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BCC Ruling No. 99-33-689

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Articles,,,, and of Regulation 403, as amended by 0. Reg. 22/98, 102/98, 122/98, 152/99 and 278/99 (the "Ontario Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Claudio Cinapri, President, Forefront Properties Inc., 85 Irondale Drive, Toronto, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Frank Asta, Chief Building Official, Town of Oakville, Ontario to determine whether the proposed water and sewage systems, nonpotable water supply system and fire fighting reservoir pond provide sufficiency of compliance with Articles,,,,, and respectively of the Ontario Building Code respectively at the Zenon Environmental Systems Inc. plant, 3239 Dundas Street West, Oakville, Ontario.


Mr. Claudio Cinapri, President
Forefront Properties Inc.
Toronto, Ontario


Mr. Frank Asta
Chief Building Official
Town of Oakville


Mr. Bryan Whitehead (Chair-Designate)
Mr. Robert De Berardis
Mr. Frank Wright


Toronto, Ontario


May 27, 1999


May 27, 1999


Mr. Randal Brown
Randal Brown & Associates Ltd.
Willowdale, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Frank Asta
Chief Building Official
Town of Oakville
The Respondent


  1. The Applicant

Mr. Claudio Cinapri, President, Forefront Properties Inc., has applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct an office headquarters and manufacturing facility for Zenon Environmental Systems Inc. at 3239 Dundas Street West, Oakville, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

TThe Applicant is proposing to construct a new two storey, 14,500 m2 (in building area) structure classified as having Group D - (office) business and Group F, Division 3 (manufacturing) - low hazard industrial occupancies on unserviced property. The building will be of noncombustible construction and will be equipped with sprinkler, fire alarm and standpipe and hose systems. The building is considered to face one street for fire fighting purposes. The proposed occupant load ranges between 300 to 500 persons, working on a single shift basis.

Zenon Inc. is involved in the design, research, development and manufacturing of water and sewage system technologies that provide water purification and wastewater treatment. The building is proposed to be used as the Canadian office headquarters and as a manufacturing facility. As a proprietor of such systems, Zenon intends to utilize its own water and sewage technology at this unserviced site, i.e. their aim is, using their own systems, to be self sufficient at this location.

The technology in question is the ZenoGem ® membrane bio-reactor that combines activated sludge biological treatment with physical membrane separation which produces, the Applicant asserts, a high quality effluent with very low levels of BOD, TSS, nitrogen and phosphorous. Another innovative proposal for the building is the use of the Cycle-Let ® water reclamation system which allows additionally polished effluent to recycle as nonpotable water through the toilets and urinals. As well, It is proposed to discharge excess treated effluent to a surface retention pond to be used for fire fighting purposes.

A description of the water and sewage systems of the buildings is as follows. Influent well water drawn from an on-site well will be treated by the Zenon ZeeWeed ® membrane (described below). A 90,000 litre storage tank will serve as a holding facility for the treated water. Domestic water for the building will be drawn from the holding tank. Assuming an employment level of 500 persons, the water consumption for the building (if no water was recycled) has been estimated at 57,000 L/d. This is based on a per capita consumption of approximately 108 L/d, mostly due to toilet flushing. As well, a small amount of water, roughly 3,000 L/d, will be used in the manufacturing process. However, this water will be recovered, purified and reused.

Sewage will be transmitted to the building’s ZenoGem ® sewage treatment system. This process actually involves several treatments. After removal of the gross solids, the sewage is pumped into the ZenoGem ® module process tank. The first treatment occurs as the sewage is aerated and drawn through a ZeeWeed ® membrane by a low pressure vacuum. This membrane is a microfilter containing pores smaller than 0.45 microns, meaning that larger particulate matter is prevented from entering the treated water (or permeate). The hollow membrane fibre is aerated to keep the pores of the filter clean. The effluent flow through the membrane and the vacuum itself are continuously monitored to maintain quality levels.

From membrane filtration the permeate undergoes further treatment which is done by means of a carbon (charcoal) adsorption filter. After this stage the effluent is then exposed to ultra violet rays for disinfection and stored in a second 90,000 litre holding tank. The quality of the effluent after this level of treatment is less than 3 mg/L BOD, less than 3 mg/L TSS, less than 1 mg/L nitrogen and less than 0.1 mg/L total phosphorous.

During this process only a fraction of the total water is discharged from the treatment system (to the pond). Instead, most of it (the Applicant estimates 85 %) will be recycled to the building’s toilets and urinals through a dedicated, nonpotable plumbing system, that would be labelled as such. Since the Applicant is proposing to reuse and recycle water to supply the toilets and urinals, only the sinks, showers and drinking fountains in the building would receive potable water from the on-site well. This would effectively reduce the fresh water consumption and discharge volumes from the building to 8,500 L/d.

