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Care and Maintenance of a Sewage Disposal System [Important notice]

With proper care and maintenance, a septic tank and tile bed should provide many years of trouble-free service. There are, however, some important steps to follow to help you maintain the proper operations of your sewage disposal system.

The purpose of a septic system (subsurface sewage disposal system) is to dispose of the water generated by the occupants of a home. Soils on the property can then disperse without causing an adverse effect on the ground water, the environment and public health.

The septic tank in a residential sewage disposal system should be inspected at least once in each two (2) year period for sludge buildup. The tank should be pumped by a licensed septic tank pumping contractor when necessary. Under normal use a septic tank should have its contents removed every two (2) or three (3) years. Failure to pump out a septic tank may result in premature malfunction of the leaching bed. Soils will become clogged by sludge or scum, which will result in breakout of sewage to the ground surface, or sewage backup into the plumbing fixtures of the dwelling.

The final grade over the leaching bed should not be altered after it has been installed and inspected.

The leaching bed must either be sodded or seeded immediately after installation. Shrubs, trees or gardens should not be established over the leaching bed.

Discharge from roof drains, sump pumps, water softeners or high-energy furnaces must not be directed either into or over a sewage disposal system. Lawn irrigation systems must not be installed within the primary and reserve leaching bed areas, or on adjacent areas, which may have a negative impact on operation and effectiveness of the primary, and reserve leaching bed area.

Use of excessive amounts of water in a short time period may result in a disruption of the septic tank treatment process. As a consequence of this, sewage solids could be flushed directly into the leaching bed. You may wish to consider the following water use reduction practices:

• Install water saving shower-heads, sink aerators, suds savers on washing machines, low flush toilets.

• Laundry washing machines and dishwashers should be used when full loads are to be washed. It is recommended that repeated loads of laundry be extended over a period of many hours or days.

• Do not run water continuously when shaving, brushing teeth, rinsing dishes or vegetables.

• A container of drinking water in the refrigerator prevents the need to run the water faucet continuously for a cold drink.

• The installation of garbage grinders, large volume hot tubs or spas is not recommended unless the sewage system has been sized to accommodate their use.

• The use of biodegradable products is highly recommended. Disposal of non-biodegradable products is highly recommended. Disposal of non-biodegradable products such as condoms, feminine hygiene products, plastics, dental floss, etc. through the plumbing is strongly discouraged.


Information Notice for the Septic System Owner [top]

The waste pumped from your septic tank is usually land applied to a site approved by the Ministry of the Environment, or taken to a lagoon or a municipal wastewater treatment plant.

In the proposed Nutrient Management Act, the Province of Ontario plans to phase-out the land application of untreated septage.

The Ministry of the Environment is presently working on a strategy for implementing this phase-out. This strategy must define the method of treating septage as well as determine who will be responsible for constructing and maintaining these treatment facilities.

The Ministry is looking toward municipalities to ensure that treatment facilities are available, probably through municipal wastewater treatment plants. It has been estimated that, if septage is treated in a wastewater treatment facility, the cost for pumping a household septic tank may reach $500. Treating septage in a conventional wastewater treatment plant is very expensive and other options should be considered.

There are many new technologies specifically designed for septage treatment. The Ministry of the Environment needs to explore other, more cost-effective and environmentally sound, methods of septage treatment.

There is the possibility that municipalities may choose to tender out the pumping of septic tanks to larger companies. This could involve mandatory, regular pump-outs and the fees would be added to your tax bill (similar to garbage collection). If this happens, pump-out services could be monopolized and the charges substantially increased. Servicing and emergency calls could be conducted at the convenience of the large corporation and not the homeowner.

Please contact you MPP as well as your local municipality (or municipal council). Request that a cost-effective, environmentally sound method of sewage treatment be established; one that ensures your local septage hauler can continue to provide you with reliable service at a competitive cost.