Lake associations are pushing back against Dysart et al’s plans to remove mandatory pump outs from the septic re-inspection program.

Council voted to support changes during its Feb. 25 meeting. Staff were directed to draft a new bylaw, though council has not discussed it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The alterations, not yet finalized, come after staff brought forward issues with the pilot project around Kennisis Lake, which had 112 non-compliant properties.

Kennisis Lake Cottage Owners’ Association (KLCOA) president Deb Wratschko said they are concerned that removing septic tank pump outs will mean problems get missed.

“There was never any consultation with the people that were involved,” Wratschko said. “We’re just saying slow down. Don’t just scrap a program, that is a very commendable program.”

Other proposed changes include hiring a third-party contractor to run it and setting inspection dates, instead of relying on owners to book their own inspections.

The Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners’ Associations (CHA) also opposed removing mandatory pump outs. President Paul MacInnes said the association has heard from plenty of experts on the issue since 2013.

“There’s no doubt in my mind, without a pump out, you miss problems that are polluting our lakes,” MacInnes said

But chief building official Karl Korpela said a lot of the pushback is misinformed. He said of more than 800 inspections done so far, only 30 had tank issues – and he could not find any that needed a pump out for the flaw to be discovered.

“Elimination of the mandatory pump out is not going to have any negative consequence,” Korpela said.

Korpela is proposing a sludge test be used to determine if a tank needs a pump out, which is done in other jurisdictions such as Algonquin Highlands. The Ontario Building Code does not define the ideal inspection. It advises tanks be cleaned whenever sludge occupies one-third of working capacity.

HomePro Inspections owner Mike Rahme, one of the approved inspectors for the pilot, said mandatory pump outs are critical. He presented to Dysart’s environment committee March 12 and said a sludge test would miss key issues such as root mass.

“When the whole objective of the program is to ensure lake quality, why are you willing to settle for a substandard process?” Rahme told the committee. He also said he found 47 cases in the pilot area where pump outs identified issues that would be missed otherwise, including roots, corrosion and tank cracks.

Korpela said he reviewed Rahme’s information and felt Rahme was too dependent on pump outs, and likely could have found any critical issues without them.

Compliance at issue

Although 88 per cent of properties inspected so far complied, that still left 112 properties non-compliant. Korpela said staff do not have the resources to issue compliance orders or fines through court.

Korpela has also proposed including those 112 into the revised program, meaning they would not be required to get pump outs.

That is a significant concern for the KLCOA, Wratschko said.

“The 112 people just simply get away,” she said. “Not getting penalized in any way for not following the bylaw.”

Korpela said it will make it easier to get compliance and is a part of standards changing over time.

“It’s one of those stumbling blocks when you’re trying to implement a program,” he said.

The issue is on hold due to the COVID19 pandemic. Korpela said inspections will likely be delayed until later this summer.

Coun. John Smith, the lone councillor to oppose the changes, said he is concerned the municipality could be sending the wrong message about environmental commitment and bylaw violations.

“I believe that council will continue to evaluate the matter carefully,” Smith said, adding he is concerned about making the changes this year given the emergency. “The best outcome might be to continue with the current bylaw for 2020.”

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