Making a septic installation in 7 steps
You are the owner of an isolated dwelling or you foresee becoming one and your project includes the construction or repair of a septic installation. You feel very strongly about your project but when it comes to wastewater, you don’t know where to start!
You have come to the right place!
We suggest a simple procedure consisting of seven steps that will save you both time and money.
But before starting, here are a few recommendations:
Before buying! – Prior to purchasing, verify the possibilities of the site!
All land is not the same when it comes to the installation of a decentralized wastewater treatment system. Before making any decisions, be sure that the land you are considering can accommodate a septic installation.
This step is crucial. It consists of asking the seller for an attestation showing that the site is favourable to the construction of a septic installation. Too much clay in the soil, the existence of a flood zone, not enough land or even the presence of surface rock are all elements likely to hamper the making of a septic installation.
A conscientious real estate promoter will have had land verifications done before starting the housing development. He will be able to give you an example of the results obtained.
In the case of an individual seller, it may be preferable, if no analysis has been done, to include this as a specific condition in the purchase offer or to reach an agreement with him to complete this preliminary study.
Even though this is not a guarantee of the capacity of your future land, it would surely be wise to question neighbourhood owners to find out the nature of the surrounding land and in what way they handle their wastewater.
You have doubts about the proper functioning of your existing installation?
Your installation is outdated, showing signs of age. You are starting to notice certain odours. You have noticed dirty water surfacing around the initial installation or the soil on top of the installation has become spongy and water soaked. It is time to ask a professional to perform a more in-depth inspection of your septic installation.
First of all, the professional will determine, through specific tests, the condition of your system. A smoke test, a flood test, an observation trench and a visual inspection are some of the means that may be used to determine the condition of your existing installation.
Be careful about ignoring the warning signs and putting off until tomorrow that which should be done today. Over time, a deficient installation may contaminate sources of drinking water, swimming or play areas or even your cooking.
Attention: The owner of a septic installation must ensure that the septic tank covers are properly in place at all times. Also, it can be very dangerous to open a septic tank. This job should be left to a qualified person.
If there is nothing more than a minor problem, get it repaired right away.
If, however, the results of the inspection show that your installation has seen better days and that you must replace it, the following steps might be helpful to you:
How to get an decentralized wastewater treatment system in 7 steps
1 – Get a soil analysis
The first step consists of getting, from a qualified professional, a soil analysis and a study of the possibilities and limitations of the land. This study is necessary to precisely determine the type of soil, the hydraulic conditions and the drainage capacity of the site.
Since January 1st 2005, the Ministry of Environment requires that every septic installation permit for an isolated dwelling be accompanied by a characterization study of the site and native soil, done by someone who is a member of a professional order competent in this subject matter. This study must contain the following elements:
- site topography;
- slope of the receiving land;
- the permeability level of the native soil and the methodology used;
- level of rock, underground water and any layer of soil, permeable, slightly permeable or impermeable, beneath the surface of the receiving soil;
- indication of any elements that might influence the location or construction of a wastewater treatment system.
You can find the details concerning the required elements for the permit request by visiting the following website: Wastewater – Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs.
It is important to choose a consultant in whom you have confidence. He will be able to counsel you as to which septic system will be the best fit for the site constraints.
The municipal officers are usually able to give you the names of professionals in your area.
Once you give the contract to the professional of your choice, discuss with him your supply of drinking water. The location of the well will impact that of the septic installation. Also let him know of any physical development plans you may have such as swimming pool, play areas, access roads etc. that may influence the choice of location for the septic installation. Good planning will save you a lot of troubles.
2 – Identify the possible options
According to the site constraints determined by your consultant, ask him to tell you which options are possible for your site. Discuss with him the advantages and inconveniences of each technology offered, whether it be a traditional leaching bed or a certified treatment system.
3 – Choose the best option
To make the choice easier, evaluate each option according to the following criteria:
- the cost of the initial installation;
- the topography of your land and the visual aspect once the septic system is installed;
- the space available for the system ( keeping in mind the required separations; wells 30 m, riverbank 15 m, etc.)
- possible conservation of trees
- the follow-up and maintenance required by the MDDEP and the supplier and the associated costs;
- the follow-up/maintenance terms offered by the supplier or representative;
- use of mechanical parts or media needing periodic replacement and the associated costs;
- the cost of periodic emptying of the system such as the use of a pump truck;
- cost of contaminated material disposal.
4 – Get the plans and estimates
Once your choice is made, inform your consultant or designer so he can prepare the project presentation and the drawings required to obtain the permit Ask for a localization plan to scale showing:
- wells, property lines, lakes, waterways, ponds or marshland, drainage pipes, top of slope, trees, and other elements included in the regulation and which are present on the land and contiguous lots;
- the intended location of each component of the treatment device;
- le niveau d’implantation de chaque composant du dispositif de traitement;
- the implantation level of the leaching bed, classic sand filter, the evacuation field or polishing leaching field with regards to the level of the rock, the underground water or any layer of impermeable or semi permeable soil beneath the surface of the receiving soil.
5 – Obtain a permit
With your file in hand, go to your municipal office and request a permit. With a well prepared file from a competent professional, this step should be no more than a formality.
6 – Choose the installer
It is better to ask for a quote from two or three installers. Ask them to submit a written offer to do the work. Be sure that n the installer to whom you give the job has a license from the Régie du Bâtiment du Québec to build decentralized wastewater treatment systems (license 2.4). You can do this verification or simply find a licensed installer on the RBQ website www.rpe.rbq.gouv.qc.ca. Also verify their experience and whether or not they have had the training put in place to develop their competence in this field. If you have chosen a certified treatment system, check if the installer has had the training given by the suppliers of such technologies.
7 – Give the installation supervision to a professional
The making of a decentralized wastewater treatment systems is maybe not a large construction site, but the quality of the installation is important so that the system functions according to expectations and regulations in force. Giving an installation supervision contract to a competent professional might help you avoid future problems.
As well as verifying that the installation conforms with the plans and regulations the supervisor makes sure that the quality of the materials used and the installation techniques used are such that the system once put in place will be perfectly functional.
If possible, give this contract to the same consultant who prepared your plans and estimates. If something unexpected happens during construction, it will be up to him to make the best decisions, since he knows the site limitations and the hypotheses taken into account when choosing the system and making the plans and estimates.
Ask also for the preparation of a plan showing the final layout of the system. This will be useful during follow-up visits of the system or simply when there is other work you might want to do on the site.
Once the septic installation is in place
Once the installation is completed, it is important to read the user`s guide. Your decentralized wastewater treatment system will provide you precious services, but you must follow certain basic rules to ensure its proper function.
Good luck with your project!