On January 4, 2008, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a letter  that determined that a public health hazard* is being created in the region by continued use of conventional onsite wastewater treatment systems. The DEQ states that potential solutions to this public health hazard may include a variety of approaches ranging from onsite wastewater treatment systems to expanded or new sewer systems.

*OAR 660-011-0060 Sewer Service on Rural Lands: (1) As used in this rule, unless the context requires otherwise: (d) "Public health hazard" means a condition whereby it is probable that the public is exposed to disease-caused physical suffering or illness due to the presence of inadequately treated sewage;


The creation of new or the expansion of existing sewer systems outside an urban growth boundary or unincorporated community (rural areas) is governed by administrative rules (OAR 660-011-0060, Sewer Service to Rural Lands) implementing Statewide Land Use Planning Goal 11 adopted by the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC). The rule defines any wastewater treatment system that serves more than one lot or parcel as a sewer system.

Two processes for creating or expanding sewers in rural areas could apply to the south Deschutes County region:

  1. OAR 660-011-0060(4) through (7), when DEQ determines that a public health hazard exists and that there is no practicable alternative to sewer (the problem cannot be solved using onsite systems), and
  2. OAR 660-011-0060(9) and OAR 660, division 4, when an exception to Goal 11 is adopted and there is an imminent health hazard for which there is no practicable alternative to sewer. **

The information provided below is intended to assist landowners interested in pursuing sewer under the first process identified above.  Technical information must be compiled and submitted to DEQ to support the specific determination for a parcel, lot or a group of lots of parcels that there is “no practicable alternative to a sewer system” (OAR 660‑011-0060(1)(c)) in order to abate the public health hazard pursuant to OAR 660‑011‑0060(4)(a)(D).  If this determination can be made by the DEQ, the information compiled and submitted will be used to support the comprehensive plan and zoning code amendments needed to complete the remaining conditions required under OAR 660‑011‑0060(4)(b).

**Deschutes County, in cooperation with DLCD and DEQ, is also investigating the possibility of a reasons-based exception to Goal 11 which may allow flexibility of individual advanced treatment on-site septic systems, multi-residential "clustered" advanced treatment systems or centralized sewer collection service in southern Deschutes County.