As a homeowner within the Halifax Regional Municipality, you are responsible for a number of things on your property that affect Halifax Water's systems - water, wastewater and stormwater.
Halifax Water is responsible for, and continually maintains and upgrades, the public water, wastewater and stormwater systems (the portion of the underground piped systems found in the street, as well as ditches and culverts, within the public right-of-way).
As a property owner, you are responsible for the maintenance and operation of the water, wastewater and stormwater systems located on your private property. Your laterals are the underground pipes extending from your building to the Halifax Water system in the street. You may have one or more laterals to your home:
- The water lateral delivers water from the main in the street to inside your house. A water meter measures the amount of water delivered which is how you are billed.
- The wastewater lateral is designed to carry flows from toilets, sinks, bathtubs, showers, dishwashers and washer machines.
- The stormwater lateral is designed to carry flows created by rain, groundwater and snow melt including stormwater from sump pumps and yard drains.
As a homeowner you need to know where your property line is located and to ensure that your private water, wastewater and stormwater systems (including laterals) are not carrying inappropriate flows such as pollutants, cross contamination or inflow and infiltration.
Regulations for Homeowners
Halifax Water is governed by various regulatory requirements as laid out by the Nova Scotia Utility And Review Board and Nova Scotia Environment. To help meet these criteria, Halifax Water requires private property owners to also comply with requirements as found in the Halifax Water Regulations.
Inflow and infiltration (I&I) happen when unwanted stormwater enters into the wastewater (sanitary sewer) system and creates extra volumes to be carried in the pipes.
Inflow is stormwater that enters the wastewater system through a direct connection such as foundation drain (weeping tile), roof drains and downspouts, sump pumps, uncapped cleanouts, catchbasins, and other drains from your yard or driveway. Infiltration refers to stormwater (including groundwater) that enters the wastewater system through cracks, leaks, or roots in the pipes.
Inflow and infiltration are most common during wet weather events (rain storms, snow melt, high groundwater), when the pipe network is not able to handle the surplus flow. This causes backups in the system, overflows to the environment (streams, lakes, harbour, beaches, etc.), and flooding of private property including wastewater backups into basements. Exposure to these releases can be hazardous to human health and the environment.
These videos from BC Capital Regional District show common sources of inflow and infiltration on private and public properties.
Please note that these videos are not exhaustive. For example, sump pumps connected to the wastewater systems are major contributors of inflow in Halifax Regional Municipality and they are not illustrated in these videos.
As per the Halifax Water Regulations discharging stormwater into the Halifax Water separated wastewater system is illegal in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The Regulatory Services Department of Halifax Water manages the Inflow and Infiltration (I&I) Reduction Program.
The goal of the I&I Reduction Program is to reduce stormwater inflow and infiltration from private properties from entering into Halifax Water’s wastewater system.
The I&I Reduction Program:
- Identifies, investigates, and prioritizes areas of significant inflow and infiltration
- Requires private properties to make repairs to address these issues
Investigation techniques performed by the Halifax Water I&I team include:
- Flow monitoring
- Smoke testing
- Dye testing
- Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) videos
- Property inspections
Where inflow and infiltration are found, the property owner is required to perform actions to fix the problems, within a specified time frame, to bring the property into compliance. Not complying with this requirement may result in suspension of service and/or other penalties.
It is your responsibility as a property owner to manage the stormwater generated on your property and prevent stormwater inflow and infiltration from entering the Halifax Water wastewater system.
You are required to disconnect/repair those fixtures that are directly connected to the wastewater system or are allowing leakage into the wastewater system such as:
- Sump pumps and interior drains connected to the wastewater pipe in your basement including connection of these to a set tub or floor drain
- Roof downspouts that extend underground and connect to the underground wastewater pipe
- Foundation drains (weeping tile) connected to the underground wastewater pipe
- Damaged/leaking wastewater lateral caused by roots, poor joints, cracks, etc.
- Cleanout caps that are missing or damaged and allowing stormwater to flow into the wastewater pipe (these cleanouts may be found in your basement floor or outdoors in your yard)
- Exterior area drains such as French drains in the yard, driveway drains, and exterior stairwell/window drains that are connected to the interior sewer plumbing in your building or to the underground wastewater system
Ideally, stormwater should be dissipated across your property, allowing it to flow across the surface and soak into the ground. Roof drains, sump pumps, and foundation drains should be directed to your yard where possible. You need to ensure this does not cause drainage issues on your property or neighbouring properties and will not cause icing concerns on private and public properties during the winter months.
In areas of Halifax where piped stormwater systems exist, you may contact Halifax Water to get a permit to connect your stormwater sources to the underground stormwater system.
You may want to engage a qualified professional (contractor, plumber, or engineer) to help you assess your options about how to best handle your property’s stormwater.
BC Capital Regional District, I&I Reduction Program (including video series)
Downspout Disconnection “Do-It Yourself”, City of Toronto Downspout Disconnection Program
Institute of Catastrophic Loss – Basement Flooding Handbook – Flood Reduction Options [PDF]
Insurance Bureau of Canada – Flooding and Sewer Backups – Backwater Valves [PDF]
Better Business Bureau – Request Estimate from Trustworthy Businesses