Septic System Information

Dubuque County Health Department Septic System Information
Click here for Dubuque County information on well/septic system information, water testing, and time of transfer program.

Frequently Asked Questions about Connecting to the City Sanitary Sewer System
Why do I have to connect to the City sewer system?
Factors such as age of septic system, lot size, and soil conditions affect the quality of wastewater treatment. Code-compliant permitted septic systems can operate for 15 years or until they fail, whichever occurs first. Additionally, use of new technologies has made it possible to connect homes to sanitary sewer which in the past were not possible. Finally, State of Iowa septic regulations have changed considerably as a result of better understanding of how septic systems work and new technologies becoming available.

These are some of the reasons why in December of 1994, the City Council directed staff to enforce connection to sanitary sewers for properties that are within 200 feet of public mains.

Where do I start?
Obtain three bids from a plumbing or excavating contractor to connect your property to the City sanitary sewer and abandon your septic tank. If this price is less than 15% of the assessed value of your property, as shown in the records of the City Assessor, choose the contractor that you think will do the best job. You may ask the contractors for references to assist you in your decision.

The Bids should include the following:
· The cost for a plumbing contractor
· The cost for all excavation and backfilling operations
· The cost for all materials to completely install the new lateral and connect it to the city sanitary sewer
· Street pavement repair
· Plumbing and excavating permits
· Septic tank abandonment

If the bids are greater than 15% of the current assessed value as shown in the records of the City Assessor, contact the Engineering Department at the City of Dubuque, 589-4270. You may be eligible for financial assistance with your project.

How much should I expect to pay to connect to the City sanitary sewer?
Several cost components are involved in connecting to the City sanitary sewer and every situation is different. The cost will be based on the difficulty and length of your new sewer lateral. The following are brief descriptions of the different cost components that you may expect to see on your project:
Connection Charge
o The connection charge is a fee paid to the City prior to the start of the project. The fee is based on the amount of front footage that your property has and the new lateral length. Your connection charge and a map are enclosed.

Plumber
o A licensed plumber must obtain a plumbing permit prior to starting your project. The permit cost should be included in the plumber’s bid. The plumber’s bid should also include all pipe, pipe fittings, labor and equipment necessary to completely install your new lateral and connect it to the City sanitary sewer.

Excavation
o This is a cost that should also be included in the plumber’s bid. The excavator will need to obtain an excavation permit if work will be done within the City street right of way. The excavation price should cover all costs associated with excavating, backfilling, surface restoration and seeding.

Septic Tank Abandonment
The septic tank may either be completely removed or the tank can be pumped and the excavator can cave in the sides and backfill the area.

Is financial assistance is available?
The City has several financial assistance programs that may be available for you. One of the programs is for income-qualifying individuals, while another program is based on a maximum project cost (15% rule).

15% Rule
The City of Dubuque has established a maximum project cost cap of 15% of the current City Assessor property valuation. This means that the City may pay for any project costs over this cap and waive all or part of the connection charge. The City does limit it’s exposure to non-sewer costs such as landscaping, retaining walls, driveways, etc. These costs may not exceed 5% of the total project cost.

15% Rule Procedure
1) Contact the City Assessor to find out your current property valuation. If your low bid is greater than 15% of your current property valuation, contact Todd Irwin at the City of Dubuque, Engineering Division, 589-4270.

2) Submit three bids, for your sewer connection project to the Engineering Department for review. If it is determined that the construction costs do exceed 15% of your current property valuation, the Engineering Department will design, secure bids, and administer your project for you. This is done to help eliminate any inconsistencies in the bids.
3) Once the contract for your sewer connection project is awarded to the lowest bidder, you will need to provide the Engineering Department with a cashiers check in the amount of 15% of the current City Assessor property valuation amount. If there are non-sewer costs that exceed the 5% maximum, the amount exceeding the maximum will need to be added to the cashiers check or you may choose to do that portion of the work yourself.

4) As soon as the Engineering Department receives the check the contractor will be given notice to start.

· Income qualifying financial assistance.
The Housing and Community Development Department has limited funds available for owner-occupied low and moderate income qualifying property owners. This maximum $4500 assistance is a 5-year forgivable loan for the owner's principle place of residence. For more information call 589-4239.

