“We’re very happy as an association that government listened to the concerns of our members and that they’ve come out with a positive result here.”
– AMM PRESIDENT DOUG DOBROWOLSKI
Rural landowners got some good news last week – the province is revising its policy to phase out sewage ejectors.
The provincial government announced April 16 it will amend the Onsite Waste Water Management Systems Regulation, which came into effect last September. The regulation would have required a landowner to remove an ejector at time of property sale and replace it with a septic field.
Landowners and leaders protested all winter that banning ejectors was a significant financial burden on rural property owners, and that there was no science to justify it.
The province never tabled scientific studies to justify the move.
The government now proposes rules that would not permit the installation of new sewage ejectors. Those already in existence will be allowed to remain after a property sale under certain limited circumstances.
ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
The province is now proposing that only ejectors in environmentally sensitive areas, which are geographic areas identified in Schedule H of the Onsite Waste Water Management Systems Regulation, be taken out at the time of property transfer.
As well, a property must be a minimum of four hectares (10 acres) in order to retain an ejector and it must meet all other necessary regulatory requirements such as setbacks from water courses.
“We have heard from Manitobans the province must take strong action to protect the environment and human health,” Conservation Minister Bill Blaikie stated in a news release. “These amendments maintain those principles while responding to concerns raised by some homeowners as sewage ejectors are phased out.”
The new rules also require a landowner transferring property to have an environmental officer inspect the ejector and confirm the above criteria are met.
The government is proposing to develop a low-interest loan program to help cover costs of removing ejectors.
Association of Manitoba Municipalities president Doug Dobrowolski said last week’s announcement is very good news and a victory for all those who pushed back so
hard on this. Municipal leaders, farm organizations and many members of the general public strenuously opposed the government’s initial plan.
“We’re very happy as an association that government listened to the concerns of our members and that they’ve come out with a positive result here,” Dobrowolski said.
Some mat ters do need clarification, such as the new requirement for an inspection. Municipal leaders want to be sure that doesn’t become a new financial burden on property owners, he said.
“We want to be sure there will be no cost to that inspection and that it will be timely.”
Keystone Agricultural Producers is also encouraged by the province’s announcement, but also wants clarification on the proposed amendments.
KAP intends to scrutinize the proposal further to see if the new rules proposed are going to be applied fairly and equitably, said KAP president Ian Wishart.
“The province is moving in the right direction, but we need further clarification on the proposed amendments,” said Wishart. “For example, we need to know how the province will define ‘transfer,’ as property transfers between farm family members shouldn’t require major cost inputs from producers.”
The public can comment on the proposed amendments until April 30.
Any proposed change to a provincial regulation can potentially take weeks or even
months to get final cabinet approval, but Dobrowolski said he’s been assured by Blaikie that the province wants this done as quickly as possible.
“It can be an expedited process,” said Mike Gilbertson, director of environmental services with Manitoba Conservation. The main thing to happen is a review of any further public comment on the matter, he said. “Obviously, we’re aware of the demand for a decision on this in a timely manner.”
Gilbertson said one issue to sort out will be what to do for landowners who’ve already paid to have an ejector removed, or are in the midst of doing so. They may be eligible for the low-interest loan the province is proposing, he said.
To view the regulation and for more information log on to: www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/envprograms/wastewa ter/index. html.