Development of Potential Technical Standards for Reinspection of On-site Sewage Systems

Lead Researcher: Doug Joy -
Prepared for: Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing
Partners: Rideau Valley Conservation Authority

In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to on-site systems and their possible role in contributing to ground and surface water contamination. This is particularly true in Ontario since the events in Walkerton. Prior to that and especially since then a number of provincial enquiries (Sewell Commission, Walkerton Enquiry) and expert committees (Implementation Committee and the Technical Experts Committee) have recommended the consideration of some form of reinspection of on-site systems to ensure that these systems continue to operate properly and protect water resources and human health.

Provincially, there is currently no requirement for reinspection of on-site systems beyond initial installation inspections. However, in the past decade twenty-three municipalities have initiated their own reinspection programs to ensure they are protecting public health and the environment. Additionally, new legislation (Bill 43) has recently been introduced to facilitate the expansion and financing of these programs at the municipal level.

As part of this study, sixteen municipalities were surveyed to help describe the range of existing reinspection programs across the province and the degree of their acceptance and success. A number of recommendations were made regarding the nature and extent of potential reinspection programs based on the literature and the experiences in Ontario municipalities. A key recommendation is as follows:

• reinspection of any on-site system should focus on making sure that the current operation of the system protects human health and the environment and not whether the system meets the code of the day
• programs should include tank pumping as part of the initial reinspection, where possible
• the existing system of contract staff for the reinspection is sufficient and that opportunities may exist to advantageously involve other parts of the on-site industry (e.g. septage haulers) in regional reinspection programs.