The Algonquin Highlands Septic Re-inspection Program found 31 per cent of properties inspected this year needed remedial action.

Thornhill-based firm WSP presented to council Dec. 12 about inspections in the Halls Lake and Kushog Lake area. The company evaluated 1,443 parcels as part of the initiative to ensure septic systems are functioning properly and not causing environmental harm.

A total of 97.9 per cent of systems requiring inspection were completed in 2019, according to WSP. Of the 1,264 systems inspected, about 396 of them, or 31 per cent, had visible Ontario Building Code violations. These ranged from solids exceeding 33 per cent of tank volume, missing lids, dense vegetation, or no haulage agreement in the case of holding tank systems.

“It’s not a popular program,” Mayor Carol Moffatt said. “But the results speak to the reason why you do it. It’s good information. The health of the lakes, as we said, is our entire lifestyle, economy.”

There were less tanks with issues this year compared to last, when 39 per cent of systems examined needed fixes.

“A part of that, we believe, is due to public education and public awareness of the program,” environmental consultant Paisley McDowell said. She later added the program helps owners learn best maintenance practices to have their tanks last for the estimated 30-year life cycle, or even longer.

Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen asked about ensuring those people, especially from 2018, get more strongly worded messages.

Chief administrative officer Angie Bird said that would happen, followed by an order to comply if necessary.

“We have the tools in our toolbox to make sure it doesn’t carry on too long,” Moffatt said.

The inspection also took water quality samples in the area, to judge how much faulty septic systems may be impacting lake health. Of 79 samples collected this year, three exceeded the Provincial Water Quality Objective, which WSP said represents phosphorus and algae bloom risk.

“People are getting used to the program. I’ve talked to people, myself as well, who have found it very informative,” Moffatt said. “We’re doing the right things.”

The 2020 inspection zone includes Big Hawk and Little Hawk Lake, Raven Lake and Oxtongue Lake. WSP will contact property owners in those areas next spring.

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