Septic Systems – OVERVIEW

Most of Ontario’s waterfront property owners rely on on-site wastewater treatment systems to manage our household water. Understanding how our systems work and the importance of maintaining them is important to protect our lakes and rivers from contaminants. View the links below for more information.

September 2022 – NEW Septic Smart Brochure (PDF, 5 MB) – FOCA has worked with our industry partners over the past several years to update the popular Septic Smart brochure for homeowners living with an onsite wastewater system. We are very pleased to announce the release of the revised brochure, and encourage everyone to read it.

September 19, 2022 – Our partners at the Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association (OOWA) have been marking Septic Awareness Week with the release of a variety of homeowner resources, including a 5-minute video overview of Do’s and Don’ts for septic systems, and a longer webinar that provides more detail about the parts, positioning, and maintenance septic systems.

March 2022 – The Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association (OOWA) has released a new video for homeowners, addressing the basics of how a septic system functions, as well as best management practices:

February 2022 – WEBINAR: Septic Systems in Ontario. FOCA and Make-Way Environmental Technologies held a “Lunch and Learn” about septic systems for homeowners, including an overview of the types of systems permitted in Ontario, and creative solutions for difficult sites. The event also included a brief discussion of rainwater harvesting solutions, and the final half hour was devoted to Q&A. You can watch the recording at no charge, thanks to the event sponsor Make-Way Environmental Technologies, certified installers of the Enviro-Septic system.

January 2022 – the Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association (OOWA) has reported that the Canadian Standards Association has updated standards to require mandatory safety screens to improve the safety of septic tank and holding tank access ports with access openings over 8 inches (200 mm) diameter that are brought to the surface. OOWA reports that the regulatory process has not yet been clarified, and questions such as “will this apply retroactively to existing septic systems?” remain to be answered. More will be discussed at the upcoming OOWA annual Conference in late February 2022. FOCA remains in contact with the industry experts at OOWA, and will bring our members updates as they become available. (image: courtesy OOWA)

August 2019 – Septic Re-inspection Report released – FOCA has created a 37-page report and infographic as the culmination of a two-year project with university, industry and organizational partners to explore successes, challenges and lessons learned from a review of existing Ontario municipal re-inspection programs for residential on-site wastewater systems. The FOCA report explores the state of sewage systems across rural Ontario, including representative statistics, provides an overview of the septic re-inspection process and 4 detailed municipal case studies.

Click here to view the Infographic (pdf, 1 page)

Download the full report by clicking here (pdf, 37 pages, 9MB), or you can contact the office for a digital copy of the report by email.

Other News:

March 2022 – Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) comments to the Township of Muskoka Lakes on Proposed Septic System Inspection Program (as reported in MLA News Bites)

May 28, 2021 – Highlands East supporting enhanced septic inspections (Haliburton Echo)

December 2020 – Should you use septic tank additives? Get advice from the industry experts at OOWA.

November 2019 – There are approximately 1.2 million residential on-site wastewater treatment systems in use in Ontario. A quarter of these are located directly adjacent to the lakes and rivers of the Great Lakes Basin. This recorded webinar, hosted by the Canadian Environmental Law Association, is an overview of the project by FOCA and partners to explore successes, challenges & lessons learned from existing municipal septic re-inspection programs across Ontario, and a review of the legal context for managing rural wastewater.

March 2018 – FOCA has released a video about Cottage Country Septic Systems, including an overview about the parts of a septic system, maintenance tips, signs of trouble and more! Scroll down this webpage to view the video, or click here:

Also, watch video of Rick Esselment of OOWA speaking at the June 2018 Hastings Highlands event, Poop Talk & Aliens, on the subject of Septic Systems: the good, the bad and the ugly (video, 1 hour). This video was made possible by a cooperative effort of Hastings Highlands Council and Interlake Group.

Septic System Resources:

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Need an onsite wastewater expert? Visit the Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association’s “Find an Expert” search tool.

UPDATE:  To FOCA’s great disappointment, and despite a compelling case laid out for a better maintenance regime for on-site sewage systems made through the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (see “Feb. 23” below), both the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), and the Ministry of Housing (MMAH) have stuck to the status quo.

In the MOECC response, they countered that high priority risks from sewage were already being addressed through the Clean Water Act (which only considers municipal drinking water sources) and that, through the existing Building Code, local municipalities were empowered to undertake further measures. In reality, this happens unevenly, with poorly understood results.

The MMAH response referenced the fact that the OBC Part 8 had just recently (2016-17) been reviewed by a technical committee, and they reiterated that during this review they made a political decision NOT to mandate a tank pump out. They also took no interest in any related provisions such as requiring record-keeping or other maintenance obligations.

Continued: February 23, 2018 – Having long been concerned about the inadequacy of the Ontario Building Code to deal with Maintenance and Management of onsite sewage systems (septic systems), FOCA, along with the Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association (OOWA) has filed a Request for Review with the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.

July 2017 – No mandatory pump outs, inspections being included in the revised (2019) Ontario Building Code.  “The Ministry will not be moving forward with the proposals put forth in Phase One of the Building Code consultation which would have required regular inspections, pumping out of septic tanks and keeping of the septic tanks and treatment units’ maintenance records .” For a more complete description of the background and the process to make this decision, please see this article in the Summer 2017 edition of the OOWA magazine. (PDF, 1 page)

Michelle LewinSeptic Systems – OVERVIEW