When the effluent is finally discharged from the building it will be sent to a water retention pond. The pond, necessary for fire fighting purposes, is required to contain 2,004 m3 of water, or roughly 2 million litres. As a result, the pond will be 18 m deep and will have a surface area of roughly 1 hectare. The pond will be built with a clay liner and will be equipped with an aeration system.

There are several aspects of the proposed construction that are in dispute. These are; the Applicant’s proposal to discharge his private sanitary drainage system into a retention pond; the recirculation of nonpotable water to the toilets and urinals; and, the adequacy and reliability of the pond as a source of water for fire fighting.

  1. Dispute

There are several issues at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent. The first issue is whether Zenon’s private sewage system, with a daily design sewage flow (as measured by estimated water consumption) of 57,000 L/d and with a projected daily effluent flow of 8,500 L/d, that is proposed to discharge on surface to a retention pond, complies with Articles,, and of the Ontario Building Code. The first article requires that a building’s drainage system be connected to a public sewer or private sewage system. The second article requires that a building’s storm drainage system connect to an appropriate storm water disposal location. The third article describes the types, or classifications, of sewage systems found in the OBC. The fourth article sets out certain design criteria and standards that “Other Treatment Units”, beyond those described directly in the Code, must meet. These standards include the quality of effluent and requirements for alarm systems and sampling.

Fundamentally, at issue is whether the proposed sewage system complies with the various standards in the Building Code. Prior to any such discussion, however, it must be determined whether the Zenon system falls within the purview of the OBC. The Code defines private sewage disposal systems as either sewage systems or sewage works. Sewage systems, which have a design capacity of 10,000 litres or less, are covered by the OBC. Sewage works, which have a capacity greater than 10,000 litres per day, on the other hand, fall within the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Environment (MOE). While the Applicant estimates his daily design output at 8,500 L/d, recent amendments to the OBC clarify that the 10,000 litre limit is the daily design sewage flow, not the actual effluent discharge.

The stormwater system of the proposed building will drain into the reservoir pond. To be determined is whether this is an appropriate disposal location for stormwater run off. Such approval is also granted by the MOE. Moreover, sewage systems as per of the OBC are in-ground system, not surface discharge systems. The Applicant’s sewage system clearly discharges on ground. The OWRA also deals with sewage works that discharge on-ground. As well, the standards found in Article may not be applicable if the Zenon system is required to receive MOE approval.

The second issue at dispute is whether the treated nonpotable water can be recirculated to the toilets and urinals in the building according to Article Sentence (2) of this article specifically allows nonpotable water to be used for toilets and urinals, as the Applicant is proposing. The Code, however, does not set any standards for the quality of nonpotable water. The issue therefore is whether the level of treatment for the recirculated, nonpotable water is adequate considering its proposed use in the toilets and urinals in the Zenon plant.

The last issue at dispute is whether the proposed pond, to be used as a reservoir for fire fighting purposes, complies with Article This article requires that the fire service mains and the water service pipe that supply them must be built and tested according to the criteria laid out in NFPA 24, “Standard for the Installation of Private Fire Service Mains and Their Appurtenances”. This article is applicable since the water used for fire fighting purposes supplied to the sprinkler system, standpipe and hose system and private hydrant is to be taken from the proposed on-site pond.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code


Article Sanitary Drainage Systems

(1) Every sanitary drainage system shall be connected to a public sanitary sewer, a public combined sewer or a private sewage disposal system.

(2) A combined building drain or a combined building sewer shall not be installed.

Article Storm Drainage Systems

(1) Every storm drainage system shall be connected to a public storm sewage works, a public combined sewage works or a designated storm water disposal location but shall not be connected to a sanitary sewage works.

Article Water Distribution Systems

(1) Except as provided in Sentence (2), every water distribution system shall be connected to a public watermain or if no public watermain is available to a potable private water supply system.

(2) Where a supply of potable water is unavailable or insufficient to supply water to a plumbing system, non-potable water may be used for the flushing of water closets, urinals, or the priming of traps, and the piping conveying the non-potable water shall be installed in conformance with Section 7.7.

Article Design, Construction, Installation and Testing

(1) Except as provided in Articles,,, and, the design, construction, installation and testing of fire service mains and water service pipe combined with fire service mains shall be in conformance with NFPA 24, “Standard for the Installation of Private Fire Service Mains and Their Appurtenances”.

Article Classification of Systems

(1) All sewage systems shall be classed as one of the following:

(a) Class 1 -- a chemical toilet, an incinerating toilet, a recirculating toilet, a self-contained portable toilet and all forms of privy including a portable privy, an earth pit privy, a pail privy, a privy vault and a composting toilet system,

(b) Class 2 -- a greywater system,

(c) Class 3 -- a cesspool,

(d) Class 4 -- a leaching bed system,

(e) Class 5 -- a system which requires or uses a holding tank for the retention of hauled sewage at the site where it is produced prior to its collection by a hauled sewage system.