Who do I need to contact if I have Questions?
Health Services Department: 589-4181
Engineering Department: 589-4270
Housing & Community Development: 589-4239

MORE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SEPTIC SYSTEM INSTALLATION.

Can I install a private on-site septic treatment and disposal system within the city of Dubuque?
Homes where the property line is less than or equal to 200 feet to a public sanitary sewer must connect to the City sanitary sewer. (City of Dubuque Code of Ordinances Section 13-2-3) If public sewer is not available, all requirement for an on-site septic system mentioned below must be met.

City of Dubuque Ordinance 13-2-3 states: 
A. Connection Required: The owner of any house, building, or property used for occupancy, employment, recreation or other purposes, situated within the city and abutting on any street, alley, right of way or easement in which there is now located, or may in the future be located, within two hundred feet (200') of the nearest property line thereof, a public sanitary sewer of the city, is hereby required at the owner's expense to connect such facilities directly with the proper public sewer, in accordance with city standards as adopted by the city manager and the provisions of title 14, chapter 1, article H of this code requiring the making of connections with sanitary sewers and providing for the manner of making such connections. (2007 Code § 44-14)

B. Exception: Where a public sanitary sewer is not available under the provisions of this chapter, the building sewer shall be connected to a private on site sewage treatment and disposal system complying with the provisions of this chapter. (2007 Code § 44-15)

C. Costs Borne By Owner: All costs and expense incident to the installation and connection of the building sewer shall be borne by the owner. The owner shall indemnify the city from any loss or damage that may directly or indirectly be occasioned by the installation of the building sewer. (2007 Code § 44-16)

What other requirements must my private on-site sewage treatment and disposal system meet?
All private sewage treatment and disposal systems must comply with Chapter 69 of the Iowa Administrative Code governing private on-site sewage treatment and disposal systems. 

How do I obtain a private sewage treatment and disposal system construction permit?
All private sewage disposal permits must be obtained from the Dubuque County Health Department. Two steps are required to install a private wastewater system in the City of Dubuque: 1) Approval for installation of a private waste water system must be obtained by the City of Dubuque; 2) Once permission from the City is granted, a permit for construction must be obtained prior to construction from the Dubuque County Health Department.

What happens when sewer becomes available within 200 feet of my property line?
When the City sanitary sewer is installed within 200 feet of your property line, the homeowner will be notified and a sewer connection will be required within 365 days.

City of Dubuque Code of Ordinances Section 13-2B-5 (A) states:
A. Abandonment Upon Availability Of Public Sewer: When a public sewer is constructed within two hundred feet (200') of the property line, the building sewer shall be connected to said sewer in accordance with city standards established by the city manager and within three hundred sixty five (365) days from date of written notification by the city manager, unless the city manager for good cause grants an extension from such three hundred sixty five (365) day period, which extension shall not be in excess of the time provided in subsection B of this section, and the private on site sewage treatment and disposal system abandoned in accordance with subsection B of this section. However, the property shall not be required to connect to the public sewer if construction plans for the private on site sewage treatment and disposal system are available, the system meets the provisions of state laws and regulations and the system received a construction permit from the city manager prior to installation. If the city manager cannot determine that the system is in compliance with state laws and regulations, connection shall be made to the sanitary sewer in accordance with city standards established by the city manager.

I have just installed a new septic system which meets City and State requirements. How long will I be able to utilize my private on-site sewage treatment and disposal system?
As long as the private sewage treatment and disposal system is properly functioning, you will be able to operate this system for 15 years. (City of Dubuque Code of Ordinances 44-55)

If you have further questions regarding private on-site sewage treatment and disposal systems, feel free to call the City of Dubuque Health Services Department at (563) 589-4181.

City of Dubuque Code of Ordinances Section 13-2B-5 (B) states:
B. Time Limit For Operation: Notwithstanding the foregoing, no private on site sewage treatment and disposal system shall be permitted to operate for more than fifteen (15) years, unless otherwise determined by the city manager pursuant to standards adopted by the city manager. At any time the city manager determines the system is no longer adequate, connection to the sanitary sewer shall be made. (2007 Code § 44-55)