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Septic Systems

Thursday, April 9, 2020 – Sewage System Construction

Peterborough Public Health will continue to receive applications for sewage systems and inspect sewage systems which are failing and constitute a health hazard.  Our main priority is to ensure that sewage systems in Peterborough County and City do not create a health hazard or hazard to the natural environment.

“Pursuant to a Regulation made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, effective Saturday April 4, 2020 at 11:59 pm, construction sites operating under Building Permits issued pursuant to the Building Code Act will be closed, or will not commence.  Construction projects deemed essential in sections 27 to 31 however may commence or continue.  Section 27 to 29 address Healthcare, Critical Infrastructure and Industrial projects (related to petrochemical and PPE production).”

As a result, sewage systems for residential construction will be inspected where;

  1. a footing permit has been granted for single family, semi-detached and townhomes
  2. an above grade structural permit has been granted for condominiums, mixed use and other buildings, or
  3. the project involves renovations to residential properties and construction work was started before April 4, 2020.

Applications for new construction will not be processed or issued at this time.

If you have any questions, please contact Peterborough Public Health Safe Sewage Program at 705-743-1000.

Privately owned sewage disposal systems such as privies, leaching pits, cesspools, septic tank systems and holding tanks must be installed and maintained in accordance with the Ontario Building Code. Permits and inspections are required for installations of sewage systems and alterations to buildings or sewage systems under the code. Peterborough Public Health is the agency responsible for privately owned sewage systems in the County and City of Peterborough.

North Kawartha Residents:

Commencing May 18, 2014 Peterborough Public Health will no longer be conducting the septic sewage system management program in North Kawartha (Burleigh, Anstruther and Chandos).  Homeowners in this area are advised to contact the Township of North Kawartha for further information at 705-656-4445. For any information, required inspections, with respect to permits issued prior to May 18, 2014 please contact Peterborough Public Health.

Douro-Dummer Residents:

Commencing May 21, 2019 Peterborough Public Health will no longer be conducting the sewage system management program in the Township of Douro-Dummer.  Property owners in this area are advised to contact the Township of Douro-Dummer for further information at 705-652-8392. For any information or required inspections, with respect to permits issued prior to May 21, 2019 please contact Peterborough Public Health.

Sewage System Permits

Permit for Class 4 Sewage System, design capacity less than or equal to 4500 litres per day ($700)

Permit for Class 4 Sewage System, design capacity greater than 4500 litres per day and less than 10,000 litres per day  ($1200)

Permit for Class 4 Sewage System Tank Replacement Only ($400)

Permit for Class 5 Sewage System (Holding Tank) ($700)

Permit for Class 3 Sewage System (Cesspool) ($500)

Permit for Class 2 Sewage System (Greywater System) Sewage System ($500)

Permit for Trench Bed repair or extension of 16 metres or less Sewage ($500)

System Permit for Filter Bed repair, replacement or extension of 6 square metres or less ($500)

Change of Use Permit (Existing)

Existing System Inspection (Sewage Systems Permit for change of use or building addition, comments on minor variance, or rezoning) ($350)

Rezoning or Minor Variance

Rezoning or minor variance comments requiring a site visit ($250)

Severance or Subdivision Comments

First lot ($250)
Each additional lot ($150)

Severance or Subdivision Re-inspection

First lot ($25)
Each additional lot ($150)


Copies of Archived permits ($35)

File Search

File search (e.g., Lawyer, real estate), copies & letter ($125)

Why have a sewage system re-inspection program?

Sewage system re-inspections help to ensure that waste is properly treated. The program is a proactive step in ensuring safe drinking water, protecting our ecosystems and keeping our lakes clean and healthy. Poorly designed, installed or maintained systems can have serious environmental and health impacts.

What are the types of re-inspection programs?

In the City and County of Peterborough, there are two types of re-inspection programs, mandatory and municipal.

Mandatory: In the mandatory program, under Part IV (4) of the Clean Water Act, the principal authority is required to conduct inspections of on-site sewage systems located in “vulnerable areas” as outlined in source protection plans ( The Otonabee Region Conservation Authority in association with the Lower Trent Conservation Source Protection Committee has identified, mapped and geocoded these vulnerable areas in its source protection plans and has provided Peterborough Public Health (PPH) with the number and location of sewage systems that require mandatory re-inspection. There are 120 sewage systems in the County of Peterborough that require re-inspections every five years.  

Municipal: In the municipal re-inspection program, municipalities have decided and passed by-laws to conduct re-inspections of sewage systems that are not part of the mandatory re-inspections.  Municipalities can engage either private service providers, or in the case of PPH, a public organization which is independently audited and accountable to the general public. For the past three years, PPH has been conducting these re-inspections for the Municipality of Trent Lakes.

