The County of Stettler will lobby the Alberta Safety Codes Authority (ASCA) to closely monitor private wastewater systems surrounding Buffalo Lake after councillors were required to alter a bylaw that had already passed first reading.
The decisions were made at the Feb. 10 regular meeting of council streamed via the county’s YouTube channel.
Councillors read a report from Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk, who noted a water and wastewater bylaw, if it was to receive second and third reading, had to be changed.
“Bylaw 1652-21, Water and Wastewater was presented for first reading at the January 2021 regular council meeting,” stated Brysiuk’s memo.
“At that time, it was advised that administration was seeking direction from council prior to referring the bylaw to legal counsel.
Upon review, our lawyers advised that the provisions of the bylaw that sought to give the county the ability to require compliance with the Safety Codes Act was inconsistent with the Safety Codes Act and therefore would be inoperative.
“In this case, the safe operation of a private wastewater system is identified to be a matter addressed by the Safety Codes Act.
Thus, any bylaw a municipality makes to regulate the safe operation of a private wastewater system is inoperative.”
Brysiuk explained a bylaw cannot regulate something that’s already in a provincial act. He noted sections 3.15 and 3.16, essentially allowing the county to monitor private wastewater systems, would have to be removed from the proposed bylaw.
He further noted, “Representatives from the Buffalo Lake South Shore Water Quality Committee (BLSSWQC) have raised concerns about the removal of this language.”
A letter included in the council package from the BLSSWQC spokesperson Bruce Olson stated some residents of Buffalo Lake are concerned about water quality.
“The BLSSWQC was formed as a direct result of the positive test for human fecal matter waste discovered in Buffalo Lake in the summer of 2020,” stated Olson.
“Our concern is that if there is a situation that occurs where ground or surface water is potentially contaminated as a result of a faulty private sewage disposal system, there needs to be a method for the county to act or investigate.”
Coun. Cheri Neitz stated it’s very important to keep human fecal matter out of Buffalo Lake.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy reminded councillors their bylaws apply to the entire county, not just Buffalo Lake.
During discussion councillors made some suggestions such as offering free inspections of wastewater systems, but Brysiuk stated that still goes against the provincial act.
Brysiuk said county staff saw a number of options available and listed them in the memo.
Eventually councillors passed a motion to support option #2, which read, “We can instead seek that the Alberta Safety Codes Authority (a division of the Safety Codes Council, which is an independent regulatory body created by legislation) investigate problems in the County – as they are currently the authority having jurisdiction here.
“We have had limited success in lobbying other independent regulatory body’s for specific action, but we haven’t yet engaged with the ASCA.”
Councillors also passed second and third reading of the water and wastewater bylaw after removing sections 3.15 and 3.16.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter