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Septic Systems

Understanding Septic (Sewage) Systems

Maintaining an effective septic system is important both to you and your family but also for your neighbours and fellow lake dwellers as a properly functioning sewage system is an integral part of a healthy lake and safe drinking water supply.

Septic Classes

If you are new to the lake and wondering about septic/sewage systems here are some key facts. There are basically five classes of sewage system that range from the classic “outhouse” to advanced systems that have been separated into 5 classes:

Class 1 – A chemical toilet, an incinerating toilet, a recirculating toilet, a self-contained portable toilet and all forms of privy including a portable privy, an earth pit privy, a pail privy, a privy vault and a composting toilet system.


Class 2 – A class 2 sewage or Grey Water system (can only be used for the treatment and disposal of greywater (non-human body waste) i.e., kitchen sink wastes, bathtubs, washing machines, etc. This type of system is ONLY adequate to treat small amounts of greywater (less than 1000 litres per day) for premises such as cottages and hunt camps, etc.


Class 3 – a cesspool.


Class 4 – The most common type of sewage system, which is used to service single-family dwellings, multiple units, and commercial premises is Class 4. It is typically composed of a two-compartment septic tank and a leaching bed. The septic tank collects the raw sewage and helps in settling and digestion. The liquids then flow out to the tile bed where they are further treated as they pass through the soil. Alternative Class 4 Septic Systems include new technologies known as Tertiary Septic Systems.


Class 5 – a system which requires or uses a holding tank for the retention of hauled sewage at the site where it is produced prior to its collection by a hauled sewage system.

Installation, Operation, Removal/replacement

The installation, operation and removal/replacement of septic systems is regulated through a number of agencies namely the Ontario Government via section 8 of the Building Code, the regional health department, and municipal governments.  Before building or renovating your home or cottage you must consult with the septic office to determine if a permit is required. Sewage system approval may be required prior to a building permit being issued.

Great sources of information are Leeds Grenville Lanark Health Department who cover most of the details surrounding the installation, renovation and effective maintenance/trouble shooting of your system.  Here you will also find here a list of certified installers, inspectors and pump-out services in the local area.

Septic Inspection Programs

For information on the current situation on septic re-inspection programs check out this information from the Mississippi Valley Conversation Authority


Also, you may contact:


Eric Kohlsmith, of the Mississippi Rideau Septic System Office. 
t. 613 253 0006 ext. 256 |

Information Links

If you are new to country living and wish to know about types sewage systems and their maintenance requirements you can check out this presentation developed by Eric Kohlsmith, an inspector for Mississippi-Rideau Septic System Office.


In addition, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers has a very informative video on understanding your septic system.

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