FAQ’s

I don’t know where my system is:

If you would like to have your system maintained, or even just located and assessed, you can contact a Maintenance Provider or a Private Inspector to do so. To find a ROWP MP or PI near you, follow this link: Find a ROWP

I need a new system for my existing residence.  What do I do?

If your property is located within an area served by a municipal sanitary sewer system, you must, in general, connect to it rather than replace your current onsite sewage system. Contact your local municipality or regional district to clarify local requirements, and to determine the following:

  • Whether a sanitary sewer connection to a community sewerage system is located near your property.
  • The approximate costs charged by the municipality for connection to the community sewerage system.
  • In some cases, the tie-in costs can be deferred within your property tax account. Where this is possible, the fees for connection to a community system are paid over a number of years, rather than one up-front invoice.

If no sewer connection is available, a new onsite sewage system must be constructed, in accordance with current standards. Today’s Regulation and standards are significantly different than historic standards. A new system will usually have to be larger and have different features than the original system. Like most things in life, costs are up. Fees for an entirely new system can vary widely subject to specific site and soil conditions. For example, our recent surveys indicate a common range of $12,000 to $25,000 for relatively simple systems for smaller homes, with higher costs for systems on difficult sites. Larger homes and businesses require larger systems; properties on lakeshores or similar sensitive areas often require systems with advanced features; some sites have severe space limitations to construct replacement systems – all these factors contribute to greater cost. Consult a ROWP for pricing.

Contact a ROWP for a site assessment and quote. A reliable estimate or fixed price quote for a new onsite sewage system cannot be obtained until a proper site assessment is conducted by a ROWP Planner, or Professional experienced in onsite wastewater systems. A ROWP Planner will need to attend the site, to determine soil depth and characteristics (amongst other issues). Typically, this includes excavation of small test pits.

The Planner will also need information from the owner including:

  • The number of bedrooms and living area of the residence, any secondary suites, and a description of any other structures on the property.
  • The anticipated number of occupants.
  • A description of other uses that may affect sewerage flows such as home based businesses, water filtration systems, any hobby or recreational activities that generate sewage flow.
  • Owners must inform the Planner of any Health Orders attached to the property, and provide a copy of the Order.

The Planner will ask you to provide, if available, your land title documents and survey plan. If you do not have those readily available, the Planner will need to retrieve them from The Land Title and Search Authority. To do so, the Planner will need your Property Identifier Number and/or legal description of the property.

After a preliminary site assessment is completed, the Planner may provide a reliable estimate or fixed price quote.

Engage a ROWP Planner to design a system, and to submit required documents to the Health Authority. After an agreement is in place, the Planner will design the system, and submit the required regulatory documents to the Health Authority. Those documents are referred to as a sewerage Filing. They should be retained by the owner and are typically required by Building Departments as a condition of any building permit applications.

The Planner’s role includes certification of construction after the installation is complete, with submission to the Health Authority of a formal written declaration that the system was properly constructed in accordance with the Planner’s specifications as listed in the Filing. This requires the Planner to attend the site during installation. Planners who are also certified as a ROWP Installer are permitted to provide design and build services without third party oversight, so essentially, they confirm the certification requirements by doing the work themselves. However, if the installation contractor is another party, the Planner will need to attend the site for oversight. The degree of oversight should be clarified in the written agreement, and included in the fees charged by the Planner. If the installation is by a ROWP Installer, then the ROWP Planner may limit the oversight to a few site visits. Note that installation by a non-authorized person such as owners or non-ROWP installers must be certified by a ROWP Planner (or a Professional), and the ROWP Planner is obligated by ASTTBC Practice Guidelines to provide direct and continuous supervision.

Engage a ROWP Installer to construct your system. Installers can provide quotes (or reliable estimates) for just the installation portion, alongside a distinct agreement between an owner and Planner. Or may act as the prime contractor, including installation and planning. And as mentioned above, an individual may be both Planner and Installer – with a single design-build contract.

ASTTBC requires ROWPs to abide by our Code of Ethics and Practice Guidelines – which include firm recommendations to ‘do business’ only with effective written agreements in place, preferably for fixed price. Estimates may be considered, but ‘buyer beware’ applies. In either case, clear written agreements are crucial to protecting the interests of both parties. ASTTBC recommends that owners obtain competing quotes, and proceed only with a written agreement.

My system isn’t working well. What do I do?

When systems are not functioning properly, there are often serious risks. Sewage (obviously) can ‘make you sick.’ It also pollutes the environment and can enter drinking water systems. Early identification of problems and quick repairs are often crucial to limiting the overall cost of setting things right. And most important – to limit the potential health hazard.

Owner’s should note that they have legal obligations to ensure their sewerage system is operating properly. The Health Act and the Sewerage System Regulation place responsibility on the owner, with potential fines, health orders and so on. Civil law, environmental law, and regulations related to pollution and fisheries are relevant. The owner has significant liability risk if a mal-functioning system is not corrected. If you suspect problems with any part of your sewerage system you should take immediate action.

Have a ROWP Maintenance Provider or Private Inspector check the system and determine the cause(s) of the problem. They will tell you if the system needs minor maintenance, a repair, or if the problem is more serious and the system must be replaced.

While the problem is being diagnosed and repaired, the septic tank (and other tanks of the system if applicable) may need to be pumped frequently to prevent wastewater from escaping the system. Qualified septic pumpers may be required to provide Vac trucks and ensure approved disposal. Repairs may take several days, even up to a week or more. Your ROWP can make those arrangements.

Regular maintenance and monitoring can often help identify system problems long before they become serious and expensive to fix. Maintenance Providers are specially trained to carry out preventive maintenance to help the homeowner get the maximum life out of their system.

The Municipality/ Regional District requires my system be inspected. What do I do?

A Compliance Inspection is typically required to support application for a building permit. In some cases, the jurisdiction requires a specific Letter of Assurance. Compliance inspection reports or letters of assurance can be provided by a ROWP Private Inspector.

The ROWP will need to know details about the property (survey plans, easements, covenants, restrictions, proposed building plans) before inspection, and will need information about the anticipated use of the system, such as number of occupants, number of bedrooms, living area, etc.

To complete the Compliance Inspection, a ROWP Private Inspector will conduct a thorough check of the features, performance, location and capacity of the current system. And will determine if the existing system has suitable capacity and condition for the new use. If not, the ROWP will provide recommendations … which can range from simple improvements and minor upgrades, to full replacement of the system.

Note that real estate transactions often involve inspections of sewerage systems. These are called Performance Inspections, and they differ slightly from Compliance Inspections. ROWP Private Inspectors can provide these services. See below.

Compliance Inspection Report – Example
ROWP Practice Guidelines

I am looking to buy/sell a property with an onsite sewage system. What do I do?

If you wish to buy a property served by an onsite wastewater system, it is highly recommended that you have an inspection done by a ROWP Private Inspector to determine if there are any problems with system condition or function. If problems are found, corrective actions may be required. In some cases, full replacement is required.

Note: A negative inspection result should never be considered a “deal breaker” out of hand. In the majority of cases, both parties will want to complete the deal and this is where negotiations can play their part. Whether both parties are willing to split maintenance/repair/replacement costs or money is held in trust pending the completion of the maintenance/repair/replacement, an agreement can often be reached that satisfies both parties and allows the deal to move forward. An experienced Realtor can keep the deal moving … and may consult a ROWP to identify options and costs.

Performance Inspection Report- Example
ROWP Practice Guidelines

How do I maintain and service my system?

To find out how to maintain and protect your onsite system, follow this link: Owners responsibility