June 17, 2015

Septic inspections could require property alterations

As published in The Erin Advocate

About one in five properties covered by this summer’s septic system inspection program in Erin will likely require some remedial action – but in most cases it will be minor.

Letters have gone out to 127 landowners who are close to wells that supply municipal drinking water, as part of the Source Water Protection Plan.

Engineer Michael Varty of WSP Canada, the firm hired to do the inspections in Wellington, told about 20 people attending a Septic Social educational event at Centre 2000 recently that based on experience in other areas, 81% of properties will likely pass the inspection. Very old systems will not need replacement if they are working properly.

“The focus is on whether the system is safe,” said Katherine Rentsch of the Ontario Rural Wastewater Centre at the University of Guelph. “Overall the experience is positive. It’s a good way to bring the community together.”

Most properties that do not meet safety standards will require relatively minor work, such as tank pump-outs, repair of equipment or tank lids, cleaning or replacement of effluent filters (which have been mandatory on new systems since the year 2000), diversion of surface water or the removal of shrubs or trees affecting the septic bed.

“Only about 1% will require significant construction,” said Varty. In the worst cases, replacement of the septic tank and bed could be required, with the cost ranging from $15,000 more more than $25,000, depending on the property.

Sheds, pools and parking areas are not allowed on septic beds, and inspectors will require access to both hatches of the tank, even if this requires moving a section of deck or patio. Those who receive remedial orders will have to demonstrate to the Erin Building Department that the work has been done.

Homeowners must arrange an appointment, which could last 30-60 minutes, and have an adult present to discuss the septic system with the inspector. Funding from the provincial government means there is no cost to the homeowner, but that is not guaranteed for future inspections, which will be required every five years.

The sludge level in the tank will be checked and the inspector will be looking for wet, mushy areas in the septic bed. Inspections are being coordinated by Wellington County, with Risk Management Official Kyle Davis advising local municipalities.

In Hillsburgh the homes to be inspected are on Howe St. near Trafalgar Rd. and on Church St., north and east of Victoria Park. There are two zones on the Halton-Erin Townline near Third and Fourth Lines, for wells that service Acton.

The dual Bel-Erin wells (near the Butcher funeral home) have a large inspection zone to the south that includes more than 100 homes on Dianne Rd., Kenneth Ave., Mountainview Cres., and parts of Armstrong St. and McCullough Dr. Detailed maps and more information can be obtained in the May 19 Council agenda at www.erin.ca, at www.wellingtonwater.ca, or by calling 1-844-383-9800.

At the septic social, some expressed concern about gasoline-contaminated soil at a former service station site just north of the Bel-Erin well. Town officials later confirmed that it is a separate issue – the wells get water from the south and were not affected by the gasoline.

The Bel-Erin wells were shut down in 2001, but not because of contamination. It was more efficient to supply the former Bel-Erin and Mountainview water systems from the main Erin village system.

When the full Source Protection Plan is approved this fall, inspections will turn to storage of fuel and pesticides, and the use of manure.

Larger vulnerability areas are mapped out for Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids. They tend to sink into the ground if spilled and do not dissolve readily in water. These include dichloromethane, trichloroethylene and other chemicals used in products like paint strippers, metal cleaning, dry cleaning, adhesives and pharmaceuticals.

Even small amounts of chlorinated solvents can cause toxic contamination that is very difficult to remove and may persist for decades. Property owners who store or handle such liquids in these areas will be required to take safety measures.