The Building Code Act, 1992 (the Act) and Ontario Building Code (OBC) regulate the design, construction and renovation of treatment systems which are located wholly on the property which they serve having a design sewage capacity of 10,000 litres/day or less. These types of systems generally provide on-site sewage treatment for smaller buildings such as houses, and small businesses and are generally known as Septic Systems.
To assist municipalities in implementing an inspection program, the province released a guideline called On-Site Sewage System Maintenance Inspections- March 2011 as a non-regulatory appendix note to the Building Code. The Schedule to the Town’s Building By-law is based on this guideline and amended to suit the Town of Georgina.
Authority for Inspections
Inspections are undertaken as required under Division C, Article 22.214.171.124. OBC (“Mandatory Programs”).
Sewage system maintenance inspections are intended to determine whether a sewage system is in substantial compliance with the operation and maintenance requirements outlined in Division B, Section 8.9. of the OBC. Section 15.10.1 of the Act sets out the authority for an inspector to enter the land and into buildings at any reasonable time without a warrant for the purpose of conducting a maintenance inspection.
The OBC requires that systems under the Maintenance Inspection Program be inspected every five years from the date of construction or from the date of the most recent maintenance inspection.
Building Division staff will conduct site visits of on-site sewage systems within the mandatory inspection areas. Owners can also be proactive by calling the Building Division to arrange inspections.
Staff will try to provide information packages to educate owners on the purpose of the program and the importance of protecting our drinking water and the waters of Lake Simcoe, including:
- Any applicable fees to be charged;
- Procedural information;
- Whether the Town accepts third‐party certificates as an alternative to conducting an inspection and, if so, requesting owners to notify the Town if they have retained a third party for this purpose;
- Contact information in the Building Division, and
- The legislative authority for the inspection program.
This schedule sets out a progressive audit approach to maintenance inspections for on-site sewage systems, as with most inspections under the Building Code Act, 1992. Under this approach, initial inspections are designed to be non‐intrusive tests and will generally avoid significant disturbance to the system and to the surrounding soil area. Where concerns are identified, more tests may follow.
A Phase I maintenance inspection may be sufficient to establish compliance with Section 8.9. of the Building Code or with the standards enforced under a Discretionary program. A follow‐up Phase II inspection (described below) is required where the Phase I inspection indicates a defect or failure of the system.
The owner of the on-site sewage system is responsible for all costs related to inspections, investigations, tests, reports and other services required to determine the condition of an on-site sewage system.
Inspections generally begin with a review of available material including material collected in the identification phase and reports from previous inspections.
The purpose of Phase I maintenance inspections is to:
- Locate the sewage system’s components;
- Identify any obvious or outward signs of malfunction or failure; and
- Identify systems that are at risk of malfunction or failure.
Phase I maintenance inspections generally avoid significant disturbance to the system and the surrounding soil area. During the course of a Phase I maintenance inspection, the inspector may:
- Make observations of surface conditions and features such as structures, surface drainage, ponding, trees, vegetation, patios, swimming pools, etc.
- Require confirmation of the general nature of the system (class, components, type, layout, etc);
- Require confirmation of the location of the system’s components with respect to wells, surface water, and other environmental features;
- Require confirmation of the size, material and condition of the septic tank, or the holding tank;
- Require confirmation of the frequency of tank pump‐out and the last time the tank was cleaned;
- Require confirmation of any indication of sewage system failure, including evidence of backup of effluent, signs of hydraulic failure (breakout of sewage, wetting conditions in the leaching bed area), condition of surface vegetation, and odour problems;
- The existence of a maintenance agreement for a tertiary treatment system and the date of the latest servicing; and
Give consideration of a report, completed by a qualified third-party contractor hired by the owner, on a Ministry-prescribed form, or other forms as deemed necessary by the Chief Building Official.
Phase II – Follow‐Up Maintenance Inspections
It may be appropriate to undertake more intensive follow‐up maintenance inspections where:
- The Phase I maintenance inspection has identified that the septic system is at risk of future malfunction or failure, or
- The Phase I inspection detected a malfunction or failure but did not reveal the reason (e.g., location or nature) for the malfunction or failure.
For sewage systems utilizing tertiary treatment units, Phase II inspections may also include a review of the following:
- The test results of a new round of effluent sampling (if otherwise required by the Building Code, or by an authorization issued by the BMEC); and
- Operational problems or system malfunction before or, at the time of inspection.
Where used in sewage systems, distribution boxes, dosing tanks and pumps may be required to be uncovered, at the owner’s expense, to be inspected to determine their condition and functionality.
Phase II inspections of on-site sewage systems may also consider the following:
- Soil type and its permeability;
- Additional sources of hydraulic loading (e.g. surface discharge, roof drains);
- Trees and deep-rooting shrubs in the vicinity of the sewage system;
- Require documentation of previous effluent sampling test results where required (i.e., under Article 126.96.36.199. of the Building Code);
- Evaluation of in‐home plumbing and estimates of water usage;
- Conducting a leak diagnostics;
- Conducting a flow trial;
- Conducting a dye tracing test; or
- Excavating a cross-section of the leaching bed.
A Phase I or Phase II inspection may result in an order being issued by the inspector and require remedial work to be undertaken by the owner at the owner’s cost.
The Building Division will maintain documentation in respect of maintenance inspections, including:
- Identification of the property attended;
- Identification of any pertinent information collected as part of the inspection; and
- Deficiencies identified and remedial action required if any.
A copy of the report will be provided to the owner.
If Code violations or signs of possible future problems are detected, then the Inspector will follow up on those matters with the owner. This may involve undertaking some or all of the steps pertaining to Phase II maintenance inspections.
If an Inspector finds that an on-site sewage system is malfunctioning or failing or has malfunctioned or failed, the Inspector will assess the severity of the matter. The Inspector may require additional inspections, investigations, tests, reports or other services at the owner’s cost to determine the condition of an on-site sewage system. The inspector may issue an Order to notify the owner of the problem and provide directions to the owner to correct the deficiency. Where an on-site sewage system is beyond repair, a new system may need to be constructed.
In all cases, the Inspector’s first approach will be to encourage the owner to remedy any deficiencies.
On-site Sewage Systems and Property Sales
The BCA does not require re-inspection of on-site sewage systems upon the sale of a property. Lenders, realtors and lawyers involved in the sale of properties with on-site sewage systems should be knowledgeable about operation and maintenance issues.
Owners and purchasers should determine if there is an on-site sewage system on the property and satisfy themselves that it is working properly. If up-to-date on-site sewage system records are available to potential property buyers (either from the previous owner or on file with the Town), then purchasers should be able to investigate an on-site sewage system’s health further, based on such risk factors as age, previous orders, etc. Based on this investigation and the availability of records, a professional inspection by a contractor retained by a person and at the person’s cost may be appropriate.