A plan to essentially scale back Dysart et al’s septic re-inspection program met with some resistance at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Chief Building Official Karl Korpela came seeking revisions that would bring the program more in line with what Algonquin Highlands is doing, and what Minden Hills is planning to do. They included: eliminating the mandatory pump out; using a single source third party contractor and notifying owners of inspection dates.
Dysart et al initiated a level 4 program starting January 2017. Since then, there’s been a trial in the Kennisis and Little Kennisis Lake areas. Korpela said 112 of 964 properties have not complied with the requirement to complete their re-inspections or had failed to submit a third party inspection report.
“Although this represents only 12 per cent of properties, beyond issuing 112 orders to comply, dealing with even a quarter of these infractions is not possible with our current staffing,” Korpela said. He added they could hire a lawyer but the courts would slow things down considerably. He said before they begin area two, they should make the changes. He said while the mandatory pump-out would be eliminated, tank lids would still have to be exposed for inspection. He said the inspector would do a sludge judge test to verify if tanks require pumping and check the condition of the tank. He said it would be quicker since haulers won’t have to follow inspectors around.
“The mandatory tank pump out has strongly been the lead complaint and most controversial aspect of our current program. Tanks will now only require to be pumped out under the maintenance requirements of the building code which is far easier to defend and closer to the province’s guidelines on re-inspections,” Korpela’s report said.
The second change is moving to a third party firm to do inspections rather than a list of 12 qualified inspectors. Algonquin Highlands, for example, uses WSP Canada and charges under $180 per inspection. With notifying owners, Korpela said it allows better coverage of an area. He further suggested that those 112 properties be added to area two inspections.
Mayor Andrea Roberts said, “I think we have to listen to staff. They say it’s not working.”
However, Coun. Larry Clarke had some concerns with scaling back the program, asking if there could be scenarios requiring pump outs, such as property sales, certain types of tanks proving problematic or being old, or the absence of septic paperwork. Korpela said it would add a level of complexity but could be done. Clarke thought the issue should go to the environment and climate change committee before a decision is made.
Deputy Mayor Patrick Kennedy said he had only received the report the preceeding Thursday and was not ready to make a decision.
Coun. John Smith said he was “very surprised” when he saw the report in the council agenda. He said the previous council was clear it wanted the highest level of oversight. He added while 12 per cent were not compliant, 88 per cent were, which he said was indicative of “a tremendous buy in” to the program. He felt now backing away was a disservice to residents. He said he was worried that without pump outs, deficiencies would go undetected and threaten lake health.
“To walk away from that would be foolish.”
But Roberts argued, “I feel like we’re trying to catch the big tuna but it isn’t working for us.” She said they could send it back to committee but did not think there would be any new information to debate.
The item was deferred, however, to the Feb. 13 environment and climate change meeting.