By Chad Ingram
Dysart et al’s septic re-inspection program will no longer require residents to perform mandatory pump-outs of their septic systems and there will be some other revisions to the process as well.
Councillors discussed changes to the required process during a Feb. 24 meeting and the municipality’s environment and climate change committee will review a new bylaw.
At the direction of the provincial government all municipalities have been instructed to create and implement septic re-inspection programs although the structure of those programs is up to each individual municipal council. Within the County of Haliburton its lower-tier municipal councils have adopted different programs with Dysart’s the most stringent. Adopted in late 2017 and including what is known as a Level 4 inspection its program requires property-owners to perform a pump-out of their septic systems before a lid-off inspection is performed. Its program is the only one in the county that contains this requirement.
As a report from chief building officer Karl Korpela indicated as of the end of 2019 964 properties in a section of the municipality designated as “Area 1” under the program had been through the process. Korpela’s report read that 112 property owners had failed to have the mandatory pump-out completed or submit a third-party inspection report another requirement of the program.
“Although this represents only 12 per cent of properties beyond issuing 112 orders to comply dealing with even a quarter of these infractions is not possible with our current staffing” his report read.
During last week’s meeting Korpela recommended to councillors a number of changes to the process including the removal of the requirement for a mandatory pump-out.
Korpela told council that based on his research environmentally “There’s no benefit to a mandatory pump-out.” He noted that pump-outs would still be required on certain properties where deemed necessary by an inspector.
Councillor John Smith disagreed with that assessment saying he believed there was an environmental benefit and adding that “The request to pump out a tank doesn’t slow down the inspection process.”
Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy noted and expressed concern that when septic tanks are pumped out the septage from those tanks likely ends up on a spreading field which is the common method of sewage disposal in the county.
“We’re pumping out septage that’s being looked after by a perfectly good septic system” Kennedy said.
Smith brought up the issue of fairness noting that residents in Area 1 were required to pay for pump-outs and that moving forward residents in other areas of the municipality would not be required to incur that expense. Smith said that amounted to the municipality thumbing its nose at residents who’d been made to pay for a pump-out.
“In three to five years they would have had to have it pumped out anyway” said Mayor Andrea Roberts adding a pump-out typically cost a couple of hundred dollars.
Smith responded that was not accurate since many seasonal properties are used much less frequently than year-round homes meaning they don’t require septic pump-outs as often. He also said he knew of residents on an island who’d paid a considerable amount to rent a barge to have a pump-out performed.
“Four thousand dollars people on an island paid for a barge because Dysart said it was necessary” Smith said.
Regarding third-party inspection reports Dysart’s program had provided residents a list of 12 qualified inspectors to choose from and hire.
“Current process provides for owners to select from a list of 12 qualified inspectors who are hired by the owner and may therefore feel they have an obligation of helping the owner pass an inspection” Korpela’s report read.
His recommendation was that the municipality hire a firm with fees then recovered by the municipality from residents. This is the way the program in Algonquin Highlands works and residents are charged $180 for the inspection. Minden Hills council recently adopted a program that will also use this method.
Another change recommended by Korpela was sending property owners letters identifying inspections dates and having inspections performed by neighbourhood groupings.
“Owners would be sent an initial letter identifying a date for their inspection” his report read. “If the date does not work for them they will need to reschedule otherwise they are charged another inspection fee if they are not present. Algonquin Highlands has been highly successful with a similar process.”
Council voted in favour or the recommended revisions with Smith opposed and a revised bylaw for the inspection program will go to the municipality’s environment and climate change committee for review before coming back to the council table.