CRD’s septic site costs keep rising

Limited hours impact local haulers

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Salt Spring septic haulers will be subject to new regulations and enforcement at the Burgoyne Bay transfer facility starting Feb. 1. 

While regulations have always been in place, the Salt Spring Island Liquid Waste Disposal Local Service Commission recently voted to implement a series of fines for non-compliance as well as update some of the existing regulations for the upgraded facility. The commission voted at their last meeting, held in November, to amend the bylaw and to increase the tipping fee at the facility from 41.5 cents to 44 cents per imperial gallon. 

A notable change to the regulation bylaw is new hours of operation. Haulers have voiced concerns about the set hours, from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday, saying that with new dumping procedures at the facility there is a limit on the number of jobs they can do. 

“A pump-out for me could take up to two hours,” said All Out Septic Pumping operator Cal Mills. “Now my business is basically cut in half . . . Emergencies are between 25 and 30 per cent of my business. If I’m booking between my business hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., where do I have time to schedule or deal with emergency call-outs?”

CRD Saanich Peninsula and Gulf Islands Operations manager Dan Robson explained that hours of operation were established to ensure the CRD can oversee the facility and have more control. He said that limiting operational hours is typical of utilities and that the regulation does not preclude emergency access. The bylaw includes a provision for after-hours and call-out charges. Charges are $75 per hour, with a minimum charge of $150 for the first two hours for after-hours use. That charge is in addition to the tipping fees and annual facility user permit. 

In previous years, the transfer station was much simpler, with no screening or receiving facilities at the site. Upgrades include a mesh screen that physically separates out grit, as well as a more sophisticated offloading procedure. 

Tipping fees, which cover the operations of the facility, were also raised. The 44 cents per imperial gallon paid by users on Salt Spring goes towards operations, hauling and disposal of the sludge. That rate is also higher than fees of other liquid waste disposal facilities in the region. The Regional District of Nanaimo website lists its 2020 regular septage disposal rate at 26 cents per imperial gallon. Robson said he was unaware of charges for other areas of the province, but added that “It all depends on what the receiving facility looks like for that particular service.”

Robson said that this year the contractor that hauls the sludge off-island — Coast Environmental — raised its tipping fee, which contributed to the fee hike. Salt Spring’s septage is eventually disposed of at the SPL facility in Langford, owned by Coast Environmental. The fees were on par with other areas until around a decade ago, when they increased by 58 per cent to cover higher than expected costs to operate the Burgoyne facility. Since then, tipping fees have further increased by 13 per cent.

In 2018, the CRD paid $850,503 to Coast Environmental, which also includes compost disposal and other waste management services. The Salt Spring Island Septic Sludge hauling contract for the same year was $371,200.

The parcel tax for Salt Spring property owners to support Burgoyne facility costs was also increased this year by 20 per cent. Parcel taxes cover debt costs and reserve savings. 

For more on this story, see the Jan. 29, 2020 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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