Article Other Treatment Units

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

(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

(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 OBC is deemed to comply with the requirements of Table 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.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicants conceded at the outset that they recognized that there are jurisdictional issues facing much of their application to the Building Code Commission, specifically the main question of approving their proposed sanitary wastewater system. They explained that prior to making their appeal to the Commission they did not have the benefit of the recently approved Ontario Regulation 278/99 which clarifies how the 10,000 litre maximum is to be applied concerning sewage system capacity. They indicated that they would pursue approval of their sewage treatment system, including discharge of excess effluent to the pond, through the Ministry of the Environment. The Applicants then stated that their presentation would concentrate on the outstanding provisions of the OBC in dispute.

Regarding the issue of using recirculated nonpotable water for the toilets and urinals, the Applicants noted that Sentence expressly permits this. They also noted that they were aware that there are no standards determining quality of nonpotable water in the OBC. They submitted, however, that the quality of proposed recycled water is excellent. In fact, they argued it surpasses, by a wide margin, the standards set out for the quality of treated water in Article Further, the Applicants also indicated that they intended, as per Code, to clearly label the separate plumbing systems as potable and nonpotable water to avoid any possible confusion that may lead to contamination.

On the issue of the pond as a reservoir of water for fire fighting, the Applicants noted that the Code also permits them to do this as long as it meets certain standards, including NFPA 24. They indicated that it was their intention to meet all applicable criteria in constructing the subject pond. They also indicated that they were willing to have the pond designed by an engineer to prevent seepage problems from occurring due to the low watertable in the area. Moreover, as an additional safety feature, the Applicants said they would also consider connecting the two 90,000 litre storage tanks (one containing well water and the other holding back-up nonpotable water for the toilet and urinal plumbing system) to the pond to add extra water in case of a fire.

Lastly, the Applicants stated that the systems to be used in their building, including the sewage treatment facility, are widely used in other jurisdictions, the closest example being Milton, Ontario. They noted that their systems are safe, effective and very efficient. Their systems have been tested thoroughly and Zenon is continually looking to improve its own technology. Since the proposed building is to be their flagship operation in Canada, Zenon is therefore committed to achieving the highest possible levels of quality.

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that the proposed location for the building, at an unserviced site, causes him concern. He noted that the water supply may not be reliable and that other buildings in the north Oakville area have had to truck water in.

On the issue of the proposed recirculation of the treated water, the Respondent indicated that the Town had had a bad experience with separate potable and non potable plumbing systems. In his view, the preferable situation would be that MOE should analyse the treated water and indicate what would be its acceptable uses. It would simplify matters, especially the plumbing systems, he said, if the treated water were of sufficient quality that it could be approved as potable. As an additional safety measure, the Respondent indicated that he would also like to see the nonpotable water chlorinated.

Regarding the pond, the Respondent indicated that his chief concern was that it may not be able to retain the necessary amount of fire fighting water due to seepage in the ground. As he noted, although the pond, at 18 m, is quite deep, the watertable is still approximately 15 m further below. He stated that he would feel more comfortable if the pond was equipped with a plastic or vinyl lining.

Lastly, the Respondent indicated that he would like to see various performance and maintenance agreements set up between Zenon and the Town to ensure that the building remains a healthy and safe working environment and that the level of municipal responsibility and liability is reduced.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that considering the total daily design sanitary sewage flow and the discharge to surface, the proposed system fails to meet the definition of a sewage system under Article, Sewage system (f) and therefore, does not conform to Part 8 of the Code. The approval of the system is the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment.

With respect to the proposed reclaimed nonpotable water supply, the system complies with Article provided that there is a reliable, continuous source of water from the well(s), adequate treatment to supply potable water, chlorination of the treated effluent and adequately identified piping for the recirculation plumbing.

With respect to the proposed on-site water supply for fire protection, the pond proposal meets the requirements of Article of the OBC provided that engineering data confirms that the pond will provide an adequate volume of water at all times. In addition, the proposed reservoir facility includes at least two 90,000 litre storage tanks which should be integrated into the on-site fire protection water supply system.

  1. Reasons

i) The Zenon Cycle-let ® Wastewater treatment system provides acceptable quality water for the purposes of recirculation to water closets and urinals provided the treated effluent is chlorinated.

ii) A properly engineered pond with adequate storage and filtered intake can provide the required fire protection water supply.

Dated at Toronto this 27th day in the month of May in the year 1999 for application number 1999-20

Mr. Bryan Whitehead, Chair-Designat
Mr. Frank Wright
Mr. Robert De Berardis