Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.2 Quality of the Outdoor and Indoor Environment

5.2.7 Sewage and Garbage On-Site Sewage Systems

A sewage system should be provided and inspected in accordance with state and local regulations. Whenever a public sewer is available, the facility should be connected to it. Where public sewers are not available, an on-site sewage system or other method approved by the local public health department should be installed. Raw or treated wastes should not be discharged on the surface of the ground.

The wastewater or septic system drainage field should not be located within the outdoor play area of a child care program, unless the drainage field has been designed by a sanitation engineer with the presence of an outdoor play area in mind and meets the approval of the local health authority.

The exhaust vent from a wastewater or septic system and drainage field should not be located within the children’s outdoor play area.

Sewage must not be allowed to contaminate drinking water or ground water. It must be carried from the facility to a place where sanitary treatment equipment is available. Raw sewage is a health hazard and usually has an offensive odor.

The weight of children or the combined weight of children and playground equipment may cause the drainage field to become compacted, resulting in failure of the system. Some structures are anchored in concrete, which adds weight. The legs of some equipment, such as swing sets, can puncture the surface of drainage fields. In areas where frequent rains are coupled with high water tables, poor drainage, and flooding, the surface of drainage fields often becomes contaminated with untreated sewage.

Whether the presence of an outdoor play area would adversely affect the operation of an on-site sewage system will depend on the type of playground equipment and method of anchoring, the type of resilient surface placed beneath playground equipment to reduce injury from falls, the soil type where the field would be placed (some soils are more compactable than others), the type of ground cover present (a cover of good grass underlain by a good sandy layer is much better than packed clay or some impermeable or slowly impermeable surface layer), and the design of the drainage field itself. Septic systems are now most commonly called “on-site sewage systems” or “on-site systems” because they treat and dispose of household wastewater on the household’s own property (1).

Staff should consult with the local public health department regarding sewage storage and disposal. The national/international organization representing on-site wastewater/sewage interests is the National On-Site Wastewater Recycling Association, Inc. (NOWRA).

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
  1. National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA). Homeowner’s onsite system guide and record keeping folder.