Better sewage treatment or just another tax grab?

I have no doubt that individual septic systems for treating waste in residential neighbourhoods is far from a perfect solution

You may have a problem if your child enjoys drinking from puddles.

Understandably, these things happen with little kids, but I can’t ever recall seeing legions of urchins on hands and knees lapping rain water from the ditches of Area D.

As well, I can only think of one or two stories in 20 years where we’ve written about failing septic systems in the northern reaches of the regional district area which borders the City of Campbell River.

I have no doubt that individual septic systems for treating waste in residential neighbourhoods is far from a perfect solution. And indeed there are most likely failing septic systems in the area.

However, I also doubt it’s on the scale suggested by the city as it tries to annex a portion of its neighbour. In the latest city missive, the news release ends with this statement:

“An environmental report in 2009 provided 20 sample locations, 17 of which showed fecal coliform bacteria counts greater than 4MPN/100ml, indicating septic influence. Some septic systems have likely been replaced, and others failed, since that time.”

Sounds important and kind of scary, but it’s hardly the basis to spend millions of dollars and split a rural area in two.

Curious about the last statement, I asked the city what “MPN” meant.

“MPN stands for ‘most probable number’ and that is a method of gathering quantitative data for microbiological counts,” replied Julie Douglas, the city’s communications advisor in an e-mail.

For drinking water, zero MPNs per 100 ml is an acceptable number after it has been chlorinated. Untreated drinking water, Douglas added, can be up to 10 MPN/100 ml before it’s treated.

So, to review, we have four-year-old data indicating that water samples collected in “annex-ready area” could be readily treated and run through your taps.

Oh yes, there’s also the alleged state of the area’s septic systems which is questionable. If septic systems were failing and raw sewage bubbling to the surface, every surrounding neighbour would be on the horn to the health department, and the media, in a heartbeat.

That hasn’t happened and no a single person from Island Health has stepped up to say sewers are “a must” for northern Area D.

It’s all pretty vague especially when the city wants a minimum of $11,100 from all 530 property owners if a referendum to join the city passes…or is ever held. And that’s the minimum, there’s increased taxes to consider plus the cost of decommissioning septic systems.

It all adds up to about the cost of a new septic system. Sewers would help property assessments, but I suspect they would better prop up the city coffer, as the municipality continues to shift its tax burden from businesses to residential home owners.