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BCC Ruling No. 00-32-764

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #00-32-764

IN THE MATTER OF Subsection 24 (1) of the Building Code Act, 1992.

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 8.6.2.2. of Regulation 403, as amended by O. Reg. 22/98, 102/98, 122/98, 152/99, 278/99, 593/99, 597/99 and 205/00 (the "Ontario Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Rick Patterson, owner, Petrolia, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Bob Hexter, Chief Building Official, County of Lambton, Ontario, to determine whether the as-built sewage system consisting of two consecutive 4,500 L septic tanks equipped with an effluent filter (and offered as primary and secondary treatment units) and an in-ground disposal bed at R.R. # 1 Petrolia, 5072 Petrolia Line, Petrolia, Ontario provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 8.6.2.2. of the Ontario Building Code.

APPLICANT

Mr. Rick Patterson, Owner

5072 Petrolia Line

Petrolia, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Mr. Bob Hexter

Chief Building Official

County of Lambton

PANEL

Mr. Bryan Whitehad, Vice-Chair

Mr. Frank Wright

Mr. Bill Fellner

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING

July 13, 2000

DATE OF RULING

July 13, 2000

APPEARANCES

Mr. Rick Patterson, Owner

5072 Petrolia Line

Petrolia, Ontario

The Applicant

Mr. Mark Wettering

Junior Planner

County of Lambton

Designate for the Respondent

RULING

1. The Applicant

Mr. Rick Patterson, owner, 5072 Petrolia Line, Ontario, has received an order to comply under the Building Code Act, 1992 to remedy the deficiency of the septic system installed at R.R. # 1 Petrolia, 5072 Petrolia Line, Petrolia, Ontario.

2. Description of Construction

The Applicant has constructed a sewage system with a Class 4 disposal bed to serve a newly built Group C - residential occupancy. The building is described as a single detached dwelling unit containing three bedrooms and 18 fixture units with a finished area of 192 m2. The calculated daily design sewage flow is 1600 litres and the building is served by municipal water supply.

In 1997, the Applicant was issued a certificate of approval under the Environmental Protection Act to install a fully raised leaching bed system. To avoid the installation of a raised bed disposal system, the Applicant used a holding tank until he was required to install an approved system in 1998. This coincided with the transfer of septic regulations to the Ontario Building Code which allowed installation of shallow buried trench systems in soils with a percolation time of less than 125 min/cm. The Applicant then installed an in-ground sewage system designed by himself.

The as-built septic system is described as containing two 4500 L concrete septic tanks and a disposal bed covering an area of 160 m2. The septic tanks have been installed in series and each of them is equipped with an effluent filter attached to their outlets. The effluent from the second tank is discharged to the disposal bed for final disposal. The disposal bed consists of six 21-metre runs. Each of the runs measures approximately 105 mm in width and 900 mm in depth. The runs have been filled with a layer of dunganon drainage stone (87 mm in size) to a depth of 462 mm to 513 mm, and are capped with non-corrosive PVC perforated pipes. These pipes have been covered with a layer of dunganon drainage stone and geo-textile blanket prior to backfilling with 77 to 154 mm of topsoil.

The subject site is a 40-hectare "county lot" with minimal slope and is covered with grass. The soil profile of the site is clay and loam with a percolation time of greater than 50 minutes. No soil evaluation has been carried out to determine the depth to the bedrock or the level of the high groundwater table.

The construction in dispute involves the design and the level of the treatment offered by the proposed system.

2. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and the Respondent is whether the as-built sewage system complies with the requirements of the Ontario Building Code for treatment units under Article 8.6.2.2.

Article 8.6.2.2. sets out the thresholds for concentrations of BOD5 (the five day biochemical oxygen demand), CBOD5 (the five day carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand), and TSS (total suspended solids) in secondary and tertiary level effluent and governs the design criteria to be met in the installation of secondary and tertiary treatment units.

Sentence 8.6.2.2.(1) requires every treatment unit, excluding septic tanks, to be designed in such a way that it provides a secondary level effluent with maximum concentrations given in column two of Table 8.6.2.2.A. However, if the treatment unit is connected to a shallow buried trench disposal system, the effluent must not exceed concentrations stipulated in column three of the same table, i.e. it must have a tertiary level quality (Sentence 8.6.2.2.(2)). In the as-built system, the septic tanks are offered as treatment units that ultimately will provide a secondary level effluent.

Table 8.6.2.2.A.

Other Treatment Unit Effluent Quality Criteria

Forming Part of Sentence 8.6.2.2.(1), (2) and (5)

Parameter

Secondary Effluent1

Secondary Effluent1

BOD5

40

15

CBOD5

30

10

Suspended Solids

30

10

Column 1

2

3

Note to Table 8.6.2.2.A.:

1. Maximum concentration based on 30 day averages in milligrams per litre (mg/L)

Sentences 8.6.2..2.(3) and 8.6.2.2.(4) require all treatment units, excluding septic tanks, to be equipped with an audible and visual warning alarm and that they permit the sampling of the effluent, respectively. The as-built septic tanks are equipped with sampling points, which are accessible from grade, but they are not equipped with warning alarms (although there are no pumps to monitor).

Sentences 8.6.2.2.(5) and 8.6.2.2.(6) concern treatment units described in the Supplementary Guidelines to the 1997 OBC. The as-built septic system does not include any of the treatment units listed in the Supplementary Guidelines to the OBC.

Therefore, at issue is whether the design and performance level of the as-built septic system sufficiently meet the OBC's requirements discussed above.

3. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Article 8.6.2.2 Other Treatment Units

(1) A treatment unit other than those described in Article 8.6.2.1. and Sentence (2) shall be designed such that effluent does not exceed the maximum concentrations stipulated in Column 2 of Table 8.6.2.2.A.

