Using a Responsible Management
Entity (RME) to Manage Tribal Onsite
(Septic) Wastewater Treatment Systems
Given the rural nature of many tribal
communities, septic systems are one of
the more common ways to treat
wastewater in tribal communities. Septic
systems can provide a high level of public
health and natural resource protection if
properly planned, sited, designed, constructed,
operated and maintained. More information
about septic systems in tribal communities,
including the design considerations of septic
systems, can be found at: Tribal
Management of Onsite Wastewater Treatment
Systems, (
Many tribal communities use septic systems
to treat wastewater for their homes and
businesses. Even if a community has a
centralized sewer system, there are often
homes in portions of the community that
are serviced by septic systems.
Proper management of septic systems is
essential and provides significant benefits to
residents and the community at large
Many communities are using a centralized
approach or a Responsible Management
Entity (RME) for oversight and maintenance
of septic systems.
A RME is a public or private entity that will
perform the septic system management
typically done by the homeowner, such as
regularly pumping the system out, and
charging a fee.

Using a RME to Manage Tribal Onsite (Septic) WastewaterTreatment Systems |
Why should Septic Systems be Managed?

Septic systems that are improperly managed do not provide the level of treatment
necessary to adequately protect public health and water quality. Managing septic
systems is important to ensure their performance and reliability. Properly managed
septic systems:
	Save homeowners money as their systems will last longer;
	Protect the property value;
	Keep residents and the community healthy; and
	Protect the environment.
Who manages Septic Systems?
Residents are usually responsible for maintaining their septic system on their property. However,
many are often not aware of the need for routine system maintenance or may wait until there is a
back-up in the house or in the yard before attending to the system. Often, the tribal government
or tribal water / wastewater division will be called to deal with a failing septic system.
EPA has developed Voluntary National Guidelines for Management of Onsite and Clustered
(Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems at
guidance that describe five management models with progressively increasing management
controls. The RME model outlines that the operation and maintenance of septic systems are
conducted by a RME and replaces the management done by the homeowner. Establishing a
RME provides greater assurance of control over the performance of the septic systems.
A RME can be a tribal or non-tribal, private or public entity. A management program can involve,
in varying degrees: regulatory and elected officials, developers, builders, soil and site evaluators,
engineers, designers, contractors, installers, manufacturers, pumpers, haulers, inspectors, and
property owners. Establishing roles and responsibilities for all partners involved is important to
ensure proper system management.
Some larger RMEs that serve multiple customers and communities might be required to follow
the US EPA, or local state, Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class V regulations, more
information at:

( W

RME to Manage Tribal Onsite (Septic) WastewaterTreatment Systems |
How is a RME established?
A RME is a private business or public entity that
A RME is a private business or public entity that provides technical, managerial, and
financial support; some things to consider are:
	Whether or not the RME is a public or private, tribal or non-tribal entity, it should be
defined and recognized by the tribal government. The tribal government may need to
provide oversight of the RME, especially to supervise the rate structures.
	Community engagement when developing the RME services, including rates, is
important to ensure that the public will accept and support the RME.
	Easement or right-of-way entry approval and/or access agreements will likely be
needed from the residents to access septic systems for inspection & pump out.
	RMEs will often need to market their services in order to stay in business.
	The RME will likely need to develop a business plan that will cover service costs. If it
is a private for-profit entity, the plan will likely also need to account for a profit margin.
While ther
plan, a ke
will include:
	Inspections by a professional at least once every three years;
	Recommend tank pumping once every three years;
	Proper waste disposal techniques;
	Septic dain-field care; and
	Fee rate structure for both residential customers and sewerage disposal.
Other aspects include conducting an inventory of septic systems in the community
and ensuring that new systems are properly sited, designed and constructed. See
EPA's SepticSmart Homeowners website at www.epa.QOv/septic.
Developing a septic system management plan will have benefits such as:
	Less frequent urgent calls from residents requesting technical or monetary
assistance for a failing septic system;
	Maintaining the water quality and health of the community and the surrounding
environment, and
	Establishing an organization or working with a licensed septic system
professional with the skills and experience to manage septic systems properly;
What should an RME include in a system management plan?

To contact someone directly at EPA about septic systems
and setting up an RME, see:

Using a RMEto Manage Tribal Onsite (Septic) WastewaterTreatment Systems |
Additional considerations when establishing a RME for Tribal
Non-tribal entities- A RME could be a tribal or non-tribal entity. If there are entities in the
surrounding area that have established services, it may be more appropriate for the
community to use those services. Non-tribal entities may need to have special
agreements with the tribe to address tribal sovereignty concerns.
Sharing equipment: Tribal entities could consider sharing equipment in a cooperative
agreement with nearby communities. A cooperative agreement would allow an entity to
use shared large assets, like septic pump trucks, without having to purchase the
Wastewater disposal: If a tribal entity is the RME and is managing septic system pump
outs within the community, there needs to be a safe and approved disposal location
for the collected sewerage. A tribe that has a lagoon or other wastewater facility could
potentially handle the collected sewerage. Otherwise, the tribe will need to identify a
nearby treatment facility that will accept the materials. The RME should expect the
receiving facility to charge a fee
Rates A RME should establish rates for operation and maintenance services and it
would be good practice to institute follow up practices so that the RME receives
payment. Linking RME service fees with water, gas, cable, internet bills or other
services can help to ensure payment.
Regulations: Developing and incorporating Septic Management Guidelines
( into tribal ordinances or regulations can
be an important step to protect the tribe's drinking water sources and public health.
Enforcement of established management guidelines, such as service schedule, service
payment, and fines, is more likely to happen if septic system regulations have been
Further Information
For more information, visit EPA's Septic System website
(www, epa.QOv/septic) or Indian Health Service's Guide to
Maintaining Septic Systems (
January 2018
EPA Document
No. 830K17003