January 19, 2004

Pilot project tests community-based approach to managing sewage, septic systems

Residents of the communities of Grand Etang and St Joseph du Moine in Nova Scotia's Inverness County are starting to see results from a pilot project designed to better manage wastewater by promoting the creation of a wastewater management district (WMD) for the area.

A WMD uses a community-based approach to managing sewage and septic systems, involving local residents in establishing standards and ensuring adequate maintenance of the systems. In the first phase of the pilot project, two Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps members and an engineering student surveyed the location and condition of all on-site septic disposal systems in the communities. Residents were offered a discounted price to have their systems pumped; 124 homeowners took advantage of the incentive

Environment and Labour Minister Kerry Morash said the pilot project shows that affordable solutions are possible. "Whenever a community takes on part of the responsibility, it's easier to achieve stable, long-term environmental improvements," he said.

Problems with domestic septic systems often lead to other consequences, including contaminated wells. This, Morash noted, is too high a price to pay, "especially considering that almost all of the problems are caused by improper maintenance."

The pilot project also evaluated the use of new technology for disposing of materials pumped from domestic septic systems. About 318,000 litres (70,000 gallons) of material were processed through a de-watering system. The remainder went to a local sewage treatment plant where it is being turned into compost. Previously, the material was trucked for two hours to a disposal lagoon.

The Department of Environment and Labour committed $20,000 to this phase of the pilot project. The County of Inverness is matching the provincial contribution. WMDs may also be eligible for infrastructure cost-sharing arrangements. The next phase of the Inverness County project will involve engineering studies to investigate options for continuing management of wastewater.

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