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Advanced Septic System

Advanced Septic System

Exterior renovationsAdvanced Septic System

Interested in installing an advanced septic system? Well, as you'll come to realize, Quebec's regulations are very thorough. If you respect the conditions listed below, your sanitary installation will conform and be adapted to the surrounding constraints.

After briefly touching on the regulations, we’ll delve into the different options available to you: conventional system (primary/secondary), advanced secondary treatment system, and advanced tertiary treatment system.

What’s There to Know About Advanced Septic Systems?

Regulation respecting waste water disposal systems for isolated dwellings (Q-2, r. 22) 

The Regulation respecting wastewater disposal systems for isolated dwellings pertains to the disposal and treatment of wastewater discharged from dwellings with a maximum of 6 bedrooms, and from buildings and premises producing a total daily domestic wastewater flow of fewer than 3,240 litres. These various structures shouldn't be connected to any of the municipal sewer systems, or to combined sewers.

As of August 12, 1981, the purpose of this regulation is to, pure and simple, prohibit "waste" water discharge (in the broadest sense of the term: toilets, household water, etc.) into the environment, unless it's been properly treated. Otherwise, the Environmental Quality Act qualifies it as a contaminant.

Therefore, a permit issued by the relevant municipality is required for any person wishing to build an isolated residence or a building similar to those mentioned above. The same applies if the person wishes to convert a space, increase its capacity, change its use, carry out construction, or change a water treatment system within it. The application must include a set of documents listed in section 4.1 of the by-law and, to do so successfully, it must include, among other things, a characterization study of the site and the receiving land, carried out by a qualified individual in the matter (in other words, an expert).

Municipal approval rests on the compliance of the treatment and disposal system. To be approved, the by-law provides the criteria – technical standards and performance standards – that must be met for treatment systems for isolated dwellings.

Want to know how to maintain a septic system? Check out our article on the subject matter!

Amendments to the Regulation since 2013

septic tank

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The regulation was amended for the first time on June 19, 2013, to conform to the penal measures introduced by the Environmental Quality Act changes. The various offences have thus been categorized and the amount of the associated fines significantly increased.

On July 16, 2014, the regulation was further amended to make it consistent with the Water Withdrawal and Protection Regulation (WWPR), and these amendments came into effect on March 2, 2015.

The regulation was last amended on March 29, 2017, and now includes four options for existing homeowners of isolated residences until a tertiary treatment system is made available. In addition, this amendment recognizes the process of sealing wells under the former Groundwater Catchment Regulation.

To know more about the regulation and how it was amended, visit the government’s webpage

Septic System: Operation

In most cases, a sanitary installation has two main components: a septic tank, which is the primary treatment, and a secondary treatment system, meaning the purification or polishing. The permeability of the soil will naturally complete (or not) this sanitary installation.

The septic tank, made of either plastic or concrete, is a watertight container designed to receive wastewater, which is then separated into two layers: the heavy solids (sludge) at the bottom and the lightweight, liquid waste at the surface of the tank. Then, a natural and bacterial decomposition process follows, which reduces the volume of wastewater by itself. Despite this, the sludge, scum, and liquids (surface) are still retained, which is why it's necessary to leave enough space to retain these between each drainage.

Also, note that a pre-filter connected upstream has been mandatory for a few years now. This pre-filter, which should be cleaned at least twice a year, allows a large number of fine particles to be retained and also prevents your system from clogging.

Once this step is done, the wastewater’s ready to be treated by the secondary treatment system, also known as the sewage treatment system. If the ground conditions allow it, the main treatment method for the second phase of wastewater treatment is a drainfield; here’s a complete list:

  • Soil absorption field: Underground sewage system, built with filter trenches. After primary or secondary treatment, clarified water is purified prior to mixing with groundwater.

  • Seepage bed: Works similarly to the soil absorption field, but has a seepage bed instead of trenches.

  • Seepage pits: This doesn't require a drain, the clarified water infiltrates through the vertical walls, provided that the bottom has reached a certain degree of saturation.

  • Above-ground sand-filter bed: Treatment with this filter is done in two stages, first by a sand-filter bed, and then by the underlying layer of natural soil.

  • Standard sand-filter bed: This system is used when the soil isn't permeable or only slightly permeable. Pipes channel the clarified water on a sand-filter bed.

