February 27, 2006

Nova Scotia updates on-site sewage disposal regulations

New technology, more flexibility and a shorter approval process are among the benefits cited for proposed revisions to Nova Scotia's on-site sewage disposal regulations. The revisions have been introduced by Environment and Labour Minister Kerry Morash as a result of a successful pilot program carried out last year at the department's Bedford and Bridgewater offices. The project succeeded in cutting the turnaround time for approvals from an average of 18 days to four days or less.

An on-site sewage disposal system includes a septic tank, disposal fields and interconnecting pipes, as well as a holding tank, an outhouse, or a system that meets the specifications established by the department. Owners of these systems are required to obtain an approval permit from the department.

The proposed regulations will streamline system approvals, allow qualified persons to install on-site systems and make use of technological advances. The shortened process will allow allows owners to proceed immediately when they use a qualified person for installation and will enable the department to focus on auditing key files and inspecting the work in the field. These changes will increase flexibility without affecting consumer and environmental protection.

The regulations, under Nova Scotia's Environment Act, are also being updated to allow reduced clearance distances between a septic tank and a watercourse or a wetland and the use of holding tanks in cases where it is established that there will be no adverse impact on the environment. This will provide greater flexibility when septic tank disposal systems are being installed on smaller properties.

Another provision will allow undersized lots to be amalgamated, which is not permitted under the existing regulations. Such lots could be amalgamated and developed as long as an on-site sewage disposal system could be designed and revised clearance distance requirements are met.

The proposed revisions would also allow the increased use of holding tanks for limited, temporary periods by agricultural operations (e.g. during harvest season), community service facilities and in the construction sector (e.g. while facilities are being built).

Comments on the proposed regulations are due by March 6, 2006 and should be sent to On-site Sewage Disposal Regulations Review, Policy Division, Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour, PO Box 697, 5th floor, 5151 Terminal Rd., Halifax B3J 2T8. Comments may also be faxed to 902/424-0575, or E-mailed to policy@gov.ns.ca.

More information on the pilot program is available on the department's Web site, www.gov.ns.ca/enla or by calling 1-800-567-7544.

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