CRD Septic Bylaw


We first learned in 2008 about the CRD's proposed bylaw to de-regulate monitoring and maintenance of septic systems to the private sector and rely on the industry to collect and provide data to the CRD for their database that would tell them when property owners in the region needed to pump out their tanks.

The pump-out cycle was only every 5 years, and failed to involve inspection of septic fields or anything else related to the system. I strenuously opposed North Saanich's participation in this bylaw, arguing that half of North Saanich properties are on septic systems and that we should develop and implement our own monitoring and maintenance process that would meet local needs and actually involve inspection to protect health and the environment. But I lost the battle when the majority of the previous Council voted to participate in the CRD bylaw.

Supporting the bylaw also meant an annual total parcel tax of $40,000 paid by property owners with septic systems. I believed that the municipality and property owners were paying too much for not much.

Then, last week, the bylaw came back to the new Council for adoption. New Council members began raising similar issues to mine, including:
  • Cost to individual North Saanich property owners for a service that provides little protection and nothing more than a database.
  • De-regulation and lack of local government oversight that put health and the environment at risk.
  • The role of CRD as nothing more than a gatekeeper.
  • Reliance on private industry sector to provide information to build and maintain the database (should industry regulate itself?).
  • Absence of any inspection process that looks at the whole septic system, especially the field, for potential failures.
  • Exclusion of type 1 Septic Systems - the oldest known system in North Saanich and the one most prone to failure.
  • Inadequate pumping schedule of every 5 years (shouldn't it be every 2 or 3 years?).
  • Lack of local government involvement to enforce safety and address local issues in an expeditious manner.
As a result of this new perspective by a new Council, the Mayor has introduced a motion to repeal the bylaw, providing North Saanich with the chance of opting out. Further, in yesterday's Times-Colonist and Vancouver Sun newspapers, health officials are heavily criticizing the B.C. government's de-regulated approach to septic system monitoring, maintenance and inspection and warning the government about subsequent safety and health issues. In the Friday, March 6th edition of the Times-Colonist, the B.C. government has agreed to take another look at the legislation in time for the next UBCM convention in September.

Stay tuned for further news on this topic. At next Wednesday's CRD Board meeting (March 11), the bylaw will be introduced for voting and adoption. I suspect that in view of recent events in North Saanich, in the media and at the provincial level, the future of this bylaw is anything but certain.