Report outlining septic failures surfaces

But Area D director Brenda Leigh said the consultant’s report does not tell the whole story

A consultant’s sewer report backs the city’s claims that failing septic systems in Area D are contributing to poor water quality.

The report was done by Levelton Consulting in 2009.

“Based on the results of the field work completed, Levelton interprets the consistent poor quality of local surface waters as reflecting groundwater impacts from septic systems throughout Area D,” Lee Ringham, a senior hydrogeologist for Levelton, wrote in the report. “The results from Levelton’s field investigation are supportive of the Strathcona Regional District initiating the installation of a municipal sewer system to mitigate the environmental impacts of failing septic systems and low hydraulic conductivities in the surficial deposits underlying the study area.”

The Mirror obtained a copy of the report which says consultants took 20 water samples from ditches and small streams between Finch Road and  Anton Road. Ringham said Levelton field staff did not collect samples at, or immediately downstream of locations where animal or household waste was present or where there were visual sources of seepage.

Eight samples were found to have nitrate and nitrite concentrations above normal levels, which consultants found to be potentially indicative of septic impacts.

Results also revealed that 18 of 20 samples had fecal coliform counts above drinking water criteria.

“Twelve samples had bacteria counts above 4 MPM/100 ml, a level interpreted as indicating septic impacts,” Ringham wrote. “Five samples had both elevated nitrate and nitrite concentrations and high bacteria counts.”

Areas with elevated nitrate and nitrite and high bacteria counts were Finch Road, Peak Drive near Engles Road, Caddisfly Creek at the end of Stuart Place, Anton Road near the South Island Highway and Surfside Drive. Three areas had only high nitrate and nitrate concentrations while seven had high bacteria counts only.

Area D director Brenda Leigh said the consultant’s report does not tell the whole story.

“Water sampling in our ditches is not a basis for extrapolating that any fecal counts found are human and connected to any septic problems,” Leigh said. “Only DNA tests could prove that.”

Leigh also noted that Nancy Clements, an environmental health officer with Island Health, publicly confirmed at a boundary extension open house Feb. 27 that her office has no record of any septic failures in Area D.

“It is her job to ensure that public health regulations are upheld and you can bet that she would have received complaints and taken action if there was a problem,” Leigh said.

Leigh said the city should be basing it’s decision to extend its southern boundary to provide city sewer service to northern Area D homes on more than an outdated report.

“Unscientific data that is more than five years old is not a terribly good basis for Campbell River to commit millions of dollars to fix what is, obviously, not their problem. I believe that Campbell River has enough of an infrastructure deficit of their own, within their own boundaries, to look after at the moment without over-extending themselves into our community. We are a separate jurisdiction and I believe that most people in Area D like it that way.”

Area D residents are expected to vote in a referendum on Saturday, June 28 to cast their vote on whether or not they wish to join the city and hook up to the city sewer.

According to the city’s website, the reason for pursuing the boundary extension is to “address known environmental and public health concerns related to failing and potentially failing septic systems, and ensure a more coordinated approach to growth and development.”