Anyone who lives beyond the bounds of a municipal sewage system requires a well-functioning septic system. This includes rural property owners, members of some small communities, and most cottagers. A septic system collects and treats sewage onsite. Property owners who are not connected to a municipal sewage collection system are responsible for the integrity of the septic system on their property: this includes installation, maintenance, repair, and replacement. Understanding how your septic system works—and how to keep it working efficiently—pays dividends in terms of your health, your finances, and the environment.
How Does a Septic System Work in Muskoka?
If you have a septic system, everything that travels the pipes from your home flows into the system. While there are alternative technologies that may be required for small lots, some waterfront properties, or confined locations, the most common septic system consists of a septic tank and filter bed (also sometimes known as a leaching bed, weeping bed, septic bed, or disposal field). The septic tank and filter bed, are not visible above the ground. If you are not certain where your septic tank is located, the paperwork associated with your property may contain an as-built drawing that shows the location. Alternatively, locating the exit sewer pipe in your basement will provide some clues.
Wastewater leaves your home via an underground pipe and flows into the first of two compartments within your septic tank. Within this tank, the heavy solids settle to the bottom, where they are decomposed by microorganisms. Lighter materials float to the top of the tank as a scum composed mostly of oils, fats, and grease. Between these two layers, a watery effluent fills most of the tank.
Baffles and filters prevent the scum at the top of the tank from flowing into the second compartment and from there into the filter bed.
In the second compartment, fine particles settle to the bottom where the organic materials are broken down. If any organic material remains, it is caught by an effluent filter located at the tank outlet, where it decomposes. The remaining effluent flows out of the tank into the filter bed.
The filter bed bed is composed of perforated PVC drainage pipes set in a layer of stone and unsaturated native soil or imported sand. The effluent flows into the PVC pipes, where aerobic bacteria in the gravel and soil or sand layer further decompose the waste, removing most of the remaining organic and biological contaminants.
Installation of a Muskoka Septic System
A septic system must be customized to your particular property, and is a job best left to professionals. Careful design takes into account flow volumes from the house or cottage, topography and grading, available space, the location of any dug or drilled wells on the property or neighbouring properties, proximity to surface and groundwater, and available space. The professionals at Fitzmaurice Bros. have the experience and expertise to ensure that this vital job is done right. We’ll come to your property, analyze the topography, assess the soil and bedrock conditions and factor in the space constraints before drafting a design. Cutting corners on any one of these elements could result in expensive repairs to, or even the replacement of, a septic system that isn’t functioning properly or violates provincial regulations.
Muskoka Septic System Maintenance
Licensed professionals must be called in to pump the solids and scum from your septic tank as required, depending on the number of people living in the home. To ensure continued efficiency and avoid costly repairs, these professionals should also be called in to inspect the system every three to five years. Regularly walking the area around your leaching bed to ensure the ground is not saturated, puddling, or even damp, will help you to identify potential problems with drainage before they necessitate large-scale repair and cleanup.
Similarly, keeping abreast of troublesome signs within the house, such as foul smells, toilets that flush slowly, or sewage backup in toilets and drains will help to ensure that the septic system is functioning as intended and poses no health concerns to your family. Tempering water usage and being vigilant about foreign materials entering the sewage system are also important factors in maintaining a well-working system.
Types of Septic Systems Recognized by Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act
Class 1 — chemical toilets, incinerating toilets, recirculating toilets, self-contained portable toilets, all forms of privy and composting toilet systems.
Class 2 — leaching pits/greywater systems
Class 3 — cesspools
Class 4 — leaching bed/septic tank systems
Class 5 — holding tanks
Most rural homes and cottages use a Class 4 septic system, as recommended in the Ontario Building Code.