A pair of Haliburton cottagers are ticked off with Dysart et al township after a mandatory septic inspection earlier this summer mistakenly flagged an issue with their system.

John and Lori Sexton own property along Spruce Lake and had their septic checked by town staffers in May. They were surprised when, following the inspection, they received a notice stating their system didn’t meet municipal standards. The supposed problem was a missing inlet baffle – a device that helps wastewater flow smoothly throughout the septic system.

The Sextons said they questioned the inspectors, who insisted they couldn’t locate the baffle, which typically extends into the top area of the tank. So, they arranged to have someone come in to fix it.

“A contractor came out – he had a camera with him, which he used to find the baffle right away,” Lori said, noting town staffers didn’t use a camera while carrying out the earlier inspection.

The Sextons were billed $170 for the visit. They feel Dysart should cover the “unnecessary” tab.

“We’re out a good chunk of money now because of a mistake, which doesn’t seem right. I don’t know why the township isn’t using a camera for these inspections so they can avoid situations like this,” Lori said. “We are really supportive of these inspections… we just feel it’s not a very good process if the township is making people pay for things that are already there.”

Bri Quinn, supervisor of Dysart’s sewage system maintenance program, described the Sexton’s case as an “oddball” situation. She said a standard flow test, carried out on every system, raised some red flags.

“The effluent wasn’t coming from the inlet opening on the end of the tank, it was coming from somewhere else,” she said, noting she got on the ground and peered her head through the tank opening to see if she could spot the baffle. “We couldn’t see anything, and at that point it wasn’t clear to us [a baffle was installed] and it wasn’t safe for us to try and repel down anymore.”

Quinn said last year, staffers would use their iPhones to take photos inside the tank, but noted the town is moving away from that practice after several phones were dropped and lost. She added the department was looking into purchasing cameras to be used for inspections.

After reporting the issue to her superior, chief building official, Karl Korpela, Quinn said she was confident the Sextons’ case was being handled by the book.

“We’re not repairmen… I’m not comfortable asking [summer students] to go out and basically plunge into a septic tank to find someone’s baffle. So, if it’s not clear to us at the time then it’s something we’re going to ask for proof of,” Quinn said.

Cottager wants more thorough inspections

Gunars Vestfals had his Drag Lake property inspected in June and was told his system required a pump out after the technician found what they believed to be approximately two feet of sludge at the bottom of the tank. This was news to Vestfals, who had his tank drained just a few months earlier. He said his system typically needs pumping every four or five years.

After a contractor came out it was determined the tank had around two inches of actual sludge.

He said he’s out around $315, after going ahead with the second pump out, and is calling on the township to be more thorough in its testing.

“Dysart’s program appears to focus on what they call ‘sludge’. When the depth measurement of it is a third of the tank, being two feet, they insist on a pump out. In reality, most of [that] is suspended sewage, still decomposing,” Vestfals said, pointing out what he perceives to be a key flaw in the township’s testing.

Quinn admitted, “there’s always areas of improvement.” She said staff usually meet every other week to discuss the program, complaints, and any potential changes.