Monday, May 1, 2017

Septic Care: A New Wastewater Treatment Challenge

Microfibers released in washing machines can wreak havoc on soil treatment systems over time

Link to Full Article

New studies indicate that the fibers in our clothes could be poisoning our waterways and food chain on a massive scale. Microfibers — tiny threads shed from fabric — have been found in abundance on shorelines where wastewater is released. In fact, 85 percent of the human-made material found on the shoreline were microfibers, and matched the types of material, such as nylon and acrylic, used in clothing. Microfibers are so small, too small to see. They can be as small as 3 microns. In comparison, a human hair is 50-100 microns.
In a recent study, researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that on average, synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibers each wash. That’s approximately 1,900 individual fibers. For those connected to a sewer system, the microfibers travel to the local wastewater treatment plant, where up to 40 percent of them enter rivers, lakes and oceans, according to the research findings. Synthetic microfibers are particularly dangerous because they have the potential to poison the food chain. The fibers’ size also allows them to be readily consumed by fish and other wildlife. These plastic fibers have the potential to bioaccumulate, concentrating the toxins in the bodies of larger animals higher up the food chain.
These tiny particles also have the potential to impact septic systems, since most washing machines don’t filter out particles and the current available add-on filters designed to keep lint out of septic tanks still don’t catch the tiniest fibers. Since the particles are so small they will be resistant to settling in the septic tank and will pass through effluent screens. It is likely that most of these fibers are captured in the soil treatment system, creating concern for plugging of soil pores over time.
Solutions
There appear to be no easy answers. One way to begin to address the problem is to try to make clothes that shed fewer plastic fibers when washed. Researchers are working collaboratively with designers to create fabrics that are more durable and release less plastic waste during wash cycles.
Another way to address the problem is to tell customers to reduce the amount of times synthetic clothing gets washed, and when need be, use washing machines with filters installed that catch the microfibers in the wastewater. Although filters are not a common feature in washing machines, some manufacturers do include them and aftermarket filters are commercially available (although they currently do not filter out microfibers). Other, more innovative filters are under development. One example is the Rozalia Project’s microfiber catcher, which will collect microfibers as well as hair, and prevent them from flowing out with the drain water, and is reported to be available in 2017. It is also better to use front-loading, high-efficiency washing machines instead of top-loading washing machines. Researchers found that top-loading washing machines released five times more microfibers than front-loading washing machines, and the more you wash it, the worse it gets (aged jackets released almost two times the amount of new jackets).
The final place to catch microfibers before they are flushed to surface waters is at wastewater treatment plants. Although a typical secondary treatment plant will NOT do an effective job removing microfibers, plants that employ tertiary treatment to produce reclaimed water for non-potable uses typically use filtration that would remove microfibers. Wastewater treatment plants that use advanced treatment to produce potable water use microfiltration (as well as other technologies), which will also effectively remove microfibers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What you need to know: Owning an Advanced Sewage Treatment Unit

What is an Advanced Sewage Treatment Units: a form of sewage treatment that provides secondary or tertiary effluent (sanitary sewage) treatment before it is directed to the leaching bed.

What is the Property Owner’s responsibility for the maintenance of a treatment unit?
1.   Inspection Documentation and Maintenance Contract
                       i.       Obtain a copy of the annual maintenance inspection report completed by a manufacturer trained provider and proof of service manufacturer training
                      ii.       If a maintenance contract is no longer valid, it is the responsibility of the property owner to renew/renegotiate a contract. A property owner without a current contract or proof of regular servicing is in violation under the Ontario Building Code (8.9.2.3), as it states:

“No person shall operate a treatment unit other than a septic system, unless the person has entered into an agreement whereby servicing and maintenance of the treatment unit and its related components will be carried out by a person who:

(b) Is authorized by the manufacturer to service and maintain that type of treatment unit”

2.   If the property ownership changes, the current owner is obligated to disclose existing contracts and advise the service provider of the new owner’s contact information.