(2) A treatment unit that is used in conjunction with a leaching bed constructed as shallow buried trenches shall be designed such that the effluent does not exceed the maximum concentrations stipulated in Column 3 of Table 8.6.2.2.A.

(3) All treatment units referred to in Sentences (1) and (2) that contain mechanical components shall be equipped with an audible and visual warning alarm so located to warn the occupants of the building served or the operator of the treatment unit of a malfunction in the operation of the treatment unit.

(4) All treatment units referred to in Sentences (1) and (2) shall permit the sampling of the effluent.

(5) A treatment unit described in the Supplementary Guidelines to the 1997 Ontario Building Code is deemed to comply with the requirements of Table 8.6.2.2.A. as set out in the Guideline.

(6) Every manufacturer or distributor of a treatment unit shall provide, for each model sold, printed literature that describes the unit in detail and provides complete instructions regarding the operation, servicing, and maintenance requirements of the unit and its related components necessary to ensure the continued proper operation in accordance with the original design and specifications.

5. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the tests done on the effluent at the very early stages of the system's operation show a high level of reduction in concentrations of TSS and BOD5.

In support of his argument, the Applicant submitted the results of the tests done by an independent lab as well as the lab facilities where he works. The sample analysed by the independent lab one month after the system's installation shows the concentration of the BOD5 as 13.2 mg/L and the concentration of TSS as 57.3 mg/L. However, two months later, the same lab determined the level of TSS as 8.8 mg/L. On the other hand, the tests done in the Applicant's work place lab at different stages of the system's operation show a reduction in concentration of TSS from 345.14 mg/L in the primary effluent to an average of 19.60 mg/L in the secondary effluent. The Applicant explained that the reason for this gradual decrease is due to the system working on the principal of increased settling time within the two treatment units where anaerobic digestion and solid settling occurs. The high level of TSS at the beginning is, therefore, due to inadequate settling time. However, as the test results show, the performance level of the system has increased over time and so too has the quality of the effluent improved. This may also result from the maturing of the biomat on the effluent filters.

In respect of the installation of a smaller bed, the Applicant argued that his property could not accommodate longer distribution pipes and that the composition of the bed, the high quality of the effluent applied to it, and the low level of water consumption compensate for this deficiency.

The Applicant concluded that in his opinion the as-built system is equivalent to a Class 4 septic system with different bed composition, but the same level of performance as required by the OBC. The successful operation of the system over the past two years without any effluent breaking out or odour problems of any sort despite all variations of climate conditions, proves the system's effectiveness and its sufficiency of compliance with requirements of the OBC.

6. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that the test results provided by the Applicant are not extensive enough to prove the level of treatment provided by the septic tanks. In addition, the installed leaching bed does not comply with the requirements of the OBC provided in Part 8.

At the outset, the Respondent noted the timing for approvals in relation to the transfer of the septic regulations to the OBC. The Respondent stated that the Applicant installed the subject septic system without a permit because of his dislike for the then-required raised bed system on clay soils under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). The Applicant had discussed the matter of an experimental sewage system with the Ministry of the Environment (MOE). However, he has never formally applied to MOE for a permit for such an experimental sewage system. Instead, the Applicant has only been issued a temporary use permit to install the septic tanks as holding tanks until he applies for a shallow buried trench sewage system approval (formerly considered by the MOE as an experimental system), which was to be allowed in the County of Lambton under the EPA. However, the regulations concerning the construction of private sewage systems were transferred from the EPA to Building Code Act, where shallow buried trench systems were classified as Class 4 systems, providing tertiary effluent level treatment for domestic sewage.

The Respondent argued that as the Applicant's certificate of approval under the EPA had expired, the design of the septic system must comply with the requirements of the OBC. However, despite the referencing of seven different tertiary treatment units in the Supplementary Guidelines to the OBC, the Applicant has never approached the County (the Respondent) to amend his certificate under the EPA, nor has he designed a system that sufficiently meets the requirements of the OBC and provides the performance level mandated by the OBC.

The Respondent argued that the analysis of the effluent collected by the Applicant and tested by an independent lab is not extensive enough in duration to show actual levels of treatment offered by the septic tanks. Furthermore, it does not include information about the level of CBOD5.

The Respondent also argued that the system cannot be considered as a shallow buried trench system as it is not a pressurized system and has been installed too deep in the ground. As well, under the OBC, the level of treatment associated with a shallow buried trench system is tertiary while the level of treatment offered by the subject septic tanks is secondary at best.

For theses reasons, the Respondent concluded that he believes neither the design of the system nor its performance level sufficiently meets the requirements of the OBC and should not, therefore, be considered as an equivalent to a shallow buried trench system for the purpose of Clause 2.7.1.1.(1)(b).

7. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the proposed septic system consisting of two 4500 litre septic tanks, two effluent filters and an existing trenched leaching bed with six 21-metre long trenches does not provide sufficiency of compliance with Article 8.6.2.2. of the Ontario Building Code.

8. Reasons

1) There was not adequate evidence provided to demonstrate that the effluent quality meets the thresholds set out in Table 8.6.2.2.A over a sufficient period of time.

2) Sentence 8.7.2.1.(1) of the OBC does not permit the construction of a trenched in-ground leaching bed in soils having a percolation time greater than 50 minutes per centimetre.

Dated at Toronto this 13th, day in the month of July in the year 2000 for application number 1999-86.

_______________________________________________

Mr. Bryan Whitehead, Vice- Chair

_______________________________________________

Mr. Frank Wright

_______________________________________________

Mr. Bill Fellner