Septic Re-Inspection Program FAQs

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The Basics

Everything we love about the Highlands is connected to a healthy ecosystem, particularly our many and varied waterways. Our lakes are the headwaters of an entire watershed!

The Township has chosen to be proactive with respect to the protection of the environment not only by inspecting those properties on waterfront, but all properties. After all, here on the rocky Canadian Shield, everything drains to the lakes and/or into the aquafers that feed drinking water wells.

The primary goal of the program is to ensure the health and good working condition of septic systems in order to protect the health of our lakes and landscapes which, in turn, protects you and your loved ones, your property value, and our community’s future.

Identifying and fixing existing or potential problems now will help ensure a healthy environment for generations to come.

All types of septic systems are being inspected. This includes outhouses, composting toilets, cesspools, grey water systems, tanks with tile or filter bed systems, Advanced Treatment Unit systems and holding tanks.

Inspections will be completed between 2018 and 2022. There are more than 4500 systems in the Township so it’s going to take some time!

The program is starting in 2018 in the south, in the geographic township of Stanhope and in the ensuing years, it will move north through the Dorset area and Oxtongue Lake. Click HERE to view the inspection schedule (map).

>WSP Canada Inc. (WSP) is the contractor co-ordinating and doing the septic re-inspection program for the Township.

WSP has worked in the on-site sewage industry for about 30 years. Their credentials include being active members of the Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association (OOWA); being registered designers with Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MMA); and being in good standing with the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO).

WSP’s inspectors hold valid Building Code Identification Numbers (BCIN) from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, allowing them to conduct on-site sewage system inspections. They have extensive experience and have done septic inspection and evaluation work across Ontario. WSP’s inspectors have been appointed by the Township of Algonquin Highlands to conduct the inspections.

The Township is aware that students have been hired to perform above-ground inspections in other jurisdictions however, Council chose to use experienced, trained professionals with industry affiliations and Ministry designations in order for residents to have a more comprehensive and useful lids-off inspection.

Well, we can’t answer that. Council has been discussing a septic re-inspection program since 2015. The discussions have been held in public meetings with agendas that are readily available online, including by subscription.

The discussions have been covered multiple times by Haliburton newspapers and two Haliburton radio stations all of which have multiple forms of online presence including social media. The letter you received is one of two sent to all taxpayers, and the program was highlighted in the Township newsletter in this spring’s Tax Bill.

We welcome input on Council activities so click HERE to subscribe to future Council agendas.

None. The program is cost-recovery, meaning each property with a sewage system is billed directly. The Township will be absorbing the ongoing costs of inspecting any remediated work, billing, collection and municipal record-keeping.

Maybe not. There are two ways you may qualify for an exemption:

  1. If your system was installed within five years of YOUR inspection year, you just need to demonstrate that by sharing your installation paperwork with WSP.
  2. If your system has been inspected a qualified inspector within five years of YOUR inspection year, you just need to demonstrate that by getting your inspector to share their inspection paperwork with WSP. Under the Ontario Building Code, a qualified inspector must possess one of the following:
  • A valid BCIN number for the inspection, installation or design of on-site sewage systems (Part 8 and General Legal Process);
  • A license, certificate of practice or temporary license under the Architects Act; or,
  • A license, or a temporary license under the Professional Engineers Act.

These credentials must be valid during the inspection time window (May-September of YOUR inspection year). If you think you qualify for an exemption, WSP will be happy to discuss next steps and get the forms to you.

These systems will also be inspected.

Examples of advanced treatment unit manufacturers include: Waterloo Biofilter, Norweco, Aquarobic, MicroFAST, EcoFlow, BioNest, etc.

WSP will not inspect the treatment unit itself, but will be inspecting pre-treatment and pumping tanks (if present), as well as the leaching bed.

You will need to show WSP a current Treatment Unit Servicing Agreement when they come to do your inspection.

All classes of septic systems will be inspected if they are still usable. This can include the old outhouse that still has a hole, even if you don’t use it.

If you have an old tank that still has plumbing connected to a building that hasn’t been formally decommissioned (by filling the tank with stones, gravel or concrete) it will also be inspected.

If you have want to decommission an old, unused system, contact the Building Department at 705-489-2379.

The Township’s previous inspection program, done between 2000 and 2005, was a basic, above-ground system check. This inspection program is significantly more comprehensive.

This is possible. Regular re-inspections are an important part of a proactive septic health program. The decision about repeating the program at the end of the five years will be up to the Council at that time.

All systems under 10,000L will be inspected in this program. Those systems of 10,000L or more, including those designated Commercial or Industrial, are under MOECC jurisdiction and will not be inspected by the Township. If you have a concern with any such system, please contact the MOECC.

