“Stop the sewage plant and stop the sewers”

Southcott Pines resident Dr. Carl Belke retired from Brandon University after 31 years teaching chemistry. Dick Matzka has cottaged in Southcott for 58 years. Neither is in favour of the sewer project proposed.

What are your concerns?
Dick: There are two major concerns. One is the expenditure the township plans on making. Two is that they keep telling people they’re going to get financial support from the province. A letter from the tri-municipal meeting says the province is not going to be able to assist them. Apparently there’s $8 million in the Build Canada fund, and it’s going to go to major metropolitan areas (Mayor Gord Minielly’s disputes this).
Carl: I’m concerned that they present the numbers correctly. Let the people decide if there’s a problem or if there isn’t a problem. How big of a problem is it and is it worth spending the money on a sewer system?

They mentioned nitrates at the meeting as being a concern. How do nitrates become part of the ecosystem as a result of human activity?
Belke: Our elimination process puts out ammonia and nitrogen products from the metabolism. The bacteria found in most systems are aerobic, which means ammonia gets converted to nitrate. Nitrate is very soluble. It’s an excellent fertilizer and plants require it. Nitrates can cause algae in the lake, but it’s good for plants. If you give nitrate anaerobic bacteria, that turns it into nitrogen gas, and our atmosphere is mostly nitrogen.
The limit for nitrates in drinking water is 10 parts per million. If you look at Pinery Park, the level is 0.2 ppm. If you look at Southcott, the average here is 3.1 ppm. If you compare that to what the river is putting into the lake – mostly from farmers’ fields – they’re about the same as what we’re doing.
Golder says we’re polluting the water, but who knows what the level was before we were here in the 1950s. We have geese here that contribute a lot of waste and that contributes to the nitrates.
Dick: They’re going to build a sewage plant and they don’t have to. The plant is going to pump more nitrate into the river than they allow.

Is the plant necessary?
Carl: Yes, in one respect. The Clean Water Act says any new development will have to have both municipal drinking water and municipal sewers.
In 2006, Dillon recommended a plant that would cost $13 million and a sewage collection system that would cost $40 million. Fast forward to 2009, the plant will cost $23 million. At the meeting the man from Dillon said the cost had gone up by 25 per cent. But it’s gone up 73 per cent. What’s the collection system going to cost? Sixty-eight million (based on extrapolating the numbers by 73 per cent)?
Dick: And they’re not finished with the plan. We’re only talking about 1500 homes in Lambton Shores. This town operates full bore for three months. For nine months it’s low key and casual. We’re spending a tremendous amount of money for a project that’s not necessary.

Carl, you hoped to speak at the meeting. What did you want to present?
Carl: I wanted to present the analytical data on the water wells in a normal light. They directed it to one parameter and ignored everything else to scare people that everything is bad. Maybe it is bad, but is it as bad as they say? Since no one in the area is on well, no one is directly affected by the drinking water.

You’re saying it’s still bad. What do we do to fix that?
Carl: Have better septic systems, I guess. The problem is, none of the septic systems here are inspected. Everyone waits until there’s a problem.

There are three choices: low-pressure, gravity and septic tanks. What is the most logical or best situation?
Carl: If they were honest with the numbers, the best we can do is let the people decide. I don’t think there is a pollution problem, and we’re not going to be growing in this neck of the woods (Southcott Pines).
Dick: I firmly believe that septics have done the job over the last 50-70 years. We should stop the sewage plant, grow the lagoons, and stop the sewers in the dunes area completely.