By Jenn Watt
Published August 15, 2017
As was noted in Robert Mackenzie’s story on page 10, mandatory septic reinspections are becoming the norm across the Haliburton Highlands. This is very good news.
Blue-green algae has become a looming problem in places close to us, including Muskoka’s Three Mile Lake and Lake Erie, restricting use of entire waterbodies for humans and animals.
This type of algae feeds on phosphorus and nitrogen and there is no better way to load a lake with the stuff than for humans to dump it on the land or in their septics and allow gravity to do the rest.
The Haliburton Highlands isn’t agricultural, so that threat isn’t top of mind here as it is in more farm-heavy regions. However, we do have many lakes at-capacity, meaning the lake cannot handle any more human development.
But not all human behaviour is equal.
Septic systems can work very well in filtering out the waste put into them. This paper has regularly featured stories with tips on how to best treat your septic system. (There are excellent tip sheets available from the CHA on their website: www.cohpoa.org/septic-health.) Even a brand new septic system needs to be treated properly and the types of materials put into them need to be carefully vetted (use phosphate-free detergent).
However, yet another threat looms when we talk about human waste and lake systems: the malfunctioning or failed septic system.
That is what mandatory septic inspection is about. There are several methods of this practice from one that includes paperwork and conversations to others that require full septic pump-outs. Each municipality in Haliburton County is working toward some method of septic reinspection.
While there have been some concerns from property owners that this is overly invasive and potentially costly, we need to keep in mind the larger picture.
Failing septic systems are polluting lakes and not everyone is as concerned about it as the next person.
Highlands East employed two students this summer to do a type of septic inspection that identifies low and high risk systems. Even without lifting the lid and pumping the tanks, these students found eight per cent high risk and four per cent very high risk systems.
Very high risk can include those with a damaged or corroded tank, steel tank, damaged filter bed, non-conforming system or visible effluent.
If this is what is encountered without a professional inspecting tanks, you can imagine how many failing or malfunctioning systems are located on lakefronts across the region.
In the coming years, each municipality will be engaging in some kind of inspection program – some taking it much further than others.
As the results come in, the necessity of this program will likely become clearer and the inspections more thorough.
Some may find the concept of mandatory inspections uncomfortable, however, the health of our ecosystems is absolutely worth it.