The vast majority of residents in the municipality use a septic tank and drainage field system. The other two systems mainly used are holding tanks and piped wastewater, where wastewater is piped for treatment at the Lockport Waste Water Treatment Plant, East Selkirk Lagoon or the Grand Marais Lagoon. As of 2010, all properties in a designated area along the Red River are only allowed to have holding tanks – they cannot have septic tanks and drainage fields.

Download the province of Manitoba’s Homeowners Manual for Onsite Wastewater Management Systems to learn more about the installation, use and care of your onsite wastewater management system.

Septic tank and drainage field

Note: Septic tanks can only be emptied and hauled to the RM of St. Clements facilities from June 1 to October 15, as part of our licensing agreement with Manitoba Sustainable Development

Septic systems are simple to operate and when properly designed, constructed, and maintained. They do an excellent job of removing pollutants from wastewater to protect the environment. The life span of a septic system is about 20 to 30 years.

What is it?

An underground waste treatment system consisting of a septic tank and drainage field that uses a combination of nature and technology to treat wastewater from bathrooms, kitchen drains and laundry.

How does it work?

The septic tank digests organic matter with microbes and separates floatable matter (e.g., oils and grease) and solids from the wastewater. The liquid (known as effluent) is discharged from the septic tank into a series of perforated pipes buried in a drainage or leach field, chambers, or other special units designed to slowly release the effluent into the soil.

What does it cost?

This system requires that the septic tank be pumped out once every year or so, depending on use and size of the tank. Private contractors called septic haulers must be hired to empty the tank. Depending on tank size, the cost to empty a tank ranges from $50 to $150 to empty – prices vary between contractors.

How do I know if I have a septic system?

  • You use well water
  • The waterline coming into your home does not have a meter
  • Your neighbors have a septic system

How do I find my septic system?

  • Look at your home’s “as built” drawing
  • Check your yard for lids and manhole covers
  • Contact a septic system service provider to help you locate it

Signs of Septic System Failure

A foul odor is not always the first sign of a malfunctioning septic system. Call a septic professional if you notice any of the following:

  • Wastewater backing up into household drains
  • Bright green, spongy grass on the drain field, especially during dry weather
  • Pooling water or muddy soil around your septic system or in your basement
  • A strong odor around the septic tank and drain field

Maintenance Tips to keep your system heathy


Tank Pump Out and Inspection

Note: Septic tanks can only be emptied and hauled to the RM of St. Clements facilities from June 1 to October 15, as part of our licensing agreement with Manitoba Sustainable Development. If an emergency arises and you need to get your septic tank pumped out after October 15, your septic hauler will have to take it to a facility that is licensed to accept it and may result in an extra charge for you.

  • Depending on household size, use and the size of septic tank, the tank must be pumped out from once a year to once every two years, ideally in the spring to give the microbes a chance to repopulate. The tank should be inspected at this time.
    • Failure to pump the tank means solids will be discharged into your field, which will clog the soil and eventually cause the system to fail. Once the sewage backs-up, the damage is already done. You are responsible for getting your septic tank pumped out.
  • Pumping out the tank is done by septic haulers who empty the tank into tanker trucks and haul it to a sewage treatment facility
    • Septic haulers are private contractors that you must contact
    • Depending on tank size, the cost to empty a tank ranges from $50 to $150 to empty – prices vary between contractors

 Drainage Field Care

The soil absorption system is the most important part of a septic system, so it is important to protect the area. The following landscaping tips will help to maintain your system:

  • Keep automobiles and heavy equipment off the system. Because systems are installed near the ground surface, the piping and septic tanks can be damaged by heavy traffic. Traffic will also compact the ground and reduce its ability to absorb sewage effluent which may then surface in the yard or back-up into the house.
  • Divert downspouts and other rainwater drainage away from the soil absorption system area. The extra rainwater can overwhelm the disposal field.
  • Keep pavement, decks, above ground pools, and out buildings off of and away from the soil absorption system area. Construction activity can compact the soil and structures limit access to the disposal field for maintenance.
  • Avoid too much soil fill over the soil absorption system area. Increasing the depth of soil over the leach field limits the infiltration of air into the soil needed by the microorganisms to treat wastewater.
  • Maintain adequate vegetative cover over the disposal field. Plant grass over and near your septic system.
  • Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the treatment field. Keep the grass trimmed.

