Onsite Sewage Systems

The Ministry of Health provides policy support for land use management, which includes both onsite sewage disposal and subdivision activities. The fundamental goal is to minimize, mitigate and/or prevent potential risks to human health. This is achieved through legislative requirements, supporting policies and guidelines.

In this website and the associated documents: 

  • “Sewage system” (also known as "sewerage system") refers to the system of pipes, pumps and other equipment used for the collection, transport and disposal of wastewater (sewage).

Legislation

The Sewerage System Regulation and Subdivision Regulations are the legislative authority governing onsite sewage and subdivisions, respectively.

In addition, the Transitional Regulation and Organic Matter Recycling Regulation are involved in managing onsite serwage systems. These laws are described in more detail below.

Sewerage System Regulation

The Sewerage System Regulation replaced the old Sewage Disposal Regulation in 2005. The new regulation is outcome based, meaning it allows different approaches to achieving regulatory requirements. This is a change from the old prescriptive approach, and allows for greater flexibility in how sewage systems are regulated. The Sewerage System Regulation was amended in June 2010 to enhance the system of onsite wastewater management in British Columbia. For more information, see Sewerage System Regulation Amendments (PDF, 23KB)

The Sewerage System Regulation covers:

  • Systems that process sewage flow of less than 22,700 litres per day.
  • Single-family systems or duplexes.
  • A combination of sewage systems that addresses different buildings on a single parcel of land.
  • Structures that serve one or more parcels on strata lots or on a shared interest of land.

The regulation requires that:

  • Discharges do not cause or contribute to a health hazard.
  • Authorized persons or homeowners under authorized persons’ supervision can construct and/or maintain Type1 or Type 2 onsite sewage systems. Authorized persons must meet the training and certification requirements set by the Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) before installing and maintaining wastewater systems.
  • Authorized persons must meet the training and certification requirements set by the Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) before installing and maintaining wastewater systems.
  • Sewage systems are designed in accordance with the regulations, including adherence to strict performance standards.
  • The authorized person files applications with the regional health authority for constructing or altering a system.
  • The authorized person establishes maintenance requirements for the system.Ongoing system records are kept, ensuring industry and owner accountability.
  • Ongoing system records are kept, ensuring industry and owner accountability.

Onsite sewage applications must also comply with requirements of the Local Services Act's Subdivision Regulations, the Public Health Act’s Transitional Regulation and any applicable municipal or regional district bylaws.

Larger wastewater systems are addressed by the Ministry of Environment through the Municipal Wastewater Regulation, under the Environmental Management Act.

Subdivision Regulations

Subdivisions are governed under the Subdivision Regulations, pursuant to the Local Services Act. They come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development. Health authorities and the Ministry of Health may get involved with subdivision developments that propose using onsite septic systems, as these systems require a certain amount of land area, potentially impacting the size of the land to be subdivided.

Subdivision applications are submitted to a municipal approving officer, who considers a number of factors, including whether the conditions favour onsite sewage disposal. Health authorities usually provide comments on the suitability of the subdivision parcels for onsite sewage management.

Related Legislation

Transitional Regulation
Section 42 requires that wells be set back at least 100 feet from possible sources of contamination (onsite septic systems should be placed an equivalent distance from any well).

Organic Matter Recycling Regulation
This regulation applies to the construction and operation of composting facilities.

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