BRUCE COUNTY – Rob MacLellan, representing the Ontario Association of Sewage Industry Services (OASIS) had a clear message for Bruce County council at their June 6 electronic meeting: the lack of hauled sewage disposal sites in Ontario is a real challenge that must be met.

He explained to council that cities convey “human waste and other waste suitable for storage, treatment or disposal in a sewage system,” via sewer pipes to wastewater plants. Areas without such facilities haul sewage.

He went on to say that contrary to what some municipal officials think, disposal at an approved site is not solely the hauler’s responsibility; it’s also a government responsibility – all levels of government including municipal.

Proper disposal of sewage and septic waste is essential to public health and environmental protection, he said. “When sewage is not disposed of correctly, it can contaminate water sources and pose risks to human health and ecosystems.”

He added, “You can’t build more houses without considering sewage.” As noted in his presentation, municipalities are being called on to escalate residential construction, and this has raised concerns. MacLellan explained that a block with a few buildings on it, housing a hundred or so people, will be replaced by a high-rise with thousands of people, and no change to the small sewage treatment facility in the area. “It is impossible to intensify home construction without considering how the resulting waste will be effectively handled.”

He went on to address some of the misconceptions about the issue, including those about the application of hauled sewage and biosolids on agricultural properties. MacLellan said the practice is safe and beneficial, providing important nutrients, when done in accordance with government guidelines. It is the lack of disposal sites that poses concerns.

He also explained that rezoning agricultural land to commercial/industrial “needlessly decreases the land’s value and is often unwarranted. Agriculturally zoned properties can serve as effective spaces for spreading activities.”

In later discussion, MacLellan spoke about cities that have banned spreading on land. One is Ottawa, which has had a number of bypasses (spills of untreated or partly treated sewage into the river). “You guys are pretty on top of things,” he said, “but some townships are not.”

He stated in his presentation, “When a homeowner requires a septic to be emptied, the responsibility does not fall entirely on the septic operator to dispose the waste. Municipalities need to provide the infrastructure/resources to dispose of the waste produced in their municipality properly and safely.”

County Coun. Don Murray (Huron-Kinloss) commented that in his municipality, “we have some pretty shady haulers … we’re looking at limits on how much they can put on land.” He added that the municipality was unable to get help from government. “Maybe we can get help through you guys.”

The answer was that there are “bad apples” in any industry – the key is working together, according to best practices.

County Coun. Steve Hammell (Arran-Elderslie) had questions of his own, primarily about what should happen if a neighbour stops a truck headed to a vacant farm.

MacLellan said he tells his drivers to provide the office phone number to the person. In addition, neighbouring landowners are given advance notice.

He added that the biggest problem OASIS has is not concerned neighbours, it is NIMBY – not in my back yard – on a larger scale, and the court cases that can result. 

At the conclusion of discussion, Deputy Warden Luke Charbonneau, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Warden Chris Peabody (attending a conference in Toronto), thanked MacLellan and said how much the work done by OASIS is appreciated.

In Ontario alone, OASIS members manage an estimated volume of over 210 million gallons annually.

MacLellan said in his presentation that “OASIS was established in 1991 to support and represent businesses in the septic, portable toilet and biosolid land application industry. We are dedicated to working with various levels of government, associations and those in related fields to improve and conform to regulations and guidelines pertaining to the sustainability of the environment in … Ontario.”

By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 14, 2024 at 07:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Herald-Times   Walkerton, Ontario
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