At recent all-candidates meetings in Area C, questions about sewers for Blind Bay/Sorrento were frequently raised.
Some key points to consider in favour of sewers include:
• Groundwater monitoring in Sorrento/Blind Bay reported E. coli and fecal coliform levels exceeded Canadian standards at 13 of 17 sites.
Summit Environmental Consultants noted the combination of relatively impervious bedrock near surface, a shallow water table and proximity of septic fields to shoreline created conditions that would negatively impact water quality.
Thousands of residences are on hillsides surrounding the lake, so cumulative effects of human habitation should come as no surprise.
• Most of us take our drinking water from the lake. Effective drinking water treatment addresses bacteria, but what about chemical and pharmaceutical agents reaching the lake via seepage from septic systems?
• Many older residential septic systems in this area will soon need replacement.
For homes on small lots this may be difficult or impossible. The cost of sewer service may be far less than replacing a septic system.
Many older septic systems were installed when standards were less rigorous, and may not be providing acceptable liquid waste treatment.
• A number of existing businesses are unable to expand without sewer services. Individuals and companies seeking to establish new businesses have been reluctant to invest here due to the lack of sewers.
• There is considerable undeveloped land in this area. The official community plan calls for the smallest lot size without community sewer service to be one hectare or 2.2 acres.
This requirement results in a cost of entry that may be unaffordable for many.
• There is a shortage of seniors housing and retirement facilities in Area C, despite an aging population. Installation of sewers would enable higher densities required for such developments to move forward.
• Tourism is a major economic driver for Area C. Ongoing bacterial contamination of the lake will negatively impact the attractiveness of this beautiful area for visitors and residents alike.
Large algae blooms have occurred. Boil water advisories continue to exist at several locations. Eutrophic changes have been documented in Salmon Arm and Mara Lake.
Without effective action, these factors could paint a negative picture about Shuswap Lake and may depress tourism as well as home values.
The bottom line is there are many good reasons to seriously think about installing sewers in Blind Bay/Sorrento.
At the same time, careful consideration needs to be given to evaluating less expensive approaches.
The Area C sewer plan update currently posted on the CSRD website is unworkable from several perspectives, including cost.
If you would like to suggest topics for future articles, or participate in our community advisory panel surveys, please contact me at email@example.com.
–Paul Demenok is the Area C Director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.