Sewage flowing down road has authorities keeping close eye on private wastewater system | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Sewage flowing down road has authorities keeping close eye on private wastewater system

A sewage spill south of Penticton had many residents looking for answers locally, where none were to be found.
November 21, 2019 - 4:15 PM

A failing wastewater treatment in the South Okanagan has many residents wondering who - if anyone - is responsible on a local level after sewage flooded a residential road last week.

The sewage spilled from a failing sewage treatment facility servicing Vintage Views subdivision, a residential development near Heritage Hills and Lakeshore Highlands, north of Okanagan Falls along the east side of Skaha Lake.

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen Electoral Area D Director Ron Obirek says he’s had to field lots of calls regarding the failure, which came to prominence on Remembrance Day.

“I saw effluent flowing down Parsons Road on Nov.11, and it was there again on Thursday, Nov.14,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week.

Obirek says the Ministry of Environment was notified of the problem and have been taking action, but says the issue isn’t necessarily a provincial one.

“It’s complicated because this particular system is a small, privately run one, and as such is not under regional district jurisdiction. It’s still of local concern when it fails, and if a takeover is ultimately required, it will then become a local matter,” he says.

“I saw a great deal of liquid on Parsons Road on Remembrance Day, and it wasn’t raining. When I returned on the 14th, the flow was much greater,” he says. “It dried up pretty quick over the next few days and left a muddy scum on the road.”

He says it "raised a lot of questions and concerns,” including whether or not the spill made it into Skaha Lake.

"I've had numerous people bring this to my attention and lots of concern raised," Obirek says. "There's lots of information I don't have. I don't know what action has been taken. I'm waiting on calls back from the Ministry of Environment, but right now it's a provincial matter."

Ministry of Environment spokesperson David Karn said the ministry was responding to the sewage leak.

He said initial concerns about the system came to light in May when environmental compliance staff conducted an inspection in response to a complaint, resulting in a pollution abatement order requiring the owner to hire professionals to make repairs.

Karn says new concerns were raised on Nov. 13 when an Interior Health Authority inspector visited the site and found five pits on the site had been excavated, with sewage being discharged directly to them.

They had recently overflowed and sewage was observed flowing down the main access road.

Another pollution abatement order was issued requiring a septic service to haul all flow from the field to an authorized facility until repairs are complete. The operator has since been complying with the order.

As far as local authorities go, RDOS Chief Executive Officer Bill Newell said in an email the regional district has no responsibility for private wastewater systems, nor does it have the authority to enforce compliance.

Interior Health spokesperson Susan Duncan said the health authority has not identified a public health risk warranting action beyond those currently undertaken by others, but said in an email, “we are monitoring this situation closely and are linked in with the lead agency - the (Ministry of Environment).”

Johnny Aantjes, owner of the sewage treatment field, says the field currently services 70 homes with 20 more to come online soon.

The system is no longer accepting effluent and repairs are ongoing.

Aantjes says initially the repairs were slow to get going because there was some difficulty procuring parts out of Czechoslovakia for the 20-year-old system.

“It looks like we will have the system in better shape when it’s finished than when we started,” Aantjes said earlier this week.

He says capacity isn’t an issue with the system, but old technology is part of the problem.

Aantjes said costs for repairs may result in an additional levy of $2,500 per household, but says it's the first such cost in 20 years for users.

“It’s frustrating for people when this happens. It doesn’t affect their service, but there are extra costs involved,” he said.


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