Septic Systems

In October 2011 The Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) amended to add “use” and “Operate” to the list of activities for which an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) is required.

All equipment/works subject to EPA and OWRA now require approval regardless of when they were installed. This removed the “grandfathering” status for sewage works that were in place prior to the requirement for the ministry approval to construct.

The impacts of these amendments, due to no phase in period resulted in owners of “grandfathered” works being out of compliance immediately.

Many small businesses and Tourist operators across the province are now uncertain how their septic systems are classified and under whose jurisdiction they fall. The following information will provide some guidance as to whether you are in compliance.

Do you have unapproved sewage works on your sites that require approval from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change?

Here is some information that will help you determine your answer:

Sewage works generally require approval from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) if they:

  • Discharge to surface water or the ground surface;
  • Have a design capacity in excess of 10,000 litres per day;
  • More than one sewage works is located on a lot or parcel of land and they have, in total, a design capacity in excess of 10,000 litres per day; or
  • The sewage works is not located wholly within the boundaries of the lot or parcel of land as the building or facility served by the works (regardless of design capacity).

In the 1970s, the responsibility for overseeing the installation of sewage systems was transferred from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Environment. Afterwards, regulations governing private sewage systems were then transferred from the Ministry of Environment to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and subsequently incorporated into the Ontario Building Code (OBC – 1997).

If the sewage works on your property has a design capacity less than 10,000 litres per day this system very likely will be under the Ontario Building Code (OBC-1997) and inspection and approvals will be under a designated sewage approval Authority.

List of Sewage Approval Authorities across Northern Ontario are:

Some Useful Links to Resource Material on Environmental Compliance: