Cottage Owners' Association and Lake Plan

Septic Know How - It's All About the Water

Shorelines and septics key to lake health

May 14, 2014   · Reproduced from the "Echo" - Haliburton.

By Zach Cox - Link to original  Echo article

On Saturday, May 10, the sixth annual combined lake steward meeting and Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners’ Associations (CHA) annual general meeting was held at Fleming College. Comprised of 44 property owners’ associations from across Haliburton County, the CHA represents more than 77 water bodies and 12,500 waterfront properties. Featuring exhibitors from various organizations, several speakers and an open discussion period, the CHA event explored the current status of Haliburton County lakes and how they can be preserved and even bettered.
“The CHA has one, and only one mission in life: protecting our lakes,” said CHA chairman Paul MacInnes to open the meeting. “We not only depend on them, we cherish them. Can you imagine the Highlands without county lakes? … If our lakes have problems, it has an impact on our social and cultural fabric, it has an impact on taxes that get paid to our municipalities.” While MacInnes noted such consequences, he indicated that the reason he himself was so passionate about preserving the lakes was for his children. “If we don’t do everything we can to protect our lakes, how can we explain that to our kids?” he asked. The organization has two areas of focus that were emphasized throughout the day: shorelines and septic tanks.
The first guest speaker to take to the microphone was Dr. Norman Yan, of the Ministry of Environment and York University. To give context to the importance of Haliburton County’s lakes, he showed a map of the world’s lakes, 40 per cent of which are in Canada. “We have unique stakeholder responsibilities here in Canada,” he said. “We’re really affecting a globally significant resource.”
Yan sought to highlight the fact that it is possible to make positive changes in the environment. “If you figure out what’s wrong, you can make things better.”
“What I want to do is do this quick tour through all the stressors that are affecting Haliburton and Muskoka Lakes,” he said, explaining that out of the 14 issues he would present, the first half were ones that were well on their way to repair. Yan talked about how entrophication, acid rain, DDT, lead, ozone depletion and lawn pesticides have all been responded to effectively. “Can we solve environmental problems?” Yan asked. “Absolutely.”
During his talk, Yan noted that “there is no place to throw things away,” and that whatever humanity does to the environment ends up impacting them. Using the example of toxic levels of lead being found in bloodstreams across the world due to lead in gasoline, Yan explained how regulations were applied, processes were changed and lead levels in bloodstreams fell below toxic levels. “The environment was contaminated, we figured it out, we found the source, we fixed it.”
“It takes just a few things: Knowledge, so we need to first recognize we have a problem … then it takes some sort of action … and that action cannot take place without will.” Yan encouraged the audience to take those three components and work towards eradicating other pressing issues. The current concerns for Haliburton that Yan spoke to were mercury, climate change, calcium decline, road salt, invasive species and novel chemicals.
Andrew Paterson, an inland lakes research scientist with the Dorset Environmental Science Centre, was the second to speak and his presentation focused mainly on the impact of climate change, demonstrated through the growth of blue-green algae. During his opening, Paterson drew parallels between water quality of lakes and cottage property values. “As you increase the [water] clarity by a meter, the prices on average, in Ontario, are about six per cent higher,” he stated.
Over the last couple decades, Paterson has been researching blue-green algae blossoms and his presentation touched on three locations: Lake of the Woods, the Hudson Bay Lowlands and the Haliburton/Muskoka area.
In 2005, Three Mile Lake in Muskoka made news headlines for the appearance of a blue-green algae scum that covered the lake surface. “Questions arise. Why is this happening? What is the cause? And, importantly, will it happen again?” According to Paterson the answer lies in climate change, with the warmer environments allowing for increased growth and bloom of the algae. Paterson noted that the scum on Three Mile Lake in 2005 did indeed impact property values.
Following Paterson, the audience was then treated to a showing of The Ribbon of Life, the CHA produced informational video featuring Fleming College professor Barb Elliot.
“In order to maintain a healthy lake ecosystem you need at least 75 per cent of your shoreline in its natural state,” said Elliot, standing on the edge of a lake. Talking to the camera, Elliot pointed out elements of a healthy shoreline and explained their importance, such as the nutrient cycle comprised of the decaying material found along natural shorelines and how the natural structure of shorelines reduce erosion. Changes that property owners make to their shorelines can be detrimental to the lake environment.
“As shoreline property owners there are certain things we may do that can negatively affect the health of our lake, which is not what we want to do. The good news is that we can still reverse these trends,” said Elliot in the video’s closing. A second video, Beginner’s Guide to Shoreline Stewardship, was also produced, and is a step-by-step guide on how shoreline property owners can best manage their shoreline to maintain lake health. The second video was not shown, but was available for purchase, in conjunction with The Ribbon of Life, both of which are also available online through the CHA website.
Before the close of the meeting the audience was given an opportunity to address questions to all three speakers. Questions ranged from erosion prevention to maintaining calcium levels using wood ash and Yan, Paterson and Ellot were more than happy to give their thoughts.
During the question period Yan promoted a global conscience: “We didn’t solve acid rain, we didn’t solve ozone depletion, we didn’t solve lead pollution, we didn’t solve DDT, we didn’t solve cosmetic pesticide use just by worrying about our own watershed.”
A global conscience is being embraced through the County Wide Water Testing Initiative, a new CHA project. The project, headed by Terry Moore and Debbie Balika, aims to form a collaborative effort between citizen scientists and government organizations. The intent is to train interested volunteers to take the necessary samples from the lakes which will then be sent to places such as the Dorset Environmental Science Centre for analysis. The analysis results will then be published by the CHA.
MacInnes also discussed another initiative in the works, the Shoreline Classification and Restoration Project. The idea was to rate the natural level of the shorelines on perhaps for or five lakes within the county, but when the call for applications was sent out, 45 lakes responded. “The goal is over the next four or five years we’ll get those 45 lakes in Haliburton County done so that every property owner on those lakes, other than the ones that opt out … will get their property classified and will get a customized package in the mail,” explained MacInnes, “ saying here’s how your property was rated, but most importantly, here’s some concrete things that you can do, for your specific property to improve it so that you better protect your lake.”
The CHA meeting was a call to action for everyone in attendance. “Act now,” said MacInnes. “This is the time to act, and how do we act? Septic health and shorelines. It’s that simple. Are they more important than organizing the local regatta? In my book, absolutely.”
MacInnes was very pleased with the meeting, noting that having the organization booths was a new and welcome feature. He was also thrilled with the attendees. “The enthusiasm, the passion, it’s phenomenal. I am so proud of this group of people.”

