Highlands East supporting enhanced septic inspections

By Darren Lum

Highlands East property owners now have the option to have level- four septic inspection results recognized by the township.

The township supported a proposal for enhanced inspections conducted by a certified inspector to meet and exceed the requirements of the current township septic inspection program, following an effort led by Ron Parkinson, president of the Cedar Lake Cottagers Association, who recently presented at the May 11 council meeting, following an initial Nov. 10 presentation.

The proposal was based on the three focus areas for Highlands East property owners: ensure septic health, water quality monitoring and shoreline health.

From Parkinson’s presentation, he said the community’s economic and environmental future is dependent on its water quality. Septic systems are the primary source of nutrients that enter the lakes, which includes phosphorus and nitrogen compounds.

“We all know that increased phosphorus can lead to algae blooms and in turn, can lead to decreased property values and decreased property tax revenue. As shoreline property owners, we can minimize the nutrients entering our lakes through proper septic system operation and maintenance, and the preservation of natural shorelines. This isn’t for today or tomorrow, but rather looking ahead for many decades,” as written in the report delivered during the presentation.

Parkinson said homeowners will be assuming all costs of this more involved inspection.

He said the level-four inspection goes beyond the level-one inspection required by the township, which he characterized as a walk-around and does not include an inspection of an open tank.

The level-four inspection includes a 20-minute flow stress that is put on the system to test for hydraulic failure; a cleaning of the septic tank inner walls, the floor and partition; an inspection of the septic tank for integrity, including the interior components, which include the inlet, inlet baffle, partition, outlet and outlet baffle.

Before the resolution for support was passed, Parkinson said this proposal is about working with the township.

“This would be a program that is run in parallel so Highlands East will continue doing what their plan is. If somebody has a level-four septic inspection to hand in, if there is confrontation it will be a discussion about which program is right as far as septics go,” he said.

Parkinson likened it to somebody taking their vehicle to a mechanic, who provides information about potential repair work required and how the owner still has the choice for what, if any, repairs are made. He added the level-four inspections are all about education.

“Preventing is better than fixing,” he said.

He cited how FOCA [Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Association] in 2019 listed the causes of issues for septic systems, which included water softener damage, vehicle damage on leeching bed, improper installation, and overuse. These are all covered by a level-four inspection, he said.
Parkinson recognized the township’s effort back in 2017.

“The introduction of the level-one [inspection] program was a good start in 2017. However, all other Haliburton municipalities currently have higher levels of inspection,” he said.

Councillor Suzanne Partridge spoke in favour of the proposal before the decision.

“I applaud the property owners who are willing to spend this money and protect our environment and I don’t see why we in the municipality would not accept their reports to put in their file. It doesn’t preclude the municipality from doing our own inspections,” she said. “I really think we could welcome them to submit the inspections and we will keep it in the files of all of those properties.”

Following the decision, Parkinson wrote in an email, “Council’s acceptance is a positive step by recognizing the value of the licensed septic inspector performing the level-four inspection and as key stakeholders, we will continue to collaborate with Highlands East for continuous improvements to protect our water quality for everyone to enjoy,” he wrote to the Echo. “Our next steps will be promoting and educating property owners to protect our lakes and our investments and [we] look forward to your continued support when we confirm the level-four septic inspection process for all property owners to follow.”