What is the Service Provider’s responsibility for the maintenance of a treatment unit?
1.   Conduct maintenance inspections on the treatment unit in accordance with the guidelines suggested by the manufacturer. Sampling of treatment units as per Section 8.9.2.4 (2) of the Building Code must be completed:
                       i.       Once during the first 12 months after the sewage system was put into use
                      ii.       Thereafter, once during every 12 month period, at least 10 months and not more than 18 months after the previous sampling has been completed.
2.   To provide sufficient notice to property owner that contract is approaching expiry and make necessary arrangements for renewal in a timely fashion.
3.   Reflect any changes on the contract which may affect adequate servicing as per contract.
4.   Indicate on the contract if property owner account is in good standing or suspended during life cycle of the agreement.

What if my service agreement was not renewed and is expired?
Without a current contract or proof of regular servicing, the property owner would be in violation of the Ontario Building Code (8.9.2.3), which stipulates that:
“No person shall operate a treatment unit other than a septic system, unless the person has entered into an agreement whereby servicing and maintenance of the treatment unit and its related components will be carried out by a person who:

(b) Is authorized by the manufacturer to service and maintain that type of treatment unit.” 


Failure to have a valid & current contract will result in an Order to Comply issued by the Township C.B.O. If the property owner takes no action, this will result in a summons to court under section 36 of the Building Code Act, 1992.

______________________________________________________________

REGULATIONS FOR ADVANCED SEWAGE TREATMENT UNITS
Ontario Building Code

Ontario Building Code (8.6.2.2.(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.

Ontario Building Code (8.9.2.3 (2))
No person shall operate a treatment unit other than a septic tank unless the person has entered into an agreement whereby servicing and maintenance of the treatment unit and its related components will be carried out by a person who (b) is authorized by the manufacturer to service and maintain that type of treatment unit.

Ontario Building Code (8.9.2.3 (3))
The person authorized by the manufacturer to service and maintain the treatment unit and who has entered into the agreement referred to in sentence (2) with the person operating the treatment unit (Property Owner) shall notify the chief building official if,
(a) the agreement is terminated, or
(b) access for service and maintenance of the treatment unit is denied by the person operating  (Property Owner) the treatment unit.

If the above regulations are not adhered to, the Advanced Sewage Treatment Unit no longer conforms to requirements of the Ontario Building Code.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cycle 2 of the Huron-Kinloss Community Septic Inspection Program: Now Underway!

The Township is working with B.M. Ross and Associates Limited (BMROSS) to inspect all the septic systems in Huron-Kinloss. Cycle 1 of the program was completed in 2014. Cycle 2 of this mandatory inspection program started in 2015.


Cycle 2 of the program requires all systems in Huron-Kinloss inspected in 
2007 and some of 2008 (under Cycle 1) to be inspected in 2015. 

Property owners in Huron-Kinloss are responsible for booking an inspection appointment. To do so, please follow the steps below:
  •  Call the Township Office (519) 395-3735 to schedule an appointment.
  • Appointments will be scheduled this year:  May 1 – October 31, Monday –Thursday, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.  Evening and Saturday appointments may be arranged.
  • Septic tanks must be pumped-out prior to the inspection which is the property owner’s responsibility to arrange.
    •  to ensure a good visual of the inside of the tank a pump-out must have occurred within the past 12 months
    • the lid to the septic tank must be cleared and accessible before the inspector arrives
    • if the tank has two chambers both lids must be cleared and pumped for the inspection
    • often the pump-out and inspection can be done on the same day
  • Property owners are encouraged to be present for their inspection.
  • The inspection takes approximately 30-45 minutes.

Friday, April 24, 2015

“YOU ASKED” What happens to the property owners who refuse to participate in the mandatory program?

After 8 years of contacting properties owners to participate in the first cycle of the HK-CSI program, it was expected that not all properties will be inspected voluntarily. Since the program began in 2007 more than 2,900 septic systems (including pit privies/outhouses) have been inspected, leaving less than 50 systems uninspected. Many questions regarding the consequences for property owners who refuse to participate in the mandatory program have been asked. You asked, we answered!

