How's Your Septic System?

I’m sure that many of you would rather not spend a lot of time thinking about the state of the waste disposal system at your establishment. Unfortunately, a number of operators received an unpleasant and unexpected reminder of the potential cost of septic system upgrades when they received surprise visits from an MOE inspector last summer.

The situation surrounding septic systems may be even more confusing than water treatment systems. Most small septic systems are approved by the local municipality, as part of the building code. Some larger systems require MOE certificates. When municipalities amalgamate, or previously unorganized townships become organized, further confusion emerges.

In the case of the surprise inspections on the lower French River, several operators were issued work orders and told to have inspections conducted by a qualified consultant. In several cases, the consultants reported that the systems were in compliance, and not subject to direct MOE regulation. Unfortunately, the inspections cost each operator $2,500.

There is a general impression, among some in the MOE, that there are many outdated and inadequate waste disposal systems in our industry. Certainly, there is considerable older infrastructure in some areas, so this is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility. It is also true that both standards and technology have improved over the years.

Unfortunately, it is also true that many businesses would have great difficulty in financing sudden, unexpected system upgrades. Without some sort of assistance such as loan guarantees or funding support, many would simply close their doors. The result of such a move on local employment and economies could be devastating.

We have no clear idea of the extent of the problem. That is why we have made a proposal for funding of a research study. NOTO and Cambrian College have requested support to hire student researchers to examine approximately 20% of the waste treatment systems in use in our industry. By spreading the sample across the north and covering the full range of operation types, we would get a very good overview of the state of waste treatment systems in our industry.

There would be an added benefit for businesses who participate in the study. They would receive a free, confidential evaluation of their system. Since the aim of the study is to gather overall industry data, no information on anyone’s individual installation would be divulged, except to the business operator. If you have concerns about your waste treatment system and you want to avoid paying a consultant, you may want to consider volunteering for the study.

Because these funding proposals require us to make some contribution, we have proposed that operators would donate accommodation and meals for the researchers. I hope enough operators will see the value of this initiative to provide the support we need in this area.

There is also an important second part to this project. We also propose to conduct a thorough examination of the available waste treatment technologies and create a system design database. We want to ensure that operators have complete, unbiased information available to them when they consider system upgrades so they are not dependent on the recommendation of vendors. This material would be made available to the industry on a section of the NOTO website.

As I write this, we are still awaiting word on the status of the funding proposal, but in the meantime, feel free to contact us with questions or comments, or to volunteer for the study. I think that you’ll agree that this information is extremely important, both to you as an operator, and for us to use to work with government to find solutions that fit industry needs. 

This article was taken from page 28 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Winter 2003 Issue


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