant can accept and the availability of inspectors. Once you determine this number you can begin breaking the community into districts and phases. Here’s an example:

Let’s say you have 1000 homes in your critical resource area (this would be District 1) and you want to see around 25 inspections completed per week in your community, it would take 40 weeks or 10 months to complete the inspections for District 1. However, it is not a good idea to send notices out during winter months, and we recommend splitting Districts into multiple phases as it’s easier to manage the data. So if you split up District 1 into five phases, each consisting of 200 homes, you arrive at the following schedule:

District 1 – Implementation Schedule

Number of Homes
Date Notices Issued
March 2007
May 2007
July 2007
September 2007
March 2008






Here are examples of implementation schedules for some RI Communities:


South Kingstown



Building a Relationship with Service Providers

For a successful wastewater management program, it is imperative to build a good working relationship with the service providers. The service providers are the town’s eyes and ears in the field and because of their knowledge, experience and direct contact with homeowners they are a great asset in spreading information to the public. However, it is important to have predefined rules and procedures for the inspectors to follow, as well as a solid certification program to ensure only qualified individuals are performing inspections in your community.

Develop Inspection Rules and Procedures

In Rhode Island, the Septic System Checkup Handbook is the standardized document that towns use for training septic system inspectors. This document was written in cooperation with Rhode Island's Septic System Maintenance Policy Forum. The policy forum is a roundtable group that comprises approximately 100 representatives from federal, state and local government, as well as private associations, businesses and general public. The resulting document provides guidelines for conducting septic system inspections as well as recommended maintenance procedures and inspection reports.

Develop Inspector Certification

The University of Rhode Island offers a two day, conventional septic system inspection class that is based on the Septic System Checkup handbook, upon successful completion of this class an inspector can request to be added to a town’s list of approved septic inspectors. For more information on this class please visit The New England Onsite Wastewater Training Center.

Many communities have additional requirements for septic system inspectors. Some of these requirements include: liability insurance (with the town listed as additional insured); continued education credits, professional conduct statement and online reporting. Communities usually develop an inspector’s application that describes these requirements. You can see a sample application here.

Publish Inspectors List

When a service provider completes an application meeting the town’s requirements, they are then added to a list of town approved inspectors. This list is provided to homeowners with the inspection notices.


Next: Sending Notices and Tracking Results & Analyzing Data, Enforcing Regulations, and Reporting Results




Copyright 2006 URI Water Quality Program