Fees

There are three (3) possible fees for the Septic Re-Inspection Program:

fee structure image (content of image is included in text following)

  1. After the inspection is completed and the report is mailed to both you and the Township, you will be invoiced $179.11 by the Township.
  2. If you have a Third Party Exemption, that person’s inspection report needs to be reviewed, verified and transcribed into the database by WSP. After the review and confirmation is completed by WSP and the report is mailed to both you and the Township, you will be invoiced $127.20 by the Township.
  3. Additional fees could be incurred if your inspection couldn’t be completed. Examples of why an inspection can’t be completed include:
  • You or your representative wasn’t there during scheduled/assigned time block;
  • The septic tank lid(s) weren’t exposed;
  • Oversized tank lid(s) weren’t removed;
  • Adequate access wasn’t provided;
  • Not enough space was left around the lids to allow for access; or,
  • WSP was not made aware of specialized access restrictions such as boat access only, etc.

If any of the above occur, WSP will notify the Township that your inspection is outstanding/incomplete and a supplemental inspection visit will be required. For each supplemental inspection, an additional fee of $179.11 will be invoiced.

Council opted for cost recovery per property instead of it being part of your taxes because there’s a lot of vacant land in the Township, so only properties with septic systems will be billed.

s well, it’s anticipated that some properties will require multiple visits to complete the inspection, so this way, those costs will be borne by individual property owners rather than everyone else having to pay for it.

As a gentle reminder, the billing will be handled in the same manner as taxes are so outstanding inspection fees will be subject to a penalty at the rate of 1.25% per month after the first ninety (90) days.

About the process

The Ontario Building Code Act permits an inspector to enter on to lands and into buildings at any reasonable time to inspect buildings.

This is a mandatory inspection program. The Ontario Building Code provides the Township the authority to conduct a septic re-inspection program. Council has passed a by-law which makes it mandatory for all septic system more than 5 years old to be inspected.

No. You may choose to retain a different (“Third Party”) inspector to complete your inspection. Under the Ontario Building Code, a qualified inspector must possess one of the following:

  • A valid BCIN number for the inspection, installation or design of on-site sewage systems (Part 8 and General Legal Process);
  • A license, certificate of practice or temporary license under the Architects Act; or,
  • A license, or a temporary license under the Professional Engineers Act.

These credentials need to be valid during the inspection time window (May-September of YOUR inspection year). Your inspector will need to complete a form and submit it to WSP who will then validate the information you provide.

If you believe you qualify for an exemption, call WSP to discuss next steps.

The information collected during the inspection becomes the confidential information of the Township as part of the property information file.

For the duration of the program, the Township will receive an annual summary report outlining the program outcomes. No personal information will be shared in this annual report.

The contents of the inspection report remains between the Township and the property owner.

The Inspector will be looking for signs of maintenance/operational issues (in technical lingo, they’re looking for contraventions of the Ontario Building Code Section 8.9.)

They will also be checking to see how far your system is from surface water features and water supplies (drinking water wells, lakes, rivers, ponds, marshes, etc).

Please note that WSP will not be evaluating design/ installation specifications, just maintenance and operations.

As noted previously, if you have an Advanced Treatment Unit, the WSP Inspector is not authorized to open the unit and as such, the inspection of these systems will be limited to pre-treatment and pumping tank(s), if present, and the leaching bed.

A boat and ATV are available, if needed, to get inspectors to your property. Be sure to let WSP know your property has access challenges as soon as possible.

WSP will work to schedule properties on the same lake during similar time periods so you are invited to coordinate with your neighbours to schedule visits at a similar time.

If specialized directions or access is required (i.e. boat access only, ATV access only, etc.) then WSP must be notified before the inspection.

Scheduling your inspection

You will receive an information package from WSP outlining the whole process. Please note that you won’t get a letter until the year your system is going to be inspected. Click here for the map.

Each inspection will take about one (1) hour but varying conditions and unforeseen circumstances could make that shorter or longer.

It is important that someone is present to assist with any questions and review the results of the inspection.

If you can’t be present, you need to appoint a representative (over the age of 18) to attend for you.

If you or a representative isn’t there at the scheduled time, the inspection will be considered incomplete and will require another visit – and another fee.

It is understood that things come up and plans go awry so if you have to cancel, a minimum of 48 hours’ notice is required to avoid the inspection being considered incomplete. Additional fees will apply for all incomplete inspections.

For the 2018 inspections, you need to book your appointment by June 1, 2018. If this doesn’t happen, WSP will assign an inspection date and time window for your property.

If WSP assigns you an inspection date and time, you’ll receive a Mandatory Inspection Letter notifying you of your assigned inspection.

If you or a representative is unavailable on the assigned date, you need to contact WSP to reschedule the inspection.

Again, it’s understood that things come up and plans go awry so if you have to cancel, a minimum of 48 hours’ notice is required to avoid the inspection being considered incomplete. Additional fees will apply for all incomplete inspections.

