HE officials develop protocol to address ongoing highrisk septic systems

The following are news briefs from the regular meeting of council for Highlands East on Sept. 13.

By James Matthews

Highlands East officials have adopted measures to address non-compliant property owners with high-risk septic systems.
The municipal building department has pursued a septic maintenance program since 2017. In that time, septic systems have been categorized from low risk to high risk.
And with so many inspections, new septic installations, and the continuation of the septic maintenance program, it was determined that protocols needed to be implemented to address outstanding identified high-risk septics.
Shannon Hunter, the township’s chief administrative officer and treasurer, laid out those protocols for council Sept. 13 during its regular meeting.
Sewage systems can be deemed unsafe if they are not operated and maintained in accordance with the basis on which the construction and use of the sewage system was approved.
Septic systems are commonly deemed to be high-risk as a result of additional bedrooms or guest cabins on the property beyond what the sewage system was designed to accommodate.
As per the protocol to bring high-risk sewage systems into compliance, an inspector will send the property owner a letter that outlines options to bring the system into compliance. The owner will be required to have a plan to bring the system into compliance within 20 days.
Failure to notify the inspector within 20 days will result in an Order to Remedy Unsafe Building by a selected date. Failure to comply with the order will result in an Order Restricting Occupancy of all habitable buildings on the property.
Sewage systems may be deemed medium risk because of buildings, trees, excessive vegetation growth, landscape features, or parking areas located too close to any component of the sewage system.
Owners of medium-risk systems will basically be educated on how their system may deteriorate toward high-risk status.
A low-risk sewage systems are ones where minor or no concerns were noted with regards to the sewage system at the time of inspection.
“Future adjustments may be required. Currently, these are the procedures we have been following,” Hunter said.
Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall asked if there’s any indication the municipality may be in a situation in which legal avenues will have to be pursued against owners of high-risk septic systems.
“Do you see that as a possibility in [2022] or do you think we’ll try to work it out so it doesn’t happen until ([2023]?” he said.
Hunter said there will be situations in which some property owners, because of personal finances or other factors, may not be able to comply with municipal septic maintenance orders.
“Hard decisions will have to be made,” she said. “We’ll cross those bridges when we have to.”

Summer 2022 septic inspections
Brittany McCaw, the deputy CAO, apprised council on how inspections for the septic maintenance program had progressed during the summer.
The program began on Salerno Lake. The majority of the properties on the west side of the lake had been seen in 2021. This year, she said inspectors completed the entirety of the lake’s east side.
“We also did all of the miscellaneous properties around, but not directly on the lake,” McCaw said. “All remaining properties on the west side and numerous vacant properties within the area were also completed.”
Upon completion of Salerno, focus shifted to revisiting properties deemed high risk by last year’s inspections.
Between the time of the first inspection and now, some properties were brought back into compliance, she said.
Re-inspections have commenced on Billings Lake and Koshlong Lake. Re-inspections have been finished on Glamor Lake, Little Glamor Lake, Gooderham Lake, Dark Lake, and Grace River.
McCaw said all data will be revisited to ensure accuracy before it’s presented to council.
“We don’t want to provide you with any sort of false information,” she said.

Shoreline camping vexes bylaw officials
Council heard there have been reports of people continually camping along the municipal shoreline. The shoreline has often been left strewn with garbage and debris.
“The number of complaints in regards to illegal camping at the various beach and boat launch areas has increased dramatically over the past two years,” said Wayne Galloway, a bylaw enforcement officer.
The deputy mayor said he’s heard clearings are made to accommodate tents and trailers, destroying the Crown land. And he said rather large fires have been set in areas which pose a danger should they burn out of control.
“The garbage is being spread all over the place and, unfortunately, there’s human feces also being spread all over that area as well,” said Ryall.
Galloway said municipal bylaws can’t be enforced on Crown land, which begins 66-feet away from the waterline.
“All the activity is behind that 66 feet, so it is definitely Crown land,” Galloway said.
Ward 2 Councillor Suzanne Partridge suggested it’s time to meet with officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources on the issue.

Work at Herlihey Park moves forward
Abby Armstrong, the public works operations manager, said crew have identified some concerns about the stability of Parking Lot 2 at Herlihey Park.
Work started this summer on the seven-acre shoreline park’s Parking Lot 2. Crews found material that “impedes the integrity” of the parking lot. In fact, there would likely not be sufficient support for parked vehicles on the lot.
Engineers suggested the site be closely monitored while continuing with the current plan to move forward with Parking Lots 1 and 3 as well as the vast trail system along Dark Lake’s southern shore.
Staff have now focused efforts on Parking Lot 3 and will continue to move forward as weather permits to bring the site to its full potential as a vibrant lakefront park, she said.
“So we are moving forward with parking Lot 3,” Armstrong said.