What is the cost of the re-inspection program?

The cost of the mandatory inspection program is distributed equitably across the County. The fee for both the mandatory and municipal re-inspections is $325 (including tax) per property. For approximately 85-90% of the properties, only one site visit is required for a sewage re-inspection certificate to be issued to the homeowner. However, some properties require two, three or even four visits, with no additional fees charged.

The total cost of the program was proposed and accepted by the Board of Health and the County and City of Peterborough prior to deciding on the fee per household and is based on a full cost recovery model. That is, all revenue from the sewage re-inspections covers the expenses solely for the re-inspection programs and not for the main sewage program or any other public health programs and services PPH delivers. All excess revenues, are put into a reserve fund to be used for potential legal fees, increases in costs and to offset any deficit in any other year. All statements are audited yearly by an independent accounting firm.

A breakdown of the fees is found in the table below.


Allocation of fee (% of fee)

Professional Staff (Salaries and Benefits)

$223 (68 %)

Administration and occupancy

$54 (17%)

Program Travel

$24 (7%)

Purchased services (e.g., memberships, legal fees)

$16 (5%)

Materials, supplies and program resources

$8 (3%)


$325 (100%)

What does a re-inspection consist of?

For the municipal re-inspection programs, only properties with septic systems that are 10 years old or older and have a capacity of less than 10,000 litres will be inspected. Inspections consist of the following steps:

  1. Residents will receive a letter from PPH advising that their system is to be inspected.  Included in the letter will be a questionnaire for property owners to complete regarding the status and use of their system, i.e. age of system, number of toilets, location, etc.
  2. Residents return the questionnaire to PPH, who will then schedule a “Phase 1” inspection. 
  3. Residents are not required to be present for the inspection (but can be present if requested). Property owners are responsible for ensuring that the septic system is accessible for inspection. This will require the removal of soil to ensure access to the lids or access hatches of the septic tank. 

What is a Phase 1 inspection?

If you have a septic tank, the lids or access hatches must be exposed for this inspection. PPH staff will remove the lids and complete an internal inspection of the septic tank observing the levels and composition of sewage as well as the condition of the tank. The leaching bed will be inspected for signs of failure such as breakout of sewage to the ground, saturated soil, excessively green grass, sewage odours, etc., and risks to the sewage system such as encroachments of structures, trees, and additional sources of water (such as downspouts).

If you have a different type of sewage system (e.g. outhouse and leaching pit), the system(s) will be inspected to ensure compliance with the Ontario Building Code and to ensure that the sewage systems are not creating or are not likely to create a health hazard.

What happens when my septic system “passes” the Phase 1 inspection?

You receive a Re-inspection Certificate from Peterborough Public Health that is valid for five years under the mandatory and 10 years under the municipal re-inspection programs.

What happens if my septic system does not “pass” the Phase 1 inspection?

Your property will proceed to Phase 2 which may include:

  • Pumping the septic tank;
  • Dye-testing the system; and/or
  • Excavation of the leaching bed area.

Phase 2 follow-up will be required when the Phase 1 inspection identifies signs or evidence that the sewage system may be failing or close to failure.

Why is Peterborough Public Health doing these re-inspections?

PPH has been doing sewage inspections and re-inspections in the County and City of Peterborough since 1967. The current agreement ensures that PPH operates at arm’s length from both Councils, is responsible for the determination and collection of fees for service and ensures Councils are free from liability or any litigation associated with sewage systems inspections and re-inspections.

Who at PPH does these inspections?

PPH has Certified Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) with greater than 40 years combined experience, who have been educated at accredited post-secondary institutions in addition to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs sewage qualifications.  They have specialized scientific knowledge of sewage and sewage treatment. Educating professionals and property owners is a mandate of PHIs. Furthermore, in addition to PHIs issuing Orders under the Building Code Act, PHIs can also issue orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (s. 13 Health Hazard Order) thereby obtaining timely resolution of problems and further protecting the health of all residents.

Where can I get further information?

For questions about local septic re-inspections, please contact a Public Health Inspector in the Safe Sewage program at 705-743-1000, ext. 228.

For an excellent video on caring for septic systems featuring one of Peterborough Public Health’s PHIs, please click here.

For further information about technical standards relating to septic re-inspections, please click here.

For details about septic re-inspections provided by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, please click here

Cottage Country Septic Systems: A Video


Septic System Users – Ontario Ministry of Environment
Septic Smart 
Homeowner’s Guide to a Healthy Sewage (Septic) System – Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association
Ontario Building Code – Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Land Severances – County of Peterborough
Otonabee Region Conservation Authority
Crowe Valley Conservation Authority
Kawartha Conservation
Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association
Ontario Association of Sewage industry Services