Getting ready for your inspection

  1. Wait to receive a letter informing you of your need to schedule an inspection.
  2. Book your inspection
  3. Complete the questionnaire you received in your information package. If you don’t know some of the answers, just do your best but don’t worry, WSP’s inspectors are very experienced so they can help you fill in any gaps.
  4. If you have a Septic Tank and Leaching Bed (a Class 4 system) you’ll need to find your tank lids and uncover them as your inspection date nears.
  5. See this handy chart for other ways you can prepare for your inspection.
Common onsite sewage systems Characteristics of system How to prepare for your inspection
Class 1: Privy, Outhouse Portable privy, outhouse over gravel pit. Ensure structure is vermin-proof and that pit is not exposed at grade
Class 2: Greywater systems Greywater gravel pit, does not receive sanitary waste. Ensure that there are no illegal discharges from the system and the system does not receive sanitary waste
Class 4: Septic Tank and Leaching Bed  Sewage effluent goes from a septic tank to a tile bed or filter bed (i.e. weepers/runs). Tank is typically pumped every 3-5 years to remove accumulated solids.  Expose septic tank lid(s). Most tanks have two (2) chambers and both have an access lid. Expose both prior to inspection.
Class 4: with Advanced Treatment Unit  Similar to a standard Class 4 with additional treatment tank(s) serviced annually; will often include blowers/aeration.  Have a current Treatment Unit Servicing Agreement ready for the inspection.
Class 5: Holding Tank  Tank is pumped frequently (every few weeks) or before it fills. There is no discharge to the environment.  Attain haulage agreement with local contractor and have a copy onsite. Ensure tank is equipped with a high level alarm

Yes. Here’s how this part works:

  • Prior to your inspection, you’ll need to unearth the lid(s) of the septic tank, ensuring you open up enough space for the inspector to use a crowbar to lift the lid off (6-12 inches around the lid is sufficient, a bit more can’t hurt). How far in advance of the inspection you unearth the lids is up to you.

Photo of unearthed septic tank lids Photo: Typical unearthed septic tank lids with sufficient clearance for inspection

  • The inspector will lift the lids on the day of the inspection unless:
    • The lids don’t have built-in handles in which case you’ll have to lift the lids for the inspector; or
    • The lids are bigger than the standard 18” x 18” or weigh more than the standard (approx.) 35 lbs in which case you’ll have to lift the lids for the inspector
  • Most septic/pre-treatment tanks have two lids. Both lids are to be uncovered for the inspection.
  • If the lid(s) are underneath a deck, you have to make them accessible by removing deck boards (or installing an access hatch ahead of time for future easy access).
  • If the lids are buried under grass or a garden then the earth must be removed above the lid(s) and a perimeter created that’s large enough for the inspector to use a crowbar to shift or lift the lid(s) off.
  • If an access port for a holding tank is accessible but the tank lids are under a permanent structure such as a driveway or building then the access port may be suitable for the inspection.

Uncovering the lids is pretty straight forward and no real technical expertise is required, but it can require digging.

If you’re physically unable to do the digging, try the following:

  • A company that does digging work may be able to help – perhaps a landscaping company, a handy man or the company that last pumped your tank;
  • Ask family, friends or a neighbour to help; and
  • Be a good neighbour: if you’re capable of the digging part, please consider helping others who may have challenges.

No, WSP does not require the septic tank to be pumped prior to the inspection but if you’re due for pumping, you could arrange to have that done while you have the lids uncovered – but after the inspection

If you really need to get pumped prior to your inspection, do that no sooner than a month before your inspection; inspectors want to see how tanks are performing, and to do this, tanks need to have sewage in them.

Don’t worry, just let WSP know this when you call for your appointment. They may be able to help find some of this information to guide you.

If you still can’t find your lids after speaking with WSP, chances are the inspector will be able find them when they come for the inspection. If this is the case, you’ll want to be prepared to unearth the lids while the inspector does another part of the inspection.

If you can’t do the digging, you may want to have someone on hand at the time of your inspection who can dig up the lids once they are located.

During the inspection

The inspector will take a look around your property and talk to you about what septic services you have.

They’ll look around your septic area: inside the septic tank and at the septic field; they’ll check the filter if you have one, and they will measure the sludge in the bottom of your tank with a dipping stick.

The inspector will talk with you about what’s working and what isn’t. Feel free to ask questions! They’ll put together a report for you with all the details. A copy of the report will be mailed to you following your inspection. A copy of the report also gets filed with the Township.

Remember, someone needs to be there for the whole inspection, so if you can’t be present, you need to appoint a representative (over the age of 18) to be there for you.

After the inspection

Once your report is filed, you’ll get an invoice from the Township.

If your system is in good order, you’ll receive a certificate from WSP along with a copy of your report.

If your system needs work, you’ll receive a letter outlining the areas that need attention (called the “remedial action letter”) and a timeline for when those repairs should be completed. If any action is required on your part, that follow-up will be done by Township Building and Bylaw staff.

Township staff are available to assist you with finding solutions.

I have more questions

Please contact WSP
By Phone:
Monday – Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm:
1-800-263-7419 Toll free (Canada only)
1-289-984-0432 –Project Direct Number (International and Canada)

By Email:
ah.info@wsp.com

By Mail:
WSP Canada Inc.
126 Don Hillock Drive, Suite 2,
Aurora, ON L4G 6P1
Attn: Algonquin Septic Re-Inspection Team