Septic Field Design in BC, what’s Involved?


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 Septic Field Design in BC

Septic field design in BC has changed drastically over the years.  Since new regulations were imposed on the building and maintaining of our backyard wastewater treatment systems or Septic Systems, advances in the industry’s technology and training have expanded by leaps and bounds. 

No longer can the average homeowner or contractor install or maintain a septic system without the oversight of an authorized person.

Nowadays, in order to obtain building permits in many jurisdictions of rural communities or municipalities outside of wastewater infrastructure, a design/plan from the Registered Waste Water Practitioner (ROWP) or authorized person needs to be implemented.   In British Columbia, a septic system design or other terms ( septic field design, septic tank design), can only be implemented by either a ROWP or engineer, in order to draw up such a design a thorough site evaluation including soil testing is the first order of business.

This soil testing can determine the suitability of the lot for a septic system or determine the type of septic system that can be implemented given data from the home size, lot size, setback restrictions, standing or running water nearby, restrictive layers such as bedrock, clay, silt or high water tables.  There are many factors in determining the right septic field design in BC.  Gathering the valuable data from the soil logs and site assessment enables the practitioner to properly design the right septic system for the home and lot.

Septic System Filing and Documented Records

This design and report are then supported by a Record of Sewerage System filing for the lot will go to the local health authority for review and acceptance. The strict policy governs the methods and regulations surrounding the construction, design and installation of septic systems.  It will be up to the practitioner to decide the best-suited system for the conditions, restrictions or challenges that have been studied on the lot.

The stamped and approved design for the septic system is then forwarded to the homeowner to make a decision as to which certified septic system installer to work with.

Once the Record of Sewage has been filed with the local health authority, it is generally recommended that if possible the septic system is installed as the last integral component of the home.  This is simply to assure that no heavy machinery or heavy vehicle travel through any of the septic system components. 

septic field design in bc

It is also wise in discussing the possible disturbances to the allocated septic system.  Early landscaping, scraping or adding earth to septic field areas can have a negative impact on the original septic system design and an alternate plan may be implemented.  This could mean an alternative septic system to the one originally evaluated so the homeowner must be very diligent in not disrupting the sewage disposal area.

When reviewing a septic field design in BC the certified practitioner should adhere closely to the drawings and explanations given in the design.  Now it is common to find unforeseen circumstances on the site, there could be many variables that could interrupt the original plan.  It is crucial for communication between the installer and the designer.  Often times amendments to the filing and to the septic system design are made because of these unforeseen challenges.

septic field design bc

Septic field failures and the filing process

A ROWP (Registered Onsite Wastewater Practitioner) according to our standards can issue a septic filing after installing a replacement septic field.  This is provided the drainfield malfunction is of a health concern or can possibly cause contamination to nearby waterways or neighbouring properties.  

If there is no immediate concern and the septic field is failing then the course of action is to conduct the necessary soil testing procedures and file the design/plan prior to installation.  Of course, a quicker course of action is necessary to install the replacement septic field in a timely manner.

Here is a video of a septic field replacement along with a septic tank repair/upgrade to conform to today’s standards:

Once the septic system has been installed according to the septic field design the ROWP then files a Letter of Certification (LOC)with the same health authority.  This final step enables the homeowner to obtain the final occupancy permit.

Along with the LOC the homeowner is provided with a drawing of the septic system’s components which is called an As-Build.  The practitioner will also provide the homeowner with a maintenance plan that is pertinent to the septic field design implemented on the property.

Now that you are left with a rough area in your backyard landscaping is certainly on the forefront.  It is ill-advised to use heavy machinery over the septic components but using track machinery such as a skid steer of an excavator is more acceptable as there is more even dispersal of weight than a wheeled machine.  Being mindful of sensitive components of your septic system is vital.

Planting and watering over the drain field should be done with care.  No trees or rooty bushes should be planted over the septic system, these roots will eventually become intrusive to the areas of dispersal in the system.  Planting grass is highly recommended as it helps absorb and transpire some of the wastewater in the drain field.

Watering should be limited over your septic system’s drain field as there is already high volumes of water travelling through the soil.  Being mindful of irrigation practices if very important because it can certainly oversaturate the septic field area.

We would be happy to assist you with any questions concerning the guidelines and regulatory criteria.

Contact us for a no-obligation discussion on your home or property goals and the suitability of the sewage system:

Luis Goncalves, ROWP, IN, PL

Luis Goncalves, ROWP, IN, PL

I fell into this amazing trade quite by accident, I have always loved being around heavy machinery and moving earth and in contrast love working with designing things.  This trade in the septic field has led me down a wonderful path of exploring all of my skills and passions while working hard at achieving success.

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