STEP System Information

What Are STEP Systems

STEP alarm boxMost customers' household waste goes directly into our sewer collection pipes. Waste from customers on STEP (Septic Tank Effluent Pump) systems does not.

Instead, household wastewater spends time in a STEP sewer system before heading out to the main sewer collection lines. There is a "STEP in-between" flushing your toilet and wastewater being transported to the treatment plant.

STEP systems includes a holding tank for sewage, a screen chamber, and a small pressure pump within the tank. The liquid waste is pumped through a small pressure line into sewer lines leading to the LOTT Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The STEP system pump is controlled by a system of floats within your tank. The electrical box mounted on the side of your house controls the floats and pumps. The floats activate an alarm in the electrical (alarm) box when the fluid level in the tank gets too high or too low.

Periodically (approximately every seven years), the City pumps out the holding tank sewage.


When Your STEP Alarm Sounds

  1. Silence the alarm
    Locate the alarm box on the exterior of your home and push the red button to silence the alarm. The red light will stay on as long as there is an alarm condition.
  2. Call 360.753.8333 to report the alarm 24 hours a day*
    *Unless your alarm went off following a power outage or the light is on after the system has been serviced. See below.
  3. Conserve Water
    STEP systems have small storage capacity. Curtail water use to prevent overflow of the holding tank and your home's plumbing system.

It is likely that your STEP alarm will sound after power has returned following an outage. If this happens, you only need to silence the alarm. You DO NOT need to call the City unless your tank is overflowing or the alarm light stays on for more than 6 hours.

See "Steps to Follow During and After a Power Outage" below for more information.

The alarm light being on after servicing is normal
When the City comes out and services your system, your alarm light may stay on. The light will stay on until the tank level is high enough to trigger the pump to start. This may take 2 - 14 days.


Important Information For Homeowners with STEP Systems


This helps us locate your system quickly in an emergency situation. A hidden or inaccessible lid means that your STEP system cannot be serviced.

  • You must maintain a 2-foot clearance around the tank lid and it must NOT be covered by sod, shrubs, or bark.
  • You can place items weighing less than 30 pounds, (e.g., birdbath, potted plant, or other yard decoration) on the lid, as long as they can be easily removed for maintenance.
  • It is possible that major landscaping items, e.g., shrubs and trees that obstruct access to the tank lids may be damaged during the performance of operation and maintenance activities. In accordance with the STEP system easement, the owner waives any claim against the City for damage to said items in the case where work by the City is done in a reasonable manner.

  • You must maintain a a 3-foot clearance around and in front of the electrical (alarm) box. This means no shrubs or fences can block the box. This allows technicians to access the box to perform routine and emergency maintenance.
  • When putting up a new fence, please make sure your alarm box is located in front of your fence line. If your alarm box is located behind a fence, we cannot perform maintenance unless you are home.

Disposal of the following items, either via a drain or toilet can block your STEP System.*

  • Disposable diapers
  • Egg shells, nutshells, and coffee grounds
  • Sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms, or any non-organic material
  • Paper towels or rags
  • Hair
  • Dental floss
  • Food items containing seeds and peelings
  • Fats, oils, and greases
  • Limit or eliminate your use of a garbage disposal. Instead, consider composting your food waste items.

*Routine maintenance of a STEP system is the City's responsibility. But if extra maintenance or cleaning is required due to disposal of inappropriate materials, the maintenance costs may be billed directly to the property owner or resident.

  1. Call Puget Sound Energy external link to report your outage at 1.888.225.5773
  2. Conserve water!
    Your STEP system has small storage capacity. Without electricity, you can expect your tank to fill within one or two days. It is, important that you take immediate actions to limit your water use.
  3. Silence your alarm after power is restored
    Push the red button on your alarm box to silence the alarm. Note that it can take 3-4 for the system to pump down enough for the light to go off. You DO NOT need to call the City* unless your tank is overflowing or the alarm light stays on for more than 6 hours. If your tank is overflowing or your alarm light has been on for more than 6 hours, call 360.753.8333, 24 hours a day.
  4. Wait at least 30 minutes before returning to normal water use
    This will give your system time to pump down.

  • Repairing and maintaining the STEP system tank, electrical (alarm) box, and outlet lines from the tank
  • Checking the system and sludge levels in the tank and when necessary, sludge removal
  • Periodically checking and removing the sludge in the tank (approximately every seven years)

  • Repairing and maintaining the home plumbing and sewer line from the house to the STEP system tank
  • Damages to the home or STEP system that occur due to the City's inability to access the STEP system (e.g., electrical box behind a fence)
  • Providing electricity for the pump and controls
  • Calling to report an alarm, and minimizing water use during an emergency
  • Eliminating the disposal of improper material into the STEP system*

*Routine maintenance of a STEP system is the City's responsibility. But if extra maintenance or cleaning is required due to disposal of inappropriate materials, the maintenance costs may be billed directly to the property owner or resident.


Questions?

For general STEP information call 360.753.8562 or email publicworks@ci.olympia.wa.us

To report an alarm 24 hours a day call 360.753.8333