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Sewage & Land Control

Sewage System Maintenance

What Are the Different Classifications of Sewage Systems?

Class 1 – A chemical toilet, an incinerating toilet, a recirculating toilet, a self-contained portable toilet and all forms of privy including a portable privy, an earth pit privy, a pail privy, a privy vault and a composting toilet system.

Class 2 – A class 2 sewage system can only be used for the treatment and disposal of greywater (non-human body waste) i.e., kitchen sink wastes, bathtubs, washing machines, etc. This type of system is ONLY adequate to treat small amounts of greywater (less than 1000 litres per day) for premises such as cottages and hunt camps, etc.

Class 3 – a cesspool.

Class 4 – The most common type of sewage system, which is used to service single-family dwellings, multiple units, and commercial premises is Class 4. It is typically composed of a two-compartment septic tank and a leaching bed. The septic tank collects the raw sewage and helps in settling and digestion. The liquids then flow out to the tile bed where they are further treated as they pass through the soil.

Class 5 – a system which requires or uses a holding tank for the retention of hauled sewage at the site where it is produced prior to its collection by a hauled sewage system.

What Are the Required Clearance Distances for Class 1, 2 and 3 Sewage Systems?

  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a well with watertight casing to a depth of at least 6m:
    • 15m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a spring used as a source of potable water or well other than a watertight casing to a depth of at least 6m:
    • 30m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a lake, river, pond, stream, reservoir, or a spring not used as a source of potable water:
    • 15m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a Property Line:
    • 3m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a well with watertight casing to a depth of at least 6m:
    • 10m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a spring used as a source of potable water or well other than a watertight casing to a depth of at least 6m:
    • 15m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a lake, river, pond, stream, reservoir, or a spring not used as a source of potable water:
    • 10m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a Property Line:
    • 3m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a well with watertight casing to a depth of at least 6m:
    • 10m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a spring used as a source of potable water or well other than a watertight casing to a depth of at least 6m:
    • 15m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a lake, river, pond, stream, reservoir, or a spring not used as a source of potable water:
    • 15m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a Property Line:
    • 3m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a well with watertight casing to a depth of at least 6m:
    • 30m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a spring used as a source of potable water or well other than a watertight casing to a depth of at least 6m:
    • 60m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a lake, river, pond, stream, reservoir, or a spring not used as a source of potable water:
    • 15m
  • Minimum horizontal distance in metres from a Property Line:
    • 3m

What Are the Required Clearance Distances for a Class 4 or 5 Sewage System?

  • Structure – 1.5m
  • Well – 15m
  • Lake – 15m
  • Pond – 15m
  • Reservoir – 15m
  • River – 15m
  • Spring – 15m
  • Stream – 15m
  • Property Line – 3m
  • Structure – 5m
  • Well with a watertight casing to a depth of at least 6m – 15m
  • Any other well – 30m
  • Lake – 15m
  • Pond – 15m
  • Reservoir – 15m
  • River – 15m
  • Spring not used as a source of potable water – 15m
  • Stream – 15m
  • Property Line – 3m

What Steps Can I Take to Ensure My Septic System Functions Properly?

A sewage system which has been properly installed, should, with proper care and maintenance provide many years of service. There are, however, some things which individuals need to be aware of which will help the system function properly.

  1. Avoid putting the following into a septic system:
    • Fats, oils and grease
    • Gasoline, antifreeze
    • Varnishes, paints and solvents
    • Caustic drain and harsh cleaners
    • Photographic solutions, bleach, pesticides
    • Nail polish remover
    • Cat box litter
    • Tampons, sanitary napkins, diapers, paper towels, condoms
    • Plastics
    • Coffee grounds, egg shells and other kitchen waste
  2. Direct roof drains, sump water and surface water away from the sewage system.
  3. Discharge water from softeners and iron filters should not be directed into the sewage system unless the system has been designed to accept such discharges.
  4. Water usage in the home should be kept to a minimum. Excessive use, such as doing numerous loads of laundry in one day, could flush solids from the treatment unit (septic tank) into the leaching bed.
  5. There should be no need to use “starters”, “bacterial feeds” or “cleaners”.
  6. The treatment unit should be inspected at regular intervals and pumped out whenever sludge and scum occupy 1/3 of the working capacity of the tank. Because they contain deadly gases, septic tanks should only be inspected by firms specializing in this work.
  7. Vehicular traffic (including snowmobiles) should not be allowed over the leaching bed.
  8. The area over a leaching bed should have a good cover of grass allowing for adequate sunlight and ventilation to be maintained. Avoid planting shrubs and trees over this area.

*For additional information contact your local Municipal Office, Health Unit or Conservation Authority or visit the Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing website.

How Can I Recognize If My Septic System is Having Problems?

Sanitary Sewage in Foundation

This diagram depicts sanitary sewage effluent that is being picked up in the perimeter weeping tile surrounding the house and is being drained into the internal sump pit in the building. This may indicate a break in the pipe between the building and the tank, which would cause the sanitary sewage to leak into the foundation backfill and into the weeping tile.

A cause of sanitary sewage backup into a building is blockage of the pipes in the sanitary sewage system. If the sewage is backing up into the building the septic tank must be opened and examined. If the liquid level in the tank is below the level of the inlet pipe then there is a blockage between the building and the inlet of the tank. A plumbing contractor can remove this type of blockage using a plumbing snake.

Blockage in Outlet PipeIf the level of sanitary sewage in the tank is above the inlet pipe, the blockage is on the outlet side of the tank and may be in the tile bed. A high level of sewage within the tank could also indicate that the entire leaching bed is saturated and that the ground can no longer absorb the liquid.

Diagram of a BioMatThe saturation of a leaching bed is one of the most serious causes of malfunction of a septic system. Saturation occurs when the receiving soil surrounding the leaching bed cannot accept any more effluent. Blockage is usually caused by clogging of the soil by the Biomat which is created under the tile trench.