More details required for septic tank policy

An inspection regime for septic tanks is likely to be needed but more information will be required before the Otago Regional Council sets a policy, chief executive Peter Bodeker says.

Yesterday, councillors considered a report - which many said was a long time coming - on the risk septic tanks posed to Otago's groundwater systems.

Mr Bodeker said it was clear there was a huge amount of confusion concerning the best operation and maintenance of septic tank systems.

''Even my own situation, with a relatively new septic tank, it was difficult.''

There had to be some investigation into finding the best answer to the problem and the type of inspection or enforcement regime required.

Chairman Stephen Woodhead said information had to be available for landowners, so they knew how to manage their systems.

Although the report suggested best practice was to de-sludge a septic tank every few years, a couple he knew believed the worst thing they could do was touch their tank.

''As a result, it's sat there for 30 years.''

Cr Bryan Scott said, having read the report, he now had to be more diligent with his own septic tank ''than possibly I have been''.

Cr Sam Neill said that as no-one checked the quality of the water coming out of such systems, everyone thought they were working well.

Cr Gretchen Robertson said it was important rules concerning septic tanks in priority areas were tightened and different ways of using permitted activity rules should be investigated.

Cr Doug Brown called for the ''real situation'' to be assessed, rather than relying on modelling.

Cr Gerry Eckhoff said: ''We're going to have to put some real resources in to get to the facts.''

The committee agreed to develop a plan change covering septic tanks using the information in the report.

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