Enforcement of Two Key Environmental Regulations by the Municipality of Blue Sea

LogoBlueSeaIn July 2012, the Municipality of Blue Sea hired Mr. Christian Michel as its Deputy Inspector. Later that year, he was designated the official responsible for the application of Interim Control By-law #2009-206, and subsequently appointed Building and Environmental Inspector. The following is an English translation of a message sent mid-December 2013 by Mr. Michel to the Blue Sea Lake Watershed Association, several lake associations within the Municipality, and the "Regroupement pour la protection de l'eau de la Vallée-de-la-Gatineau".

This message details the efforts taken by the Municipality of Blue Sea to ensure compliance with:

Click here to view the English translation of the report (pdf) referred to in the message.

Dear Friends

As 2013 comes to a close, I would like to advise you on:

the work we have done regarding INTERIM CONTROL BY-LAW #2009-206, the aim of which is to establish protective measures for lake shores, riverbanks, littoral zones and flood plains within the territories of the Gatineau MRC with the exception of the territories of the drainage basin of Heney Lake and the Town of Maniwaki; and on
the particular attention we have given to septic installations that do not conform to the by-law relating to waste water evacuation for isolated residences (i.e.: Q2-R22).

As some of you may know, I have been the Building and Environment Inspector for the Municipality of Blue Sea for the past one and half years. As a waterfront resident myself, I have a vested interest in the health of the lakes in my region. That is why, in 2013, we have again undertaken the task of raising the awareness of waterfront owners regarding shoreline and littoral zone issues. We have also done this during routine visits and in conjunction with the emptying of septic systems located in these areas.

For about 20%-30% of shoreline properties (especially new residential projects), the banks conformed to the regulations and were exemplary, with the 10 meter (15 meters where applicable) filtering bands in place, often with a less than 5 meter wide access. In the majority (50%-60%) of cases, the shoreline was partially revitalized; that is, only a portion of the shoreline protective band had vegetation. In these instances, we issued warnings. As to the remaining 20%, the shoreline was completely or nearly completely lacking shrubbery or trees, and was primarily covered with excessively green grass or even with stones or cement. In some of these cases, we issued fines through the MRC's Regional Inspector. We did not intend these fines to be viewed as an example but rather to signal the worst offenders. It is surprising that, after five years of sensitization, and countless messages exposing out-of-control environmental situations, people are not more willing to commit to protecting our common resources which, after all, provide increased value to their properties - i.e. THE LAKES.

It is definitely time for a united community to react to this lack of commitment in order to avoid having our lakes become "sick" to the point where we can no longer enjoy them. We must realize that we are privileged to have such natural resources at our disposal, and we must ensure that future generations will continue to have them.

That is why, over the course of the next few years, warnings for non-conformance will be replaced by an increasing number of fines for non-conformance. Accordingly, through your organizations and associations, I would like to reach out to the greatest number of people possible to inform them of the real issues and of the measures that will be taken by the Municipality if people do not comply voluntarily. The Municipality of Blue Sea would like to thank you in advance for the priority and the attention you give to the health of our lakes and other waterways.

Regarding septic installations, you will find in the attached report (pdf) a listing of all the permits issued for new septic installations in 2012-2013 after I became the Inspector responsible for this. You will notice that following the emptying of septic systems in 2012, 10 septic systems were voluntarily updated after we issued non-conformance reports. In 2013, the owners of 14 septic systems received non-conformance reports. Of those, 12 have begun the process required to update their systems with three having already completed the work. I deem this a success and a good step forward for our lakes, groundwater, and watersheds.

We cannot proclaim victory yet however. Much work remains to be done with respect to septic systems. That is why in 2014-2015 I have committed to inventory and visually inspect ALL septic systems on our territory and to develop an action plan for the updating of deficient and potentially polluting systems.
It is important to understand the situation in order to determine what measures need to be taken. This year, we received four reports regarding the presence of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) in several lakes, specifically Edja, Roberge, Perrault, and Blue Sea. It has been shown that two of the main reasons for high concentrations of phosphates in our lakes are septic systems and non-conforming waterfronts - this explains the more frequent occurrence of blue-green algae blooms.

It is together that we will assure the survival of our watersheds.

On that note we wish you happy holidays and a prosperous 2014.

 

Christian Michel, Building and Environmental Inspector for the Municipality of Blue Sea