What will happen as a result of a property refusing to participate in the mandatory program?

  1. A Notice of Non-Compliance will be sent via registered mail to the property owners with an outstanding inspection. The Notice will provide a deadline for completing an inspection 
  2. Failure to have an inspection completed by the deadline will result in an Order (under the Building Code Act) for an inspection issued against the property. 
  3. Failure to comply with the Order will result in the inspection being completed by the Chief Building Official and HKCSI program Inspector. 
  4. A lien will be placed on the property to recover the costs associated with issuing an order and conducting the inspection. 
  5. Property owners who do not comply with the Order may be subject to a penalty of up to $50,000, as legislated under the Building Code Act. 

Does the Township have the authority to issue an Order for an inspection under the Building Code Act?

The answer to this is: Yes, they have the authority under the Building Code Act.

The municipality has the authority to institute a septic maintenance inspection program under the Building Code Act. In the Building Code Act (Section 15.10.1(1)), it is stated that: “an inspector may enter upon land and into a building at any reasonable time without a warrant for the purpose of conducting a maintenance inspection”. Sewage systems are considered buildings and therefore, under Section 15.10.1(2), an order may be made if the inspector is not permitted to conduct the maintenance inspection, as denying permission would be considered a contravention of the Act.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Huron-Kinloss Community Septic Inspection Program: Summary on the First Round of Inspections (2007-2014)

The Huron-Kinloss Community Septic Inspection Program has completed its first cycle of inspections. Over the eight year cycle, 2,940 inspections were completed and data was collected regarding the conditions and details of these systems. Using this information the systems were assigned a risk assessment rating. Approximately 50 properties (1.7%) have not had an inspection completed for various reasons. Acceptance of the program and cooperation of property owners was very high with only three owners refusing to participate. This program is mandatory under a municipal by-law, and non-participating property owners will be dealt with under the appropriate legislation.


Although mandatory, the Program was conducted using a voluntary-cooperative approach. This was successful as property owners had their systems pumped out, made an appointment, and attended the inspection. This allowed them to gain knowledge from the inspector about their septic system, its operation, and maintenance techniques like cleaning effluent filters. Other education opportunities, such as septic socials, Environmental Days, information pamphlets, and interactions with the inspector, contributed to the success of the program.

The program identified 4-5% of the inspected septic systems as being seriously compromised with a requirement for owners to replace the systems. Systems requiring repairs (420 systems) were also identified. The repairs were discussed with property owners and identified in the inspection report. Repairs to these systems will allow them to function properly and last until a total system replacement is required. The program instituted a system to follow up on these repairs on a voluntary basis, which has worked well. These repairs will be subject to follow up during the second round of inspections.

A significant number of septic systems in the Township have surpassed the expected life of a system. Almost fifty percent are older than 25 years. The average of a system given the medium-age rating is 43 years. One of the reasons that systems have reached these ages is that the lakeshore area of the Township was, for many years, a predominately seasonal area. Usage has expanded to multi-seasonal and permanent and it is expected that many of these older systems are strained under higher usage. We would expect an increasing trend to problems and failures as the systems age. Given the soil types and small lots in many areas of the lakeshore, we also expect a number of the replacement systems will be advanced treatment units (tertiary systems). These are more complicated, require annual inspections and sometimes sampling, and it is imperative that they are properly maintained. If these systems fail to operate as designed, it leads to environmental issues.

Finally, the HKCSI program is really an asset management plan. The assets are the septic systems, and while they are on private property, the Township is responsible for issuing them a permit and making sure that they operate in the future. Failure to operate as designed can lead to environmental and public health issues and even the loss of the ability to inhabit a residence. At an average, conservative cost of $15,000 per system, there are $45,000,000 in systems present in the Township. The cost of the HKCSI program, with two pump-outs over the eight year cycle, equates to an annual cost of about three-quarters of one percent of the value of the asset. The HKCSI program represents good value for property owners and good due diligence by the Township. 

A full copy of the summary on the first round of inspections can be found here: