North Cowichan wants input from Island Health on the best ways to deal with old and decrepit septic systems in the municipality.
At the council meeting on Aug. 18, Coun. Christopher Justice pointed out that there are a number of areas in North Cowichan where septic systems are not working properly and they can introduce excessive nutrients and bacteria into the environment, contributing to the nutrient pollution of local water bodies and making them at times unsafe for recreational activities.
He said sewer is not an option in some areas of the municipality, like Maple Bay, where business opportunities have been limited and environmental impacts exacerbated by substandard septic systems and/or site conditions that preclude upgrades to meet current standards.
Justice said that as part of the ongoing review of the official community plan, a proposal for a commercial centre in Maple Bay has been brought forward, but most of that area doesn’t have hook ups to North Cowichan’s sewer systems and businesses and homes generally rely on the use of septic tanks.
“I understand that there has been at least one instance of a business in Maple Bay which was relying on the pumping out of its septic tank to keep the business going, but the costs of that eventually drove that business into the ground,” Justice said.
“It occurred to me that, in order to perhaps support businesses in places like Maple Bay, it may be an option for us to facilitate some alternatives.”
Justice said the costs of pumping out septic tanks is high as the effluent and sludge have to go to the Capital Regional District for disposal, and suggested that the costs of emptying septic tanks may be a significant factor preventing business owners and homeowners from regularly emptying their tanks.
Justice considered making a motion for staff to explore options for reducing the environmental impacts of substandard and non-functioning septic systems to facilitate both reducing the amount of effluent seeping into local water bodies and beaches, and to enhance the viability of businesses to locate and operate in places like Maple Bay.
He said options could include looking at ways to lower the cost of septic tank pump outs by disposing of the effluent in North Cowichan’s own sewage processing systems or, for certain sensitive areas, providing a service or subsidizing a service through environmental budgets and/or grants.
But it was pointed out by CAO Ted Swabey that the issue is the jurisdiction of Island Health and it might be prudent to contact health officials to ask if they would be interested in partnering with North Cowichan in preparing a report on the subject, or provide some other input.
Justice agreed to postpone his motion until Island Heath responds to the municipality’s letter that council decided to send to the health authority.