Ministry shuts down two septic spreading fields
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | October 5, 2017|
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s (MOECC) process for evaluating hauled sewage disposal sites is undergoing “progressive development,” according to a ministry official, but that’s providing little comfort for two companies who have until Nov. 30 to find new spreading fields after recently losing their environmental compliance approvals (ECA).
The MOECC recently decided not to renew ECAs for both Haliburton Septic Pumping and Francis Thomas Contracting, and instead grant them short-term extensions until Nov. 30, according to David Bradley, the district manager for the MOECC’s Peterborough office.
The ministry has recently undertaken more “thorough technical assessments to ensure environmental protection, as well as, an increased public consultation process,” Bradley told The Highlander.
The decision to not renew his ECA approvals for his spreading field in Algonquin Highlands off Highway 118 has frustrated Dave Elstone, owner of Haliburton Septic Pumping. He said he’s going to appeal the decision, and expects the hearing with the Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario to take place this month.
“The ministry is telling us that Haliburton is facing a sewage dumping crisis, but then they’re closing us left, right and centre,” he said.
The proposed expansion faced a lot of backlash from Maple Lake residents in April when it was posted on the province’s environmental registry website. Many residents cited environmental concerns, the fact that the lake was at capacity and the field’s proximity to surface water. More than 110 public comments were submitted.
Elstone said the status of the field or the surrounding area, including the lake, has not changed, and he was confused why the ministry provided ECA approvals for the same site more than two years ago.
“We covered all the angles back then and ensured we weren’t impacting the lake at all. So, for the ministry not to approve it again, I think it has to do with the pressure from Maple Lake residents,” said Elstone.
A report from the ministry obtained by The Highlander said there was no evidence of sewage running off the site during heavy rain in May. A ministry official inspected the site after receiving a call from a resident who was concerned about potential flooding impacts.
Joe Cox, a controller at Thomas Contracting, said the absence of their spreading field, which was located in Algonquin Highlands, means they can’t serve regular clients along Highway 118 and 35.
“We’ll have to refer them to someone else,” he said, and pointed to Total Site Services as a likely candidate.
The company has been looking for another spreading field, but said that is becoming increasingly difficult with ministry requirements becoming more stringent.
Until a new property is found, the sewage lagoon system in Dorset, which Algonquin Highlands is looking to expand, will help fill some of the gap for clients in the township.
Cox’s biggest concern is if residents continue to have a hard time finding someone to pump their septics out, they simply won’t.
“I know a lot of people in the area pinch pennies to get by, and if the cost of a septic pump out goes up to where Dorset is at now, which is $400, you may end up with people who don’t pump their septic tanks and, essentially, what will happen is it will spill out onto their lots.”
The township’s mayor, Carol Moffatt, said landfills and sewage management are quickly becoming priorities for townships across the county.
She pointed to the county’s population growth, which according to the latest census, was above the provincial average.
“All those people create garbage and flush toilets,” said Moffatt. “We need to be attentive and know what’s happening next.”
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.