Sewage Disposal Regulation
The Sewage Disposal Regulation:
- governs the design and construction of septic tanks, holding tanks and other small-scale sewage systems used where is is not possible to connect to a public sewer;
- requires sewage systems to be designed and constructed by a qualified professional; and
- provides for permits for holding tanks; and
The regulation does not apply to sewage disposal systems:
- regulated by Environmental Management Act Municipal Sewage Regulation (generally used for systems built after July 1999 that discharge to surface water, or discharge to the ground at a rate that exceeds 22.7 m3/day),
- permitted under the Waste Management Act (potentially any system, but generally larger, older systems), or
- regulated under a Liquid Waste Management Plan (generally older systems operated by local government; see Local Governments and the Environmental Management Act).
Design and construction of sewage systems
Until 2005, septic systems needed to be approved by Ministry of Health staff. Under the new regulation this responsibility is turned over to private professionals hired by the property owner who is installing a sewage system. A qualified professional will have:
- training in waste water disposal from the BC Onsite Sewage Association, or equivalent credentials, or
- training or experience in soil analysis and sewage system construction or maintenance and be a member of a professional association.
This professional must file a plan for the sewage system with a local health authority before building it, and must provide the health authority with a letter certifying that the sewage system was built in accordance with the plans. The design of the system is supposed to be in accordance with standard practice (defined in part by the Ministry of Health’s Standard Practice Manual), but the professional has discretion in the details.
We find the heavy reliance on private professionals to perform a public function to be troubling. At least one health authority has taken the position that it has no power to question the determinations made by the professional until the septic system is actually operating and causes or threatens health problems, even when they have information clearly indicating that the plan filed with them was based on erroneous information.
The Regulation provides that any person installing a sewage holding tank must have a permit from a medical health officer or public health inspector. The permit will set out requirements for the maintenance of the holding tank.
Related Guide Pages:
- Environmental Management Act Municipal Sewage Regulation
- Local Governments and the Environmental Management Act
- Health Act
For more information on the Sewage Disposal Regulation: