To the Editor
At 9:30 a.m. on Friday Sept. 16 at the Haliburton Legion a familiar statement was spoken. “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago the second best time is right now.”
The conveyor of that message was Rick Esselment of ESSE Canada the subject matter was the importance of an OnSite Wastewater System reinspection program for Haliburton County. An information seminar co-ordinated by the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Association and spearheaded by their chairman Paul MacInnes was a subject matter which is long overdue. It was great to see that the audience was well attended by the decision makers of the county which have the power to make such a program a reality. Lake association presidents councillors as well as municipal officials all of which listened attentively to the speakers. The awkward portion of the seminar was the fact that the speakers all came from other parts of the province and while the sharing of their experiences was very insightful they spoke of challenges that were not necessarily the same as we in Haliburton County would experience.
Our municipal leaders will have an opportunity to rise above the status quo as far as septic reinspection programs they will not have to look far for an example. Harcourt Park took the proverbial bull by the horns so to speak and put in place a mandatory reinspection program in which I was lucky enough to participate.
One of the challenges of which there will be many that has to be resolved is which level of inspection will be necessary. As history has shown the more common choice is the one that receives the lesser amount of political backlash. This would be known as a Phase 2 inspection that does not include the pumping of the septic tank. During the seminar there was a number of reasons that were provided as to why a non pumping reinspection program would be the preferred method. While the obvious one is added cost of pumping I would suggest that this is part of the maintenance of owning a home or cottage. During my 10 years of providing septic inspection I have learned that there is one constant that you can always depend on when doing a septic inspection that is that there is no constant. Each septic system is as unique as the people that use them. With that understanding it is to some extent irresponsible to set a hard timeline or pump out regiment for any family. One thing is for sure at some point they all need to be pumped and any of the old adages from the past are quite frankly just irresponsible given the access to information we have today. Inspections with pump outs can be quite effectively carried out proportionate to the time of the home or cottage last pumping.
One of the benefit that I am sure not everyone is aware of is that Haliburton County does not burden municipal treatment facilities with sewage. Disposal of septage is done in the most effective way possible which would be disposal field sites of which are in fact almost continually monitored via thermal imaging satellites and assessed on a regular basis by the Ministry of Environment. With not less than five pumping companies home and cottage owners have many choices and during the shoulder seasons Cake Septic and Shepherds Enviromental have large capacity sites that can readily take up the excess. I did find a moment of what I am sure was unintentional humour from one of the speakers when he referenced the added nuisance of pumper trucks on the road. Obviously he has not driven in the world of logging dump and rock hauling trucks lately. In this world the pumpers pretty much go unnoticed on the roads.
At the end of it all I guess we can continue with the status quo and work to the minimum standard that Part 8 of the Ontario Building Code prescribes or we can step up to the plate as Harcourt Park did and say Haliburton deserves better tell me I am wrong. I will leave you with this closing thought. Up until this writing we have performed just over 100 real estate and severance septic inspections this year 18 of them were septic tanks of various ages ranging from seven to 40 years of age that had significant cracking in the bottom of the tank which were leaking raw sewage outside of the septic system.This is damage that we would not have caught if we had been just doing visual inspections. My question to you is what number of missed derelict septic systems is acceptable to you?