The staff of the Environmental Health Division is charged with enforcing North Carolina laws and rules to safeguard health and protect the environment in Buncombe County. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources provides technical guidance and delegation of authority.
Some services provided by Environmental Health are mandated, or required. These services include the on-site wastewater (septic systems), food and lodging, and childhood lead prevention and investigation programs.
Septic & Sewage
The Buncombe County Department of Health's division of environmental health is responsible for septic permitting in the County. Correctly installed septic systems protect public health by preventing groundwater contamination resulting from improperly treated wastewater and sewage discharges to the surface of the ground. Any person owning or controlling a residence, place of business, or place of public assembly which is not served by a public sewer must obtain a septic permit prior to obtaining any building permits or initiating construction. Sites proposed for development are evaluated for suitability of septic systems in accordance with North Carolina sewage disposal laws and rules under the authority of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Roughly half of the population in Buncombe County depends on septic tank systems for sewage disposal generating an estimated 10 million gallons of wastewater per day to be treated by ground absorption septic tank systems.
Effective January 1, 2005, the "Groundwater Protection Rules" adopted by the Buncombe County Local Board of Health will require that a well permit be obtained prior to drilling a well in the County. Wells will be inspected by environmental health staff to ensure compliance with existing State well construction standards. Properly constructed wells reduce the chances of groundwater contamination from surface contaminants. An application for a well permit must be submitted in conjunction with all septic permit applications except where municipal, community, shared, or other water supplies are available to serve the intended project.
Applications for septic and well permits and required fees can be submitted at the Environmental Health Division located on the second floor of the Department of Health. Applicants will need to provide the parcel identification number (PIN), a plat of the property, as part of the application process. For additional information on these and other services please contact us at (828) 250-5016 or visit our office located at 30 Valley Street, Asheville NC 28801.
Who is Affected?
Any person owning or controlling a residence, place of business, or place of public assembly which is not served by a public sewer must provide an approved wastewater system. Roughly half of the population in Buncombe County depends on septic tank systems for sewage disposal generating an estimated 10 million gallons of wastewater per day to be treated by ground absorption septic tank systems.
Procedure for Obtaining a Septic Tank System Permit
A septic tank system permit is one step in a chain of events required prior to beginning construction or placement of any new structure within Buncombe County. (See checklist for development in Buncombe County). A building permit will not be issued until an AUTHORIZATION TO CONSTRUCT is issued for the installation of your septic tank system.
To obtain an AUTHORIZATION TO CONSTRUCT, an application must first be filed with this division. Applications can be made can be made at the Department of Health, by mail, or by fax. (See Making an Application for more information). Applications must include a plat of the property and applicable fees. Fee payment can be made by cash, check, or credit card (MasterCard/VISA). (See Fee Information) Once the application process is completed, an Environmental Health Specialist will be assigned to perform the evaluation. Specialists are assigned districts throughout the county. At the time of application, applicants will be provided a checklist. This checklist includes those items necessary to prepare for and expedite the evaluation process. When all checklist items have been completed, applicants will contact the environmental health specialist to schedule an appointment. This evaluation will determine suitability for septic tank installation. It is important to have all property lines and house site clearly marked prior to the specialist's visit.
If the site is determined to be suitable for the proposed project, an Improvement Permit or Authorization to Construct may be issued.
Engineered Option Permit
The engineered option permit allows homeowners to consult with a privately employed engineer in order to complete the process of installing a septic system. In order to initiate the process for this permit, please have your engineer complete the Common Form from NCEHS and return to the Environmental Health office.
Repairing Septic Tank Systems
*Call the Environmental Health Office first to request a permit.
Malfunctioning sub-surface disposal systems often present a challenging problem to homeowners. These are four common types of malfunctions.
- The flow of sewage is blocked in the system causing the sewer to backup in the residence or building.
- Sewage rising to the surface of the ground over the septic tank or distribution device.
- Sewage rising to the surface of the ground over the nitrification lines or downgrade from the absorption area.
- The contamination of ground water by improperly treated sewage.
These malfunctions are usually a result of a problems with soils, water usage, construction, maintenance, or natural clogging of the soils. The key to successfully correcting the malfunction is a complete evaluation of all the possible causes of the problem. Repairing malfunctioning system without first analyzing the causes of the failure may result in unnecessary expense and/or create additional problems. Repairs may be as simple as pumping the septic tank, adjusting a distribution box, or as complex as designing and installing a new system. It is the Environmental Health Specialist job to carefully analyze all of the factors causing the problem and deciding corrective action. This service is provided by Buncombe County Environmental Services for a fee of $95.00. For more information on owning, maintaining and repairing septic tank systems visit the National Small Flows Clearinghouse website.
If you are planning to purchase a building lot or property for future development and public sewer is not available you may obtain an IMPROVEMENT PERMIT before you invest. An Improvement Permit indicates that a septic tank system may be installed for your specified project provided that the property is not altered or modified in a manner that may render the site unsuitable. Improvement Permits are valid for at least five years. If the application includes an engineered plat detailing the exact location of the structure and the septic tank system, in addition to a detailed site plan, an Improvement Permit with no expiration date may be issued.
