Our lakes are facing many environmental dangers

There are ongoing concerns about aging septic systems that leak into lakes.


Klaus Kuhn

CVRD Area I director

(Continued from last week’s column)

There are ongoing concerns about aging septic systems that leak into lakes. Under the current legislation, unless there is visible evidence that a system is leaking into the lake or that effluent is visible on top of the soil there is no way that an old system can be tested against the will of the owner. Some of these older systems are totally dysfunctional. Some of them on lakes with fluctuating water levels get regularly washed out while others are on lakes where the water does not turn over quickly. A regular check-up of septic systems that are in close vicinity to a body of water should be undertaken by health authorities.

In the case of older systems that are connected to older homes it should be possible to do repairs without the necessity of upgrading to a new, expensive system.

A functioning simple system is still much better than a dysfunctional one.

Following the privatization of the environmental assessment process

Qualified Environmental Professionals (QEPs) are now being hired by applicants to assess the environmental impact of proposed developments, construction and variances. While many of the QEP reports appear unbiased and well reasoned, there are too many reports that show bias toward the applicants’ goals. The QEP reports form the basis for a decision on an application but they are rarely scrutinized by senior governments, which compound the margin of error, oversight, etc.

The regulatory framework needs to be streamlined. There are gaping holes in the enforcement and they are being taken advantage of by some people for their own purposes.

Lake shores are being cleared, trees are cut, and beaches are created despite the Riparian Area Regulation. Law abiding residents watching some of the lake shore destruction are asking themselves if they are not being naïve. They see people clearing the foreshore, cutting trees, etc. and getting away with it. They feel betrayed.

Little by little the RAR and SPEA Regulations are being circumvented or compromised. Larger and louder boats threaten to take away the relaxing atmosphere that lakes can create.

If this trend continues then in years to come we will ask ourselves “How could we have ever let this happen?”

There is some help.

Lake Stewardship Groups have sprung up all over the province. They are formed primarily by lake residents concerned about their environment. By trying to encourage sustainable practices around our lakes and rivers, they have done much good work and they should be encouraged not only with praise but also with funding. It does not take an incredible amount of money to help these groups. They are volunteers and they are highly motivated. A little bit of money spent here will go a long way.

Some lakes, like Sproat lake, have student volunteers helping out in the summer to check on boats and encourage good boating behaviour.

But these valiant efforts by volunteers cannot replace proper enforcement when rowdy behaviour, drunkenness and loud and aggressive boating is involved. Policing has become so expensive that some of the local governments simply cannot afford to step up enforcement.

Our lakes and rivers are some of B.C.’s greatest assets. They store large amounts of fresh water, potable water that in future years will become more and more valuable. Our lakes are also destination for many vacationers as a source of relaxation, sport and inspiration. We all have a vested interest in preserving our lakes and rivers. Let’s not just use them to race boats on and develop their shore lines to meet individual expectations. We should remember that it takes incredible amounts of determination, effort and money to restore a lake to its original health once it has been badly abused.

The trend seems to be that the Senior Governments “download” responsibilities to the Local Governments. This only makes sense if they also “download” the funding.

To leave Local Governments struggling with all the responsibilities but not enough funding will only result in shortcuts and a deteriorating environment.

In the end we will all have to pay for that.