Monitoring Septic Systems

A mandatory septic inspection program would be helpful to our lake protection efforts.  It would also protect ground water, particularly in the parts of the Township on Limestone.  Pollution from septic tanks contaminated many wells in Sydenham and ground water nitrates, possibly from septics, are a concern in Hartington.

Council, through the Corporate Services Committee, has been considering a septic inspection programs. Numerous Townships, including, Tay Valley, Huron-Kinross, North Grenville and Springwater, have already enacted some sort of mandatory inspection.  I am sure there are many more but those were easily found in a google search.

The following text is from a report on the Huron-Kinross program.  It outlines some of the legal considerations when setting up a program.  I have followed that with a proposed amendment to the building code which would make septic pumping mandatory: also, something our township is considering.

From the Huron-Kinross Township report:

“1.1        PROGRAM INITIATION 

The Ontario Building Code Act (1992) and Building Code (Ontario Regulation 350/06) regulate the design, construction and renovation of on-site, private wastewater treatment systems with design capacities of less than 10,000 litres/day. ….

To address surface and groundwater quality and concerns regarding the potential of impacts from septic systems…..It was determined that Section 15 of the Building Code Act, gives building officials and inspectors the authority to enter onto private property for the  purposes of inspecting a building or sewage system to determine whether the building or sewage system is unsafe. Relating specifically to sewage systems, Section 15.9 (3) of the Building Code Act states: “a sewage system is unsafe if it is not maintained or operated in accordance with the Act and the building code”. From these requirements of the Building Code, it was determined a septic system inspection program could be instituted to identify whether systems in the Township are being properly maintained and operated.

…….it was estimated that there were approximately 2,700 septic systems in the municipality and that it would take 8 to 9 years to complete inspections for every system. A program was designed with an approach based on first inspecting systems in high risk areas, as determined by local environmental conditions (e.g. soil types, proximity to surface or groundwater) and the suspected relative age of the systems.

……From the authority given by the Building Code, the Township passed By-law 2007-33 on April 16, 2007, implementing a sewage system re-inspection program (the Huron-Kinross Community Septic (HKCSI) program) across the entire municipality. The by-law states the intent of the program is to “identify and resolve hazards associated with malfunctioning sewage systems” and to raise awareness and provide education regarding proper maintenance and operation of sewage systems. Additionally, the long-term goals of monitoring sewage systems and preventing surface and groundwater contamination are outlined in the bylaw.

Funding for the program is based on a user-pay system. In 2007, the cost of an inspection was estimated at $430 per property with a septic system. To reduce the financial impact to property owners, the cost of the inspection was charged as a flat rate of $55 per year, per property on the tax bill. The fee structure and application of fees, as authorized by Section 391 of the Municipal Act, S.O. 2001, is also included in the implementation by-law.

Failure to participate in the program may result in an Order for an inspection issued against the property. The Township can also place a lien on the property to recover costs associated with issuing an order. Given that sewage systems are considered structure, under Sentence 15.10.1(2) of the Building Code, an order can be made if the inspector is not permitted to conduct the maintenance inspection as denying permission would be considered a contravention of the Act.

The following is a proposed amendment to the building code that would mandate pumping of septic sewage systems:

“ PROPOSED CHANGE TO THE 2012 BUILDING CODE

REG. 332/12 AS AMENDED

DESCRIPTION OF THE PROPOSED AMENDMENT

The proposed change requires regular pumping out of septic tanks and keeping of the septic tanks and treatment units’ maintenance records.

EXISTING 2012 BUILDING CODE PROVISION(S)

8.9.3. Maintenance

8.9.3.4. Class 4 Sewage Systems

(l) Septic tanks and other treatment units shall be cleaned whenever sludge and scum occupy one-third of the working

capacity of the tank.

PROPOSED CODE CHANGE

8.9.3. Maintenance

8.9.3.4. Class 4 Sewage Systems

(l) Septic tanks and other treatment units shall be cleaned whenever sludge and scum occupy one-third of the working capacity of the tank or every within five years of the last pump out, whichever occurs first. .

(2) The records of septic tanks and treatment units cleaning as required by Sentences ( 1 ) shall be kept by the operator of the sewage system for submission to the chief building official upon request.

RATIONALE FOR CHANGE

Problem/General Background

The proponent requested the change to strengthen the maintenance requirements of septic systems through regular pump outs and to require record keeping thereof to help ensure compliance with the code requirements.

Conventional systems need to be maintained regularly. Current Code requirements do not include regular/periodic pump outs of septic tanks. The proposed requirement will make it mandatory to pump out septic tanks on a periodic basis and to keep the maintenance records of the pump out.

For anyone interested, sending a letter to the provincial political parties supporting this change would help.

About Ross Sutherland

nurse, researcher, public health care activist, councillor South Frontenac Township
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One Response to Monitoring Septic Systems

  1. Pingback: Fire and Water | Ross Sutherland, Councillor, South Frontenac

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