Winter Care


The essential point in winter is that you don’t want the septic system drainage system to freeze, which includes the pipes from the tank to the field and the field. These areas should be insulated to prevent them from freezing.

  • In winter, traffic (even from snowmobile paths) will drive frost deeper into the ground causing the system to freeze
  • Insulate the disposal field with a layer of straw during winter months at least 30 centimetres (one foot) thick.
  • Fresh snow is an excellent insulator. Any accumulation over 12 inches will provide significant frost protection.
  • If the house sewer pipe is less than four feet below the ground’s surface where it leaves the house and it does not have added insulation, problems with freezing likely will occur. Often, the wind keeps snow from accumulating next to the north and west sides of the house, allowing frost to penetrate deeper in those areas.
  • Place hay, straw, bags of leaves over sewer line exiting the house, minimum 1 foot thick.
  • Use snow fence to trap snow over the tank, and 5 feet beyond. When installing the snow fence it is recommended to “Call Before You Dig”, to mark out all underground infrastructure in the area prior to installing fence posts, and be aware of the location of all underground piping.
  • Have insulating layer at least 1-foot-thick over the septic tank, particularly if water usage will be low.

Use Water Efficiently

Since the soil must accept all of the water used in your home, limiting water use can help prevent hydraulic overloading of a system. Disposal fields do not have an unlimited capacity.

Once a disposal field is overloaded with water, the soil becomes saturated. Water moves slower through saturated soil and the oxygen is driven out of the soil. The aerobic soil microorganisms are driven away, slowing the digestion of the organic particles in the sewage where there is lack of air. Worms and insects that keep soil spaces open will also move out. Once saturated, the system will take a long time to recover. A continuously overburdened system will fail and is hard to rejuvenate.

  • Space out water use throughout the day and week. For example, avoid washing all of your laundry on one day.
  • Install water conserving fixtures like low flow shower heads, low flow toilets, and even purchase a front-loading washing machine.
  • Typical water use is about 500 litres (110 gallons) per bedroom/day. Try not to exceed that amount. A water meter will help monitor water usage.
  • Keep your fixtures in good repair. A slow-running toilet can add large amounts of water. A running toilet discharging ¼ gallon per minute will result in 360 gallons per day. To test the toilet, put a few drops of food colouring in the toilet tank. If it shows up in the bowl, it is leaking. It may take as long as an hour for colour to show in bowl.
  • Wastewater not included in the system’s design should not be put into the system. This may include wastewater from:
    • foundation weeping tile drains
    • a hot tub, spa or hydro massage bath exceeding a 2-person capacity
    • a swimming pool
    • an iron filter
    • water conditioning equipment that generates excessive amounts of wastewater

Properly Dispose of Waste

The septic system contains a collection of living organisms that digest and treat household waste.  Pouring toxins down your drain will kill these organisms and harm your septic system.

  • The only wastes that should be disposed of in sinks and toilets are those that break down easily. Onsite wastewater disposal systems work on natural processes similar to composting. Wastes that do not break down easily (facial tissue, large amounts of vegetable scrapings, coffee grounds, chemicals, paints, oils, sanitary napkins, applicators, condoms, medicines, pesticides, poisons, strong disinfectants, etc.) can damage a system or substantially increase the need to clean the septic tank.
  • Use hot water or a drain snake to unclog drains.  Avoid drain cleaners.
  • Grease and oil is hard to break down and when it eventually moves into the soil it will plug it up causing the field to malfunction or fail.
  • In-sink garbage disposals can significantly increase the organic and inorganic content of wastewater. Excessive amounts of organic/inorganic material in the sewage may cause the system to fail.
  • Do not use biological or chemical additives in place of septic tank pumping. These products include bacteria, enzymes, yeasts, and inorganic or organic chemicals. If the additive increases the level of biological activity in the tank, the additional digestion of the sludge can increase the amount of gas given off by the microorganisms digesting the solids. This gas bubbles up and can cause the suspended material in the sewage to be buoyed up and not settle out in the tank as it should. It is then carried into the final soil portion of the system and can plug the soil pores that accept the water. Other chemicals may emulsify greases, which will then not float and be trapped as scum in the tank. They will then flow out to the soil and plug the soil pores. Some of these products may contain chemicals that will damage the effluent absorption portion of the system or will percolate down through the soil to contaminate groundwater and nearby wells

