Detailed Assessments & Designs of Onsite Sewage Systems Around Victoria

What is site assessment?

In the past, many people simply did a “perc test” and with that they looked up the length of field required in a table supplied by the Health Department. Like many things these days a better understanding of the science behind the onsite sewage industry has altered our approach to the design of onsite sewage systems.

However, we know that many designers and planners do not do a proper perc test. In fact if the perc rate is in the order of 10 – 20 minutes, it will normally take 12 – 18 hours to do a perc test. If you leave the site and come back, you often find that you have “missed” the readings.

When CSSi started in this business like others we did the perc test. However we did the perc test according to the proper protocol. However, when Kelly was lying on the ground for almost two hours with a flashlight at 10:30 pm, waiting to start the perc test when the water level passes the 6″ mark, it was obvious that most people would not do this. People often skip or shorten the presoak period or the first complete drawdown phase of the test. The net result is that the perc test results are very often optimistic.

Now we do a site assessment rather than a perc test. We look at many factors, starting with determining the design sewage flow for the proposed system. To do this we have the client complete our Owner Declaration Form.

We then look at the site and consider some or all of the following: location of wells, fresh water supplies, breakout points, perimeter drains, property lines. We look at the vegetation and soils, equipment access, surface and groundwater intrusion, rock, distance of site from sand, gravel and topsoil supplies.

When we have completed the site assessment we have an understanding of what the constraints are and how severe they are. It may be an easy site or a challenging one.

The perc test has been banned as an unreliable test in many jurisdictions.

The permeameter test, in our view, is a more reliable and more repeatable test. Since we can do the permeameter test quickly, we run more tests. In the past people typically did two or three perc tests. We tend to do six or seven permeameter tests.


Site Assessment & Design Process

The process to assess the site, design, install and certify the installation is as follows:

  1. Client discusses job with CSSi (usually by telephone). CSSi sends the client via email, or fax, a copy of:
    1. Owner’s declaration
    2. Letter of engagement,
    3. CSSi fee schedule for site assessments and design
  2. Client completes the owner’s declaration form. CSSi uses this information to determine the design flow.
  3. Client signs and submits to CSSi the letter of engagement – retaining CSSi to do the site assessment and design work on the property. The client includes a deposit with the letter of engagement.
  4. CSSi meets client on site for initial overview of site. Client may give CSSi the owner’s declaration, letter of engagement and deposit at this time.
  5. CSSi does the site assessment (including soil work) and the design to determine what type of onsite septic system is appropriate.
  6. If there are several options, CSSi will discuss with the client before finalizing a design.
  7. For residential properties the site assessment and design range from $1,000 to $3,000 depending on the complexity of the site. (Usually around $1,500)
  8. CSSi invoices client for the site assessment, design and filing. CSSi also provides a copy of the design specifications to the client.
  9. CSSi prepares either a quote or an estimate for the installation.
  10. CSSi submits the “filing” and the $200 filing fee to the local health authority.
  11. A filing with the health authority is required to obtain a building permit from the municipality. The health authority automatically sends the accepted “filing” to the municipality.
  12. Installation of the filed design. Sometimes due to new site constraints, modifications to the design are made during installation.
  13. Installation costs range from $7,000 to more than $30,000 depending on the type of system.
  14. CSSi starts up and tests the onsite sewage system and records the initial operating parameters.
  15. CSSi prepares and submits to the health authority:
    1. As-build specifications
    2. As-constructed drawings
    3. Operations and maintenance plan (O&M plan), and
    4. Letter of certification signed by an “authorized person”
  16. CSSi invoices the client for the installation
  17. Client receives copy of:
    1. As-constructed specifications,
    2. As-constructed drawing
    3. Operations and maintenance plan (O&M plan), and
    4. Letter of certification signed by an “authorized person”
    5. Home owner information about onsite sewage systems
    6. Maintenance contract (CSSi would do the maintenance)
    7. 2 copies of the acknowledgement page
    8. Client comment page
  18. Client signs and returns the acknowledgement page, client comments and a signed copy of the maintenance contract if they wish to have their system automatically maintained in conformance with the filed maintenance plan.
  19. By retaining CSSi to do the maintenance, the system will comply with the new Capital Regional Districts CRD bylaw #3479.



The soils are the key to a well-functioning onsite sewage system. Typically at least 70% of the treatment will take place in the soil.
The texture of the soil is critical (how much sand, silt and clay).
Most people realize that sand with its larger particle size “percs” much better than clay. However, many people do not fully appreciate the effect of soil structure.
The other critical factor is the soil structure: a massive structure fine sand with a firm consistency will not allow much water to permeate through the soil.
However, even a soil with a fair bit of clay (clay loam) with a strong blocky, or granular, structure can be quite suitable for an onsite system.
CSSi often submits a representative sample to the lab for texture (grain size) analysis. This is standard procedure in Alberta, but almost no one in BC does this on a routine basis.


CSSi does over a 100 projects per year. In addition, many of our projects come as referrals from ROWP planners and installers. Many other projects come from referrals from satisfied customers.

Challenging Sites

Many of our jobs are for challenging sites. Consequently, with the large number of projects and the degree of difficulty, we have an excellent record in developing cost effective solutions for challenging sites. Most of the other companies represent a particular type of treatment plant. Therefore, if you go to one company you are likely to install a whitewater treatment plant; another company will install an NPS system or clearstream, and another company will sell you an Advantex.

CSSi deliberately does not represent any one treatment plant manufacturer, even though it could be more profitable to do so. We chose to be independent of the treatment plant suppliers so that we can choose the most appropriate system for the situation. CSSi looks at more than 35 different treatment plant types.

For more information about our services, please give us a call.

Site Assessments & Design

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Canadian Sewage Solutions Inc

809 Industrial Way

Victoria, BC V9B 6E2


Monday – Friday: 7:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Weekends/Holidays: Emergency Only

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