  • Privy: A system that isolates fecal matter, which is disposed of in a pit dug in dry, natural soil, from so-called "household" water, which ends up in a septic tank and then in a purifier, both of which are smaller in size.

  • Hauled sewage systems: Authorized in specific cases. It's mandatory to use a chemical or low-flow toilet, with water directed to a holding tank, emptied periodically by a tanker. Household wastewater is sent to a disposal field preceded by a septic tank.

  • Biological system: Mainly used for hunting and fishing camps. Grey water is contained in a holding tank that must be emptied regularly, while the fecal matter is transformed into compost.

  • Total haulage: If a drainfield isn't a possibility, this installation is only composed of a retention pit, and has to meet the standards in effect and be emptied regularly.

Note that "the Regulation [Provincial Regulation Q-2, r. 22, abbreviated editor's note] proceeds through elimination when determining the type of septic treatment system".

Septic Systems: Advanced Treatment 

septic tank

Source: Depositphotos

Although a tad more complicated to install, these systems are much more durable and more efficient than conventional treatment systems. Among the advanced treatment systems approved in Quebec, one finds:

  • Bionest Water Treatment Solutions: A technology that reproduces in rapid succession the natural purification that occurs in the soil. The objective of this system is to remove noxious residues, for both health and environmental reasons, from wastewater, before it's discharged to a leaching field or other disposal systems.

  • Ecoflo | Green Septic System: Made from a mix of peat moss and coco, it treats wastewater according to public health and environmental standards.

  • Hydro-Kinetec: Used for residential homes, chalets, and small businesses. Several tanks (the number of which varies according to the version chosen) follow one another until the wastewater is treated, wholly or partially, depending on the number of tanks.

  • Advanced Enviro-Septic Technology in System O: Far from traditional septic tanks, this one’s at the cutting edge of technology, while being the most eco-friendly solution. Details are provided below.

The benefits of these advanced septic treatment systems are extensive. Namely, they: 

  • Allow to make up for configuration problems related to traditional systems;

  • Eliminate much more bacteria and organic matter than a traditional system;

  • Can extend the durability of a leaching bed;

  • Require (a lot) less space;

  • Require mandatory maintenance, which will impede (or prevent) future problems;

  • Reduce nutrient production (phosphorus and nitrogen).

Note that “advanced septic systems must be evaluated by the BNQ (Bureau de normalisation du Québec) over a period of 12 months”.

Choosing Your Advanced Septic System 

There are several factors to consider before deciding on a specific septic system. First, you'll need to do a site inspection to determine whether you should go with a conventional or advanced septic system.

Environmental conditions and water-specific characteristics, depending on the region, will require a certain treatment that a conventional septic system can't provide. Note that "for an advanced treatment system, the permeability (required) increases to 30 cm". You’ll also have to budget accordingly, as, in Quebec, prices vary considerably from one septic system to another.

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Advanced Treatment System O

Briefly mentioned above, System O falls in line with current trends by ecologically treating wastewater. How so, exactly? Well, through the creators' approach, its operating methods, and its many advantages. This new concept is based on Advanced Enviro-Septic Technology, which reproduces the natural self-regeneration cycle of our ecosystem on a small scale, and therefore requires no electricity, no substitutions, no repairs, and no maintenance, while also guaranteeing increased performance, particularly in terms of space-saving, wastewater treatment, and durability.

Advanced Tertiary Treatment Systems 

A tertiary treatment system, as its name implies, provides a significantly better performance than an advanced secondary treatment system, adding liquid waste disinfection and/or dephosphatation.

Disinfection ensures that effluent is discharged into a trench, while dephosphatation means that the liquid waste is discharged directly into a watercourse or a trench located upstream from a lake. Different tertiary treatment systems are available in Quebec; one can choose between:

  • DpEC System: Disinfection and dephosphatation tertiary treatment system. The first stage is a self-cleaning, electrocoagulation unit, and the second (depending on the model) is done by UV radiation or by a sand-filter bed.

  • UV water purification systems: The effluent is disinfected by a UV light which has the ability to penetrate the nucleus of the bacteria to then effectively destroy it.

  • FDI filter: Tertiary treatment system using a sand-filter bed preceded by a biofilter, for optimal wastewater disinfection.

Source de l'image de couverture: Valentina Locatelli

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Last modified 2023-11-07


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