“It’s a very badly drafted law.”
– ROBERT TYLER, LAWYER WITH AIKINS MACAULAY AND THORVALDSON
Rural Manitobans holding out hope the province may change a contentious regulation phasing out sewage ejectors may have to keep on waiting.
A spokesperson for the province last week would only say Manitoba Conservation, which added the ejector phase-out requirement when property ownership changes when the province amended its onsite waste water regulation last fall, is still looking at how to address the concerns.
Pressed in question period late last month, Conservation Minister Bill Blaikie said his government has “heard concerns expressed about that regulation” and that it is “looking at whether there are any changes that we might make if we can make them in a way that doesn’t compromise the intention of that regulation.”
Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) president Doug Dobrowolski said last Friday he’d hoped the matter might have been dealt with by now.
“I know they’re struggling with it. And it’s becoming time sensitive with spring approaching and (property) sales being held up.”
WHAT TO DO
Ralph Groening, a councillor in the R. M. of Morris said people wanting to sell property don’t know what to do. The issue is the cost of decommissioning an ejector at the time of sale and installing a septic field.
“How do you handle an additional cost of $20,000 on a small property? I think people are hoping that there’ll be some way found to mitigate that kind of impact,” Groening said.
“I know of a lot of uncertainty and a lot of properties and sales that people are reconsidering.”
Ed Levandoski, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Rosedale cited one case in which an elderly senior who wants to move to town has told him he hasn’t got the $15,000 needed for the job.
If subsequent soil tests show he can’t put in a septic field, then he’ll have to install a holding tank, further devaluing the property.
“He has two choices… take out a mortgage and pay the interest it on it until the property sells, or devalue the property by at least $15,000.00 to sell it,” Levandoski said.
Levandoski said a petition has begun to circulate through the R. M. s of Rosedale, Glenella, Lansdowne, and Langford asking the government to repeal that part of the regulation.
RULES MUST CHANGE
Stu Briese, the MLA for Ste. Rose, raised the Rosedale man’s predicament in question period. He said he is confident the government will make some change to the rules, but can’t predict what it might be.
However, he doubts the province will adopt the AMM recommendation to evaluate ejectors on a case-by-case basis for their environmental impact.
“I’m not confident that it’s going to be case by case,” Briese said, adding that he also doubts the government will offset the costs through compensation.
“That may well be one of the options,” he said. “But I’ll be somewhat surprised if they do offer compensation.”
Meanwhile, lawyers are seeing cases where it’s impacting property owners’ ability both to buy and sell, said Robert Tyler, a lawyer with Aikins MacAulay and Thorvaldson.
“It’s a very badly drafted law,” he said. “It creates a duty on the seller to do certain things before they transfer and then it creates a duty on buyers in the event the seller breaches that duty,” he said. “Why does it do that? Why does it impose a penalty on a seller to prohibit the seller from transferring the land without undertaking a decommission process?”
A better approach would be to place the duty on the buyer, within a two-year period, to make the conversion, he said. “It would certainly make the process cleaner and more precise.”
Lawyers are also concerned about proceeding with transactions in cases where sellers are reluctant to follow through on their duty to decommission, he said. “If they don’t do that, they’ve breached the law. We, as solicitors on their behalf have issues with proceeding with a transaction if we know that they, by doing so, are breaking the law.”
Meanwhile, the AMM has said they will not assign their building inspectors and bylaw enforcement officers to enforce this regulation.
“We’ve said ‘no municipality is in favour of it, so don’t come to our building inspectors and bylaw enforcement officers and say we now have to enforce this,’” said Dobrowolski.
Dobrowolski said he’d initially hoped there’d be some news on this by the time municipal leaders met for their Municipal Officials Seminar (April 14 and 15) in Brandon.
“This isn’t going to work the way it is,” he said. “We need to come to some sort of compromise, whether it’s a change in the regulation or on a procedural basis.”