It’s All About the Water.......the water we send down the drain!

It is very important to remember that everything you flush down the drain eventually makes its way back into the lake to some degree. This simple concept is the reason that it is so important to be vigilant and aware of what we use in the way of bleach, cleaners, anti-bacterial soaps, shampoos and particularly detergent for dishes and laundry. Common products we all use at home in the city are very destructive to all our cottage septic systems. The harsh products many commonly use at home on municipal systems are NOT suitable whatsoever for use in our cottage systems. Using these chlorine, phosphate and antibacterial based products deactivate our sceptic systems. We expect our systems to all handle the never ending load of waste, soaps, grease, cleaners, paper and lots of water.

The reality is, that countless sceptic systems are in a poor state of health and maintenance, inactivity, deactivation and failure. This can lead to tile bed failures, unpleasant odours, the need for frequent pump-out service and soil and water contamination. This holds true for all systems, NEW and OLD…!! It has been well documented that even systems just a few years old, newly installed are in this poor state of repair. This poor state of health will have adverse effects on our water quality in Kennisis Lake and other lakes downstream.

There are some  Key Actions that you can take to prevent poor septic performance and septic failure:

1) Use “Septic Smart”cleaning products, which are biodegradable, phosphate & chlorine free.

2) Conserve water – use common sense.

3) Divert water softener/iron filter backwash to sump drain.

4) Keep trees and shrubs at least 10ft from tile bed.

5) Have your tank pumped and/or inspected regularly - every 3 to 5 years

6) Install an effluent filter in your septic tank to protect the tile bed.

7) Never drive, operate vehicles or heavy equipment on tile bed area.

8) Educate your family about the proper use of the septic system.

9) Use Septic System treatment to maintain your system that are certified by Environment Canada's Ecologo Program.

The Coalition of Haliburton Associations has produced a series of videos focused on water quality and other issues facing cottagers and Lake Associations in Haliburton County.  The link below is a video in the “Lake Protectors Series” and features Rob Davis of EcoEthic presenting “Septic Know How - It's All About the Water".   Rob is a well-respected expert on all maters “septic” and his “poop” talks at lake associations are informative and entertaining.  Rob presented his Sceptic Know How talk at the KLCOA at one of our association meetings and led the Shoreline Assessment Project in 2008.










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