Richard Webb: Low-pressure should be the last choice

Industry professional thinks septic tanks are fine, gravity next best option

Richard Webb of Stewart Webb & Sons has been installing, repairing and replacing septic tanks and sewer line connections for more than 20 years. His family has been in the excavating business for more than 75 years.
The Strip asked the Southcott Pines resident for his expert advice about the sewer project plans.

As told to Casey Lessard

It would greatly benefit us, but I don’t see the benefit of spending the money if it’s not necessary. Certainly if it can be proven that huge of a negative effect on the environment, but we’ve done all we can to protect the environment. The septic systems here work properly.
There’s thousands and thousands of dollars that we would earn if sewers went ahead. For the amount of repairs that we do in septic systems, we might do 10-15 installs a year. If the sewers went ahead, our company would have work unlimited for 10 years. Then there’s the repair work after.
For the people in this area right now, private septic systems are the way to go. If they’re going to force us to go to sewers, a shallow-dug gravity system, meaning 5-6’ deep along the road with pumps in our basements would be my choice. A low-pressure system would be my last choice.
If they’re going to force people to put in sewers, don’t do low-pressure systems. From a maintenance standpoint, with pump chambers, they’re just a maintenance nightmare. If you’re going to install sewers, make sure they’re gravity fed.
The low-pressure system is not commonly used. It’s not a preferred method. Let’s say there are 20 houses on a street and 18 of them are owned by people who only come to Grand Bend in the summer time. The remaining two pumps have to push your effluent down the street to a central boosting area. When the system was designed, it was built so 12-13 pumps were kicking in. What’s it going to work like? That’s what the engineers are going to have to answer.
They’re trying to put in low-pressure sewers with as little disturbance as possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do it. Why not pump the sewage from several main pumps instead of pumps on each individual property?

I feel they’re trying to fund this sewage lagoon expansion project and they need to have a certain number of homes using this system. I’m a big advocate of future development. But here in Southcott, in VanDongen, in Beach O’ Pines, we all sit on good soil for private septic systems. There’s more than enough area and the load rates are acceptable to have private septic systems on these lots.
Before they considered the water quality, they had a signed, sealed and delivered deal that everyone was going to be on sewers. We convinced them to come back with some data, and the highest readings that came back were from the oldest area in Southcott and the highest load areas; the highest readings were 5.5 ppm, and the acceptable limits for drinking water are 10 ppm.
We take sand from excavations here, take it back from the site and reuse it in septic systems to the north in the clay. We know the sand has a T time (percolation rate) from 3 to 6 minutes per centimetre. That’s the time the water takes to pass through the material. We know that’s an acceptable rate.
In Bluewater, they need sewers. The lots are too small and the clay conditions are too heavy to make a septic system work properly. In clay, they have a T time of greater than 50 min/cm. It needs to be lower than that, so we bring sand in and put it in the septic bed. Here, we don’t need to do that.
An engineer from Golder got up and said we were sitting on soil that was unacceptable, but any indication that we have, the soil is more than acceptable, and in fact is ideal. In Southcott Pines, I have a contact area of 300 square feet because the soil absorbs the water at a good rate.

We need a council that will take a hard look at whether this is necessary or not. I’d like to see all the associations that fall within this area stand up and say no to this.
I’m hoping they will stick with their word and let the new council decide, which will give us enough time to put in a council that will do what’s right for the people in this area.