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On-Site Sewage System Maintenance Inspection Program

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Building and Development Branch, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

The Building Code Act, 1992 (the Act) and Building Code (Ontario Regulation 332/12) regulate the construction, operation, and maintenance of on-site sewage systems which are located wholly on the property which they serve and have a daily sewage design capacity of 10,000 litres/day or less. Such systems typically provide treatment for smaller buildings such as houses, cottages and small businesses.

Generally, enforcement of sewage system provisions of the Act and Building Code is carried out by the local municipality.  In unorganized territories and some municipalities, authority for enforcement is prescribed in Section 1.7. of Division C of the Building Code and assigned to a board of health or conservation authority [Sections 3 and 3.1 of the Building Code Act, 1992].

Local municipalities may, through an agreement, give responsibility for enforcing the sewage system provisions of the Act and Building Code to a Board of Health, a Conservation Authority, or an upper-tier municipality [Section 6.2 of the Building Code Act, 1992].

Principal Authority is the term given to the body that is responsible for the enforcement of provisions related to sewage systems (including maintenance inspections). 

Principal Authorities have certain powers under the Act, including:

  • issuing building permits for sewage systems at the time of construction, alteration and repair;
  • collecting permit fees, conducting inspections, and ordering tests.

Principal Authorities, can, under the Building Code, establish a discretionary on-site sewage system maintenance inspection program in its area of jurisdiction.  If a discretionary maintenance inspection program is established, it applies to all sewage systems in the area affected by the program, and an inspector of the Principal Authority shall inspect all sewage systems affected by the program for compliance with the Building Code standards for maintenance and operation of sewage systems. 

However, for certain areas that have sensitive water areas, the Building Code establishes and governs mandatory on-site sewage system maintenance inspection programs.  The administration and enforcement of these mandatory maintenance inspection programs also lies with the Principal Authority responsible for enforcing the sewage system requirements of the Act and Building Code.

The Act specifies that where a board of health, a conservation authority or an upper-tier municipality is responsible for enforcement of the on-site sewage system requirements of the Act and Building Code (either through an agreement with the local municipality, or in a prescribed area), that body is responsible for enforcing all of the Act and Building Code provisions related to sewage systems, including the maintenance inspection programs.

Subsections 3.1.(5) and 6.2.(5) of the Act provide that where a board of health, a conservation authority or an upper-tier municipality has appointed sewage system inspectors, the chief building official and building inspectors appointed by the local municipality under section 3 of the Act shall not exercise their powers under the Act with respect to sewage systems.  This would include administering or enforcing mandatory or discretionary on-site sewage system maintenance inspection programs.

Where a maintenance inspection program is in place, Principal Authorities have the option of accepting certificates of inspection from the property owner.  The certificate must:

  • be in the form approved by the minister
  • be signed by a person listed in Sentence 1.10.1.3.(3) of Division C of the Building Code who is not in a conflict of interest as specified in the Code
  • confirm that the person who signs the certificate has inspected the system and is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the system complies with the standards prescribed in the Code

Who is responsible for establishing and conducting mandatory and discretionary on-site sewage system maintenance inspection programs?

Under the Building Code Act, 1992, a municipality, a Board of Health or a Conservation Authority (defined as a Principal Authority) that has been given responsibility for issuing building permits and inspecting new sewage systems within its jurisdiction is also responsible for establishing and enforcing mandatory and discretionary maintenance inspection programs. 

What powers do sewage systems inspectors qualified under Section 3.1 of Division C of the Building Code and employed by the Principal Authority have to conduct maintenance inspections of on-site sewage systems?

Building inspectors may:

  • carry out sewage system maintenance inspections
  • sign inspection reports
  • issue orders (including unsafe orders and emergency orders to remediate dangerous situations)
  • enter a property to conduct an inspection

Principal Authorities may accept from the property owner an inspection certificate prepared by an independent authorized person, in place of an inspection by the Principal Authority. 

Further Information:

  • Section 3. (Enforcement by Municipalities) of the Building Code Act, 1992
  • Section 3.1. (Enforcement, Boards of Health) of the Building Code Act, 1992
  • Section 6.2. (Agreement re Sewage Systems) of the Building Code Act, 1992
  • Section 1.7. (Enforcement of the Provisions of the Act and Building Code Related to Sewage Systems) of Division C of the Building Code (O. Reg. 332/12)
  • Section 1.10. (Sewage System Maintenance Inspection Programs) of Division C of the Building Code (O. Reg. 332/12)
  • Subsection 3.1.4. (Inspectors) of Division C of the Building Code (O. Reg. 332/12)
  • Online at www.ontario.ca/buildingcode
  • http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Asset9158.aspx?method=1

DISCLAIMER: This document is provided for convenience only and does not constitute legal advice.  It is not intended to replace the Building Code Act, 1992 (the "Act") or the Building Code and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.  If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel or the principal authority (i.e. municipality, board of health or conservation authority) responsible for enforcement of the particular provisions of the Act and the Code in your area.