RECENT AMENDMENTS TO SEPTIC & EJECTOR SYSTEM REQUIREMENTSGemma L. Brown
THE NEW REGULATIONS:
Recently, the Provincial Government amended the regulations of The Environment Act, known as the Onsite Wastewater Management Regulations (156/2009), concerning sewage disposal in the Province. We are told new regulations are aimed at phasing out existing disposal systems to alleviate the problems with leaking systems, and run-off into Manitoba's water ways.
Effective October 10, 2009, the new regulations:
- Prohibit the use of a disposal field for new systems in sensitive areas, Crown land cottage developments, provincial parks and portions of the Red River corridor;
- Prohibit the installation of new sewage ejectors (previously were allowed on parcels over 10 acres in size) or the modification of existing systems;
- Require the decommissioning of existing sewage ejectors at the time of any property transfer or subdivision;
- Require a two-acre minimum lot size and 198 feet of frontage for the installation of disposal fields;
- Require homeowners to hook-up to municipal collection systems and decommission any existing private system in areas currently serviced by such systems before the earlier of October, 2014 or the transfer of subdivision of the land;
- Require homeowners to hook-up to municipal collection systems and decommission any existing private system before the earlier of 5 years of such municipal collection systems servicing their area or the transfer or subdivision of land;
- Reject a permit for the installation, replacement, modification or expansion of a septic disposal field in an area that is serviced by a wastewater collection system;
- Reject a permit for the installation, replacement, modification or expansion of a septic disposal field in an area that is expected to be serviced by a wastewater collection within 5 years after the day the application is made; and
- Require municipal waste-water management planning.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
The effect of these amendments is far reaching, especially to rural Manitobans.
For example, the regulations prohibit a seller from transferring, conveying, or subdividing land on which an ejector system is located without taking the system out of service and decommissioning the system. In addition, there is an onus on the seller to notify Manitoba Conservation that the system has been decommissioned within 7 days after the system has been decommissioned.
Purchasers of property also need to be aware of the effect of the new regulations. Simply agreeing to take title to property "as is" without the seller rectifying or decommissioning a non-compliant system could result in purchasers incurring significant costs and/or exposure to potential liability. Where a purchaser takes title to property without an ejector system being decommissioned and replaced, pursuant to the regulations, the purchaser is required to decommission the ejector system (at their cost) within two years of the transfer to them occurring (and this of course typically would then also mean that a purchaser would have to construct or install a new compliant system). In addition, purchasing a non-compliant property may make it difficult for you to obtain financing, or taking title to a non-compliant property may cause you to be in breach of the promises you are required to make to your lender.
Finally, the new regulations also affect current property owners. Where a municipal disposal system is in place in your area, you would be required to hook up to that system and decommission your existing system by October, 2014, or earlier if you sell or subdivide the property. Where a municipal disposal system is later installed, you will have 5 years from the date that municipal system becomes active to hook-up and decommission your existing private system.
As a property owner with an existing system, you may also face difficulties in complying with the legislation if you experience problems with your existing system. For example, the legislation prohibits the replacement, expansion or modification of a sewage ejector system. The most onerous portion of this requirement is the "modification" provision. Should your pump for an existing sewage ejector system with a holding tank stop working, the replacement of that pump may be considered a "modification" for Manitoba Conservation's purposes (according to one government representative to whom we spoke), requiring an alternative waste disposal system to be put in place.LIABILITY:
Failure to comply with these provisions could result in fines up to $50,000 or six months in jail, for a first offence. In addition, a judge also has the ability to order restitution to third parties (ie. a buyer) who have suffered damages due to the non-compliance.HOW WE CAN HELP:
We understand that these issues are very complex and could potentially result in significant costs to property owners. As a law firm that services rural clients, we keep ourselves up to date on these issues and would like to help you avoid the potential liability associated with breaches of these new regulations. Please feel free to contact one of our lawyers for more information on the new rules affecting sewage disposal, or to discuss how these new rules may affect you.Download the printable version of this article