An improvement permit will include:
- A description of the facility the proposed site is to serve.
- The proposed wastewater system and its location
- The design wastewater flow and characteristics
- The conditions for any site modifications
- Any other information required by the rules pertinent to the specific site
Improvement permits are not affected by change in ownership of the site for the wastewater system provided both the site for the wastewater system and the facility the system serves are not changed and remain under the ownership or control of the person owning the facility.
How can I receive services from Environmental Health Services?
Most services must have an application. These can be made by visiting the Environmental Health Services Division, 30 Valley Street in Asheville. Applications can also be faxed or mailed, or you can print out applications in the Forms section below.
What to bring with you?
We suggest that you call the Permitting Center before coming to our office for an application. Someone will be able to tell you what type of information you need to bring, based on the services you want. The number to call is (828) 250-5360
Application For Service
Application Submission Options:
- PIN number must be included on the application
- Plat of property must be included with the application
- Septic & Well Applications
30 Valley Street,
Asheville, NC 28801
- Food & Lodging Applications
30 Valley Street
Asheville, NC 28801
- Bring in Person
- You must have the PIN number of the property
- Plat of property is required
- Fax to Septic & Well Applications: (828) 250-6082
Fax to Food & Loading Applications: (828) 250-6161**
- **Fax only if using Payment by Credit Card
- Credit Card information must be filled in on the bottom of the application (Visa, MasterCard, Debit or Check Card)
- PIN number must be included on the application
- Plat of property must be included with the application
What are the fees?
Fees vary according to the type of services asked for. Fees can be paid by cash, check or credit card. All fees must be paid at the time the service application is made.
Adverse Weather Impacts
Residential, Business, and Special Events
Flooding and standing water can expose the public to infectious diseases, chemical hazards and injuries both during and after a weather event. When addressing the impacts of flooding, residents and businesses should be aware of steps that we can all take to reduce injury and illness due to flooding. Proper assessment of wells and septic systems as well as cleaning and moisture removal remain key to eliminating threats to the public’s health.
Please reference 'What to Do After the Flood' by the EPA to learn more about considerations for well and pump safety after a flood event. Businesses are encouraged to review the Environmental Health Preparedness Manual to learn more about safety for your organization before, during, and after a flood event.
Businesses and special events can use the Buncombe County Inclement Weather Plan of Action as a reference guide in the event of adverse weather.
Boil Water Advisories
Citizens who use a municipal water supply should contact their water provider for details regarding any boil water advisories. We also encourage residents to follow local news media for weather related updates, road closures and water advisories.
Lead is a poison that can be found in many homes constructed before l950. It can be found in paint, tap water, plastic mini-blinds, glazed pottery, etc. Children under six years of age are especially at risk because their bodies are still developing.
The Buncombe County Department of Health aims to reduce the risk of lead poisoning in children under the age of six by:
- Providing free blood lead screenings
- Identifying communities within our county with large numbers of pre-1950 housing for educational and lead screening outreach programs.
- Conducting educational programs and blood lead screening in day care centers.
- Coordinating investigations and remediation projects for the elimination of lead hazards in homes and daycare centers.
If you think your child may be at risk for lead poisoning, a blood sample can be taken to detect high levels of lead in blood.
Peak mosquito season is almost here. More than just buzzing in your ear and itchy bites, mosquito season means taking precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses. The best way to prevent mosquitoes from living in an area is to create an environment where they cannot breed. Buncombe County residents are being encouraged to eliminate standing water from their property.
The best way to protect your family from mosquito-borne viruses is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your yard or neighborhood. Disease-carrying mosquitoes can breed in very small containers of water, so it is important that anything that can hold water be eliminated. Most people are aware that old tires should be disposed of since they are excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Consider some of these lesser-known breeding grounds:
- Bird baths and pet bowls should be rinsed out and refilled every few days.
- Check unused flowerpots or dishes under pots for excess standing water.
- Check barbecue grills, ashtrays, tarps and children's swimming pools.
- Keep rain gutters free of leaves and other debris that prevent water from draining. Repair leaky outdoor faucets. Clean debris off of flat roofs.
- Correct drainage problems in your yard to prevent rainwater from pooling.
- Report drainage problems in ditches along highways.
- Store boats, canoes, children's wagons, etc. so that they do not collect rainwater.
- Discard any unused containers. Thousands of mosquitoes can breed from one small can or bottle.
- Eliminate standing water in low, grassy areas or tire tracks.
If you plan to be outdoors during the early morning or evening hours when mosquitoes are most active, protect yourself by following these simple steps:
- Prevent mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves, pants and socks when outdoors.
- Use a repellent containing low concentrations of DEET (10 percent or less for children; 30 percent or less for adults), following the manufacturer's instructions.
- To keep mosquitoes outside, use screened windows and doors and make sure screens fit tightly and are not torn.
If you have concerns about mosquitoes in your neighborhood, contact Environmental Health at 250-5016.
For more information about encephalitis or mosquito-borne viruses contact the Disease Control Division of Buncombe County Department of Health at 250-5109.
For a poster to share within your networks or neighborhoods, please click here.