While applauding the well intentioned efforts of Terry Kennedy and John Duchene with respect to the septic systems inspection proposal, it would be simplistic and unfair to brand the decision by Central Frontenac Council as a shirking of responsibility.
For almost three decades beginning with the downloading of government services under the Mike Harris provincial government, added to cutbacks by the Federal Liberals and Conservatives, municipalities have struggled to foot the bill for things previously funded from provincial and federal sources. This situation was never sustainable. So when a proposal such as mandatory inspection is advocated, Coun. Brent Cameron is right to ask the question, who is going to pay for this?
Septic systems are but one of many environmental issues which affect the council. Our society is churning out water soluble pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, household chemical and plastic pollutants which even the best maintained septic systems are powerless to contain. There is widespread illegal dumping and incineration of wastes throughout rural Eastern Ontario which is contaminating air and water. Our landfills are filling up, costing the municipality tens of thousands of dollars per annum, with even greater costs headed our way as erratic weather patterns associated with climate warming, wash out culverts and increase the cost of road and bridge maintenance. Many septic systems are failing because they become waterlogged by unprecedented rainfall anomalies.
As Marcel Giroux pointed out in a recent letter to the News, Sharbot Lake's septic systems were upgraded 30 years ago with the assistance of central government funds.
Neither municipalities nor individuals can bear the practical costs of such massive infrastructure upgrades and their associated administrative costs with millions going to private consultants before work even begins. While Central Frontenac is undoubtedly pristine and beautiful, there is also widespread poverty here with large numbers of people economically marginalized with ever decreasing employment prospects. Councillors are right to consider potential impacts on the disadvantaged.
Coun. McDonald's argument that the maintenance of septic systems and wood stoves is a personal responsibility is neither accurate nor analogous. Health and safety with respect to wood burning appliances, has been improved largely through a combination of statutory measures which forced manufacturers to improve efficiencies and the WETT programme which unites consumers and the insurance industry in the common goal of saving money and lives. The township's role is minimal.
Many residents of this area, including farmers and villagers, historically benefited from new chimneys, roofs,heating systems and even floors, with the assistance of government funds and septic systems should be treated in a similar fashion for the common well being of the community (no pun intended, but in this scenario, our wells would also be well, as well!).