Health and Community Services

Private Sewage Disposal


Individual on-site sewage systems have been, and continue to be, an important part of waste management in many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. Providing adequate sewage disposal is an important component in the protection of public health and the protection of groundwater and surface water from pollution. Many rural communities due to their size and population density cannot provide the traditional engineered sanitary sewer system. Where this is the case, on-site sewage disposal systems have been employed as a practical solution to servicing individual developments. For people in un-serviced areas (i.e., municipal sewage services not available), on-site sewage treatment is often the only practical solution for domestic sewage waste. The septic tank and subsurface absorption field (septic tank system) remains the method of choice. A well designed and properly maintained system installed on an acceptable site can provide long term, safe and effective treatment of domestic sewage.

What is On-Site Sewage Disposal?

On-site sewage disposal refers to disposal of all domestic sewage, produced by a home commercial or other establishment, into the soil and groundwater environment. The conventional method for new development is the subsurface disposal system (i.e., the septic tank and soil absorption field). Proper location, installation and maintenance are the keys to ensuring that a septic system functions properly for the long term. Not every proposed building site can be approved for private sewage disposal and water supply systems. There are minimum requirements with respect to size, location in relation to other physical structures or activities, soil conditions, etc., that must be met. A thorough site evaluation is required to determine if a proposed building lot meets these requirements.

Evaluation of Site

The site evaluation must be performed by an Approved Designer registered with the Government Service Centre (GSC). The results of the evaluation, along with a detailed sewage disposal system design and water supply design, signed by the designer, and a completed application must be submitted to the GSC to be considered for issuance of a Certificate of Approval. No construction or excavation, other than that necessary for site evaluation, should commence until a Certificate of Approval has been issued for the site.

A registry of approved designers is maintained by local Government Service Centre locations.

Approved Designer

Persons who are Certified Public Health Inspectors opens new window, Professional Engineers and Certified Engineering Technicians generally can be expected to have sufficient expertise to provide proper assessments, designs and construction drawings for the proposed systems. Individuals holding these designations are automatically considered as Approved Designers and may apply for registration as an Approved Designer without a requirement to meet the conditions as outlined below for others. Individuals in these categories simply request in writing or by fax to be listed by the GSC as an Approved Designer. No fee is required for registration.

It is recognized, however, that there are contractors and others who have the necessary expertise but lack the designations mentioned above. These persons can be recognized as Approved Designers PDF (77 KB) of on-site septic systems by:

  • Submitting an application to become an approved designer; and
  • Successfully completing a written exam designed to test knowledge in the area of on-site sewage systems and private water supplies.

The exam is to be written in the presence of an official of the GSC. The results of the exam will be reviewed by an inspector and, if a satisfactory mark is obtained, the inspector will recommend to his/her supervisor that the successful applicant be registered as an Approved Designer.

Regulation of On-site Sewage Disposal

The Sanitation Regulations under the Health and Community Services Act regulate onsite sewage disposal systems with a daily sewage flow of less than 4546 litres. The regulations govern the design, construction and installation of such systems.


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