Reinspections find high risk septic systems in Highlands East
Malfunctioning septic systems are being found through Highlands East’s reinspection program and so far property owners have been receptive to fixing the problems identified, said Laurie Devolin, chief building official, at a council meeting on Sept. 5.
Through the course of the summer, student inspectors went to 537 properties on Gooderham Lake, Dark Lake and Grace River and Lower Paudash Lake. There they would walk around the property, find the septic system, measure its distance to the lake and check for signs of a problem. The system would then be assigned a risk level from low to very high.
The lakes evaluated had mostly low-risk systems, some moderate risk and few high risk. The students found 16 steel tanks during their evaluations.
Low risk is defined in the report as including a system installed 10 years ago or more recently with setbacks that comply with the building code.
A moderate risk system might have an overgrown bed, exposed pipelines, a damaged privy or more sleeping cabins than tank capacity.
High risk includes setbacks that don’t comply with the code, structures built on the septic bed, a homemade system installed by the owner, or a system that can’t be located by the owner.
Very high risk includes a steel tank (or a system 40 years or older), sewage leaking or visible, or a tank or lid is cracked or corroded.
Councillor Cec Ryall asked Devolin whether property owners with septic systems in need of remediation were complying with orders.
Devolin said they were, but that it was an expensive process to fix or replace a system.
“People are pretty willing to do what they need to do. It’s just a matter of trying to get the funds together to do it,” she said.
She told council that reception to the program had been positive and the evaluations were leading to septic system improvements on area lakes. There had been criticism that Highlands East is not doing more thorough lid-off inspections, but Devolin said the municipality’s program was producing results.
“I think we’re catching a lot of septic systems that need to be replaced with the program that we’re doing,” she said.
Ryall said the point of the program was to find the higher risk systems and make sure they are replaced.
“As long as we are making significant progress there, I think we’re accomplishing our goal,” he said.