The province wants to change the way sewage disposal is managed in rural areas, and new regulations are going to have a significant impact on many people – including farmers. If you are not connected to community waste water treatment infrastructure and you rely on a disposal field, sewage ejector system, or holding tank, you will be affected.
Changes to the Onsite Wastewater Management Systems Regulation (OWMS) under the Environment Act will have an effect on how we deal with waste water disposal in several ways. The required lot size for disposal field use will increase to two acres, forcing residents to hook up to their municipal waste water infrastructure where available.
The changes will mean expanding the list of “sensitive areas” in the province where only holding tanks can be used, encouraging municipal waste water infrastructure planning. Another change will prohibit the installation of new sewage ejectors and force the replacement of all existing sewage ejectors at the time of property transfer.
We were concerned to learn that those living in rural areas across the province will be forced to replace sewage ejectors. We understand the concerns regarding spreading sewage on top of land, but we are not convinced that the province has done its due diligence in researching the effectiveness of sewage ejectors.
In certain soil conditions, the ground has the capacity to properly treat sewage without the spread of nutrients into watersheds or pathogens into groundwater supplies. We have not received any scientific research indicating that sewage ejectors are responsible for any nutrient loading in the province. We understand the need for a controlled environment to deal with pathogen risks.
In addition, the cost to property owners who are faced with decommissioning and replacing sewage ejectors with a disposal field or a holding tank can be as much as $20,000. If a producer can prove that their sewage ejector system is equally effective to a disposal field, we see no reason why they should be forced to pay this significant expense.
We’re asking the province to conduct research on the effectiveness of sewage ejectors in various soil conditions around Manitoba before they force hundreds of producers to pay tens of thousands of dollars for replacement systems.
If it is discovered that some soil types cannot handle ejectors, the government could allow for variances if a study can prove their system properly treats effluent and doesn’t leach nutrients or pathogens.
Under the OWMS changes, the government attempts to address the problem of inadequate sewage treatment systems in cottage areas and some developments. We see this as a positive move, as for too long farmers have been bearing the brunt of the blame for nutrient loading in the province’s lakes and watersheds. We now ask that the province investigate the science behind the effectiveness of sewage ejector systems before they force us to pay for unnecessary changes.