Septic system maintenance and assessment program explained

Written by  Victor Heese - Chair, Septic system re-Inspection committee of Central Frontenac Council Wednesday, 15 March 2017 11:49
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“Do no harm.”

That’s how Craig Bakay started his article in opposition to the Central Frontenac Septic System Maintenance and Assessment Program passed by Council.

Do no harm.

That is exactly what a septic system is supposed to do. It takes potentially dangerous waste, neutralizes it and returns it back into the environment. But it needs help in the form of regular maintenance. Encouraging regular maintenance is the focus of the Septic System Maintenance and Assessment Program. The benefits of regular maintenance are well documented: system performance is improved, system life span is lengthened, the likelihood of expensive repairs is reduced, property value is protected.

The risks of a failed system are also well documented. People’s health is at risk either by direct contact or by bacteria being introduced into the food stream. Untreated effluent can make its way into the groundwater system and contaminate well water. Nutrients remaining in effluent increase weed and algal growth in lakes, which draws oxygen out of the water, affecting the habitats of fish and other wildlife.

The Septic Re-Inspection Committee spent over three years looking into how to best protect human health, the environment and the economy. We believe the program that we recommended to Council is the most cost-effective and efficient way to accomplish these goals.

Pumpers and haulers will be licensed and trained by the township to perform a simple assessment at the time of pump-out. The assessments, forwarded to the township, will rate a number of items by a colour code: green means OK, yellow means minor repair or maintenance is suggested, red means that the system has failed or is failing.

Green and yellow assessments will be handled by the township. Only red assessments will be forwarded to Public Health. A red assessment is a serious matter. It means that human health or the environment are at risk. Remedial actions will be required. And, yes, these repairs or replacement can be expensive.

However, according to a Public Health Inspector working in Central Frontenac, in his more than 30 years experience, no one has ever lost their home because of a malfunctioning septic system. NEVER! Public Health will work with the homeowner to find a solution.

No program is free. There will be some cost, but this innovative program will provide the information that the township needs at a low cost with a minimum of inconvenience to the homeowner. Licensing, training and assessment forms will be provided to the pumpers and haulers at no charge, so there will be no cost that they will transfer to their customers. Tank lids will already be exposed for the pump-out, so the homeowner will not be inconvenienced. The assessment should only take an extra few minutes, so the added charge to the homeowner should be low.

The cost for failing to implement this program, however, could be high. For years, owners of lakefront properties have been reporting that water quality is deteriorating. There are more weeds, more algae, bad smells. If this continues, the value of waterfront properties will decrease. With a decrease in the value of waterfront property, the portion of taxes paid by these homeowners also decreases, which means that everyone else will have to make up the shortfall. We have a problem with water quality in Central Frontenac. We can use lofty rhetoric to justify sticking our heads in the sand and ignore the problem. Or we can try to do something about the problem. The Septic System Maintenance and Assessment Program is an attempt to do just that.

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