Beware of shire inspecting your septic, they say

THE owners of some of the 3698 properties in the South Gippsland Shire sent letters by the council recently about the ‘Waste Water Compliance Program’ are concerned that it’s actually a Trojan Horse for finding what they are doing wrong.
This week we were contacted by a Dumbalk farmer, who wishes to remain nameless for fear of getting ‘red flagged’ by the shire, saying he’d heard reports of shire officials turning up, ostensibly to look at the septic, but then asking questions about sheds built on the property and whether or not they were constructed in line with regulations.
“The septic system we’ve got has been operating satisfactorily for 100 years. We don’t want the shire coming on the property and poking around,” he said.
But the shire has denied it’s a fishing expedition.
Dumbalk resident Ed Hanley said there were actually problem issues in town that the shire should investigate but he also strongly advocates for connection to the Meeniyan system.
“It will be cheaper and better in the long run,” he said.
In answer to relayed questions from the Sentinel-Times this week the shire has said: “The purpose of the inspection is to gather information about the onsite wastewater system only.”

Here’s what we asked the shire:
Q1. How many letters have gone out to property owners – who has received the letters, when?
A1. Letters were sent to 3698 properties are located within the South Gippsland Water declared Tarwin catchment area (and outside the declared sewer district) on March 10, 2017. Letters were sent as a result of the implementation of the South Gippsland Shire Domestic Wastewater Management Plan 2016-2020 (DWMP) adopted by Council in September 2016.

Q2. Farmers in particular are concerned about shire officers coming out to do an inspection and what it might cost to replace their existing septic.
(a.) Under what circumstances would they have to replace the septic system?
A2 (a.) Septic systems will only require replacement as a last possible resort. Should an existing system be found to be failing, Council’s Wastewater Compliance Officer will work with the property owner to come up with the best possible solution to fix/repair the system. This may include pumping the system out, repairing effluent pipes, trenching, etc.

(b.) Are they being given any idea of the cost and alternatives? How much does a new system cost?
A2 (b.) The cost of a septic system depends on the type of system installed, plumbers’ fees, etc. System replacement is the last resort. Should system replacement be required, Council will work with the property owner to achieve compliance.

Q3. They are concerned that the shire officers might gather other information while they are visiting the farm – how many dogs, whether a shed has been built without a permit etc.
(a.) Will information about properties inspected be passed on to other shire departments for action?
A3 (a.). The purpose of the inspection is to gather information about the onsite wastewater system only. If people would like to be present when the inspection is conducted, they are encouraged to contact Council’s Wastewater Compliance Officer Corey Noble on 5662 9262.

(b.) Will farmers be asked to comply with other shire regulations as a result?
A3 (b.) The purpose of the inspection is to gather information about the onsite wastewater system only.

Q4. The farmers say their septic systems have been operating without incident for 100 years, why fix something that isn’t broken?
A4. If a domestic wastewater systems is well-maintained and operational, then Council will not be asking anyone to fix anything. We are purely gathering information about what kind of wastewater systems are out there. Historic record keeping has been poor and a great deal of information was lost during amalgamations. The main aim of the Compliance Program is to provide education and information to Council’s residents about wastewater systems. The Compliance Program will protect the water catchment (South Gippsland drinking water source) and allow development in the catchment area.

Q5. Please provide any other details you think relevant
A5. Domestic wastewater disposal is one of the most important environmental issues in South Gippsland. Poorly maintained onsite wastewater systems can affect public health, the environment, local waterways, drinking water, ground water and the storm water system. There are approximately 8000 onsite wastewater treatment systems installed across South Gippsland.
The shire provided copies of the two letters sent out to property owners for additional information. They can be read in full on the Sentinel-Times’ website at
In essence they advise that during the months of April and May 2017, Council officers will be visiting properties in the Dumbalk and Dumbalk North areas to update records of existing onsite wastewater systems
If you would like to organise a specific time for inspection of your onsite wastewater system, please contact Council’s Wastewater Compliance Officer, Corey Noble on 5662 9262 to arrange a suitable time