Mandatory [sewer] connections recommended
by Robin Wark for the Sooke News Mirror October 22, 2003
Those people with property in the District of Sooke's sewer system specified area will be forced to connect if council ratifies the recommendation it made while sitting as a committee of the whole Monday night.
The committee agreed to mandate connection in a 4-3 vote with Mayor Janet Evans and councillors Lorna Barry, Marcus Farmer and John Farmer voting in favour. Councillors John Stephen, Tom Morino and George OBriain raised their hands against mandatory connection.
"I think we have to move ahead and do it," Coun. Lorna Barry said, to applause, of proceeding with the system in general.
But councillors Stephen and OBriain wondered if the system would be more appealing to the masses if people were not required to connect to it. The annual cost for the system is $495 for a single family equivalent, which most "average" homes would be. However, the connection cost varies from property to property.
"I'm sure that a lot of homeowners are just going to have to give up and go away and live in a townhouse in Langford," Stephen said.
Ten estimates compiled by Chew Excavating Ltd. for residential gravity service (no pump required) varied from $1,800 to $16,000 with six of the 10 being under $3,000. District staff has said options to bring down the cost of some of the more expensive estimates exist. Three estimates for homes needing pumps ranged from $2,350 to $5,300. All of the estimates included landscaping.
Morino wanted to know how many septic systems in the specified area were recently replaced or had been worked on as these people have recently paid to upgrade their systems. Municipal engineer Gary Smirfitt said staff didn't know how many that would be. Smirfitt and Sooke administrator Tom Day said a permit for the new systems would be needed and a list of those people could possibly be available from health officials.
But Day said, and the majority of council agreed, there are a variety of reasons why not requiring connection would not be the right decision. Among the reasons for connection is the project's goal of eliminating sewage from ditches in the winter and improving the quality of stormwater and groundwater entering the Sooke Harbour and Basin, Day said. Without connection polluting sources in the specified area would still exist.
Not mandating connection would also make revenue unpredictable and those in the specified area wouldn't be assured of the cost before they vote, according to the administrator. Also he said those who are connected would in effect subsidize those who opt not to hookup.
The administrator questioned how it would be enforced if council allowed people with "well-functioning" systems to not connect. He said a site inspection by a professional engineer on an annual basis would be required and this would be expensive. Also the system is designed for certain flows. If many people do not connect, Day said the quality of the effluent could be negatively affected.
Coun. Marcus Farmer also noted the idea of Sooke residents in the specified area having to connect to the system is not new and has long been attached to the project.
During the committee of the whole's half hour public question and comment period some concerns about the unknown costs of connection were voiced. Maple Avenue South resident Clive Kitchener was upset by remarks Evans made to a Victoria daily newspaper about how people can afford to hookup. She reportedly said residents have two years to come up with the money for connection, that financial institutions have options available for financing and some work, such as digging, can be done by the homeowners.
"It is that close to saying, 'Let them eat cake,'" Kitchener said.
Evans then informed the speaker, as she had others, his allotted two minutes were up. On his way back to his seat from the podium, Kitchener said: "If nothing, it's cavalier and arrogant."
Kitchener was also interested in who would pay and care for the pumps some houses will require because they are below the road. Day said the municipality has agreed to purchase pumps for all of the houses that need them. Once installed, at the owner's cost, the pumps will become the property of the homeowner. They will have to pay for the electricity needed to operate them as well as for the maintenance and replacement of the pumps. Smirfitt said from his experience, with care, the pumps last between 10 and 15 years.