By Chad Ingram
Published Oct. 26, 2017
It’s not pretty, but it’s important.
Mandated by the province, the municipalities of Haliburton County are in the process of rolling out septic tank re-inspection programs. The exact process will vary by municipality, each responsible for designing its own program.
In Highlands East, that process got underway this summer, with students visiting properties to assess the type of tank each has. Only those deemed high risk must undergo a lid-off inspection.
In the other three municipalities, the process will be more thorough, with mandatory, lid-off inspections required. Algonquin Highlands has hired a firm that will begin the work starting in 2018. While exact details are still being sussed out in Dysart et al and Minden Hills, those municipalities will also require lid-off inspections of septic tanks be performed.
It is understandable that some residents may not like the idea of local governments poking around on their properties, much less in their septic tanks. In some cases, inspections will reveal that aging systems need to be replaced, representing a not insignificant expense that will likely also be unwelcome.
But it needs to happen. Ultimately, this process is about the community’s ecological health and in a place where one can’t travel two kilometres in any given direction without encountering a body of water, it’s even more important.
Phosphorous is the No. 1 threat to lake health in the county, contributing to the creation of algal blooms that have the ability to drain oxygen from aquatic ecosystems, thereby killing them. Human waste is full of phosphorous and municipalities are full of human waste.
In Minden Hills alone, it’s estimated that more than 12 million litres of waste goes into septic tanks each year.
Picture that in terms of plastic, two-litre pop bottles. Wait . . . don’t.
The point is, that’s a lot of excrement, and not everyone’s tanks are going to be up to snuff. On older properties where modern systems have not been installed, it’s likely the septic tank is not much more than a metal drum, one that may or may not any longer have a bottom.
Nearly a decade ago, my parents replaced the septic tank at my family’s cottage, and I still have nightmares about it to this day.
With the knowledge the inspections are happening, it’s clear that some residents are being proactive about the situation, with a number of new systems installed in the neighbourhood this year.
It’s messy, in some cases surely unwelcome, but necessary for the preservation of lake health in the Haliburton Highlands.