First of two waste management public consultations Septic pumping a hot topic

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Deborah Powell

CAMPBELL’S BAY – More than a dozen people attended the first session

Deborah Powell

CAMPBELL’S BAY – More than a dozen people attended the first session
of the MRC Pontiac’s public consultation on the Residual Waste Management Plan (RWMP), held at the Campbell’s Bay R.A. Centre, March 14. Following a bilingual presentation of the plan by Thierry Raimbault, interim Environment Coordinator, and Régent Dugas, Director of Territory, the floor was opened for questions and comments.
One of the hot issues was the pumping of septic tanks. "Our management of septic waste is deplorable," said Raymond Durocher, MRC Warden and president of the commission put in place to manage the consultations. Durocher was referring to the complete lack of enforcement of provincial regulations dating from 2008 regarding septic tank inspection and pumping. The RWMP action plan calls for the collection of information regarding the volume of septic waste collected in the region, verifying that existing septic tanks are in conformity with provincial regulations, and setting up a system to make sure emptying is done regularly.
"Not everyone can afford to have their septic tanks pumped every two years," protested one audience member, adding that tanks didn’t need to be pumped that often either. "A ratepayer told me he never needed to pump and then his system blocked up," responded Winston Sunstrum, L’Isle-aux-Allumettes Mayor and commission member.
It was generally agreed that the question was no longer "to pump or not to pump" but rather how to respect provincial regulations in a sensible manner. "We don’t have to reinvent the wheel," said Rémi Bertrand, representing the business sector on the commission. "One advantage of being slow on this issue is that there are lots of examples of how to implement the regulations from other regions and municipalities who have put systems in place for septic inspection and pumping," he added.
Improved education and communication are both featured in the action plan and Thorne Mayor Terry Murdock and Sunstrum spoke about the effectiveness of clearly laying out expectations and reinforcing those expectations, giving the example of reductions in roadside waste in their municipalities.
The needs of the agricultural community was also discussed. While the collection of agricultural plastic is mentioned in the plan, an audience member added that biomedical waste from farms should have a safe collection system too.
A number of points were raised regarding recycling. The need to make it easier was underlined by Sylvie Landriault, commission representative for the community sector, who explained that she had to drive 40 km to drop off recyclables. Raymond Durocher mentioned that they had been able to lower the cost of collection by $27 per household through the introduction of large blue bins in Fort Coulonge.
Benoit Delage, Director General of the Regional Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development (CREDDO), said he had done a tour of the Outaouais’ MRCs as waste management plans were under consultation. "The problems are the same throughout the region," he said. "Garbage and recycling are very expensive and we need to look at working together to find regional solutions instead of shipping everything elsewhere," he continued, giving the example of the potential for local transformation of construction waste such as shingles and gypsum. CREDDO prepared a 14-page memoir in response to the Pontiac RWMP.
A second consultation session is scheduled for L’Isle-aux-Allumettes on March 22. The purpose of the consultations is to gather input from the public to improve the waste management plan before the final version is presented at the Mayors’ Council. Once approved, the plan is sent to the Ministry of the Environment. A bilingual summary of the plan is available on the MRC Pontiac website.