Meeting Highlights Need For Change

Our problem is that the new law can provide a loophole for excessive development. That is what would lead to health concerns and subsequent water and sewerage expenses beyond our means and desires.

It was an exciting meeting we had regarding wells, septics, and future development. There was a full house and it soon became clear that there was a lot of animosity in the community toward the new regulations. All the invited guests showed up. Harry Lally came in a bit later and gave a very encouraging speech from the floor. The minutes of the meeting are available here, but the main result was that our concerns were heard.

Mr. Tim Roark from the Sewerage System Regulation Improvement Coalition gave us a lot of information regarding what can and cannot be done at this time. Some of what he had to say was quite shocking. An example of a septic being installed as close as 17 feet from a well and reports of actual problems in other places was part of his presentation. Roark has spent 30 years working with health regulations so his remarks carry some weight.

Perhaps the most important revelation was that, as it stands now, the simple way for a builder or developer to avoid the 100 foot separation rule is to install the well first. That satisfies the requirements of the Clean Water Protection Act. A septic can then subsequently be installed within that 100 feet without violating the Sewerage System Regulation which only consists of “recommendations”. These are the same recommendations that apply to installing a septic in the vicinity of a neighbours well.

The real problem in Coalmont, however, is not really a health issue. Our problem is that the new law can provide a loophole for excessive development. That is what would lead to health concerns and subsequent water and sewerage expenses beyond our means and desires.

Roak said the government hopes to have a plan in place this fall. He suggested we need to help the government figure out how to fix the problem and encourage the government on how to deal with the problem in small lot communities. Land Use Manager, Rupert Benzon from the Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport, understood the health issues and will take that message back to Victoria. From his perspective the key ideas are: need for oversight, high cost of new systems, more enforcement, more hands on at the filing stage to protect the public health. He said they would do their best to get a solution.

The general message, however, was that we are going through a period of time where things are not right, but that it will all be fixed soon. Whether or not you believe that depends on what problem you understand us to have.

The Interior Health Authority Medical Health Officer, Dr. Hasselback, was focused on actual health issues and cautioned that Mr. Roark’s message was too full of doom and gloom. Our issue of course is much more complicated than that and really concerns the development loophole offered by our legacy 25 foot lots. By the end of the meeting Hasselback too understood that and he assured us that potential problems in our community would be flagged. What would happen after that was not mentioned.

Everywhere in BC, local governments are having issues with the new regulations. Area H is no exception. Engineer Andrew Reeder and Chief Planner Chris Garrish, both from the Regional District, are sympathetic but need to follow the rules passed down from the Provincial Government. Garrish did suggest that if the people of Coalmont were opposed to certain kinds of development, then the Community Plan could be amended to include that. Having RDOS representatives come here and understand our local culture could be one of the most significant outcomes of this meeting.

It was well worth having all these officials come to our little town. People here now understand what is going on and it will be difficult to pull the wool over their eyes in the future. We also did our bit in supporting this issue which effects many other little communities like ours. One thing is for sure, when it comes to complaining about the new septic regulations: Coalmont is now on the map.

Related Links:
Minutes of the meeting.
Problems With the Sewerage System Regulation
Meeting With Officials
Coalmont Water Threatened
The Cottages of Coalmont (Interview)
New Property Development