Maintain and Upgrade the System

Just like the house roof, driveway, and furnace, septic systems require upgrades and possibly replacement. Expect to have to upgrade a properly designed and installed septic system every 10 to 20 years. Upgrades and replacements will allow homeowners to implement the latest technologies and advances in wastewater treatment.

  • Install watertight manhole extensions if not already in place, to simplify septic tank access.
  • Make sure the access lids are structurally sound, secure and child-resistant. If access lids are buried, consider raising them above grade to facilitate access and prevent the infiltration of surface water into the septic tank.
  • Install risers and inspection ports. Because the system is buried, it is difficult to inspect to check for problems leading to a malfunction. To facilitate quick and frequent inspection, small inspection ports should be installed at the end of each lateral line. By extending the inspection ports up to the ground surface they can be easily mowed over, while still providing easy access to check for ponding in a lateral, which is an early warning sign of a malfunction.
  • Never enter a septic tank. The septic tank produces toxic gases that are potentially fatal. Any work or repairs should be made from the outside.  When working on a tank, make sure it is well ventilated and someone is standing nearby. Never enter a tank to retrieve someone. Call emergency services and put a fan at the top of the tank to blow in fresh air.

Holding Tank

Holding tanks are commonly used for wastewater collection in cottage country or in areas where disposal fields are not permitted. As of 2010, all properties in a designated area along the Red River are only allowed to have holding tanks.

What is it?

A tank made of constructed of concrete, fibreglass, polyethylene or other approved material that is a minimum size of 3400 litre (750  gallons) if the building has low water toilets, otherwise the minimum size is 4500 litres (1000 gallons). All household wastewater is collected here.

How does it work?

Wastewater is stored in the holding tank and pumped out and taken to a wastewater treatment facility when full.

What does it cost?

Depending on the size of the tank and water use, the holding tank must be pumped out between once every six weeks to once a year. Private contractors called septic haulers must be hired to empty the tank. Depending on tank size, the cost to empty a tank ranges from $50 to $150 to empty – prices vary between contractors.

Piped Sewage

South Henderson Highway, parts of Lockport and East Selkirk currently have piped sewage.

RM of St. Clements Wastewater Facilities

The RM of St. Clements has three public waste water treatment facilities:

  • Lockport Wastewater Treatment Plant
    • Hooked up to about 300 homes/businesses
  • East Selkirk Wastewater Collection System and Treatment Lagoon
    • Located on CIL Road in East Selkirk. Was constructed in 2015 after undergoing a lengthy environmental impact assessment. Has capacity to treat 750 homes
  • Grand Marais Wastewater Treatment Lagoon and Constructed Wetland
    • Waste water is hauled to this lagoon located near Grand Marais. Treated effluent is discharged into Marais Creek which drains into a natural lagoon before entering Lake Winnipeg. Capacity is for 262 permanent residents, 2489 seasonal residences, including the possibility of piped in sewage from a nearby 166 lot subdivision.

Lagoon Sewage Disposal

RM of St. Clements lagoons DO NOT accept septage (the content of septic tanks) between October 15 and June 1, as part its licensing agreement.

  • If an emergency situation arises where a septic tank needs to be pumped between October 15 and June 1, the septic hauler is required to haul to a treatment facility that is licensed to accept septage during this period.

Holding tank sewage (the content of holding tanks) is accepted year round.