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Public Education

Operation & Maintenance of Onsite Wastewater Systems is the Key to Industry Sustainability

Whenever we hear about onsite wastewater systems failing, the solution always seems to be to bring in a centralized wastewater collection system. The reality however, is that it is not financially feasible in many instances to provide centralized sewers in rural areas. In many rural communities, there is not enough population density to support the construction of such systems let alone to pay for ongoing operation and maintenance.

In fact, onsite wastewater systems are an effective and sustainable solution to managing wastewater in rural areas. Onsite wastewater systems provide many advantages:

More cost effective than centralized systems

Ease of maintenance

Long term sustainability

Ensures maintenance of the hydraulic cycle

The caveat here is that in order to provide the above advantages, onsite wastewater systems must be designed, installed, operated and maintained properly. Of course, even if the system is designed and installed properly, once the contractor leaves the site the system is in the hands of the homeowner whose responsibility it is to operate and maintain the system.

This is the point at which education becomes critical. Prior to leaving the site, the contractor should sit down with the homeowner and review the operation and maintenance requirements of the system. All systems require maintenance. If the homeowner is aware of the proper use and care of this critical infrastructure, it can save them time and money down the road.

The contractor should provide the homeowner with an operation and maintenance manual. The manual should include simple dos and don’ts along with a maintenance log for keeping track of maintenance that has occurred on the system and when the next maintenance is due. Contractors can access preprinted homeowner manuals from the association or direct homeowners to our website www.wcowma.com.

WCOWMA hosts a Septic Awareness Week each September. During that week, webinars or live presentations are provided to homeowners on the proper operation and maintenance of their septic system. We are joined in that endeavour by many municipal and regional districts and counties in the promotion of ‘Septic Sense’. Presentations also take place throughout the year at the request of various community groups and governing bodies.

At the end of the day, if we work to educate homeowners it will help to reduce system failure due to poor operation and maintenance habits and that is good for the credibility and sustainability of our industry in the long term.

Contractors and homeowners must be aware of the jurisdictional differences regarding regulations from region to region, however there are many resources available on the basics of system operation and maintenance available that are pertinent in any region. Resources available to share with homeowners are:


Septic-Homeowners-Manual-Updated-April-2020.pdf (septicdesign.net)

HomeOwnersGuideToSeptic.pdf (cvc.ca)

Homeowner\’s Guide to Septic Systems: Long, Customized Version (epa.gov)

septic_user_manual.pdf (masoncountywa.gov)


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