Septic tank next door fouling the air

| 26/10/2017

What can I do if a neighbour’s septic tank stinks? He doesn’t even have it plastered on the outside and the fumes are affecting us.

Auntie’s answer: There is actually a mechanism in place to deal with your unfortunate circumstance. I can only imagine the unpleasantness of having to deal with the odour emanating from a septic tank, compounded by you being an innocent bystander, as it were.

The Department of Environmental Health (DEH) is the agency you need to contact. A DEH representative explained that your first step is to make a formal report to the department “as soon as possible”. You can do this by calling 949-6696 or emailing customer service. You can also register your complaint in person at the main office of DEH; the department is located at 580 North Sound Road.

After the complaint is lodged, the DEH will begin an investigation, the official said, adding that once the nuisance is confirmed, the person responsible will be expected to contact the Water Authority for technical assistance in fixing the septic tank and put measures in place to avoid a similar problem happening again.

I think it is also important to note that the law is on your side. Under the Public Health Law (2002 Revision) Part III – Nuisances, it says it is the duty of the chief environmental health officer “to take such steps as he deems necessary” to remove or abate all statutory nuisances and “if the circumstances so warrant, proceed at law against any person committing any such nuisances”.

In addition, a septic tank is included in the variety of sources listed under Section 7(h) as “so foul or in such a state or so situated or constructed as to be offensive or prejudicial to health or a nuisance”. I may not be an expert on sewage but your neighbour’s septic tank seems to fall squarely into that category.

One other aspect of the law worth noting covers the serving of abatement notices. Section 8(4) says that whoever has been served with a notice and the nuisance was caused by his “wilful act or default” or he fails to comply “with any of the requisitions of the notice within the time and date specified” is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of $500 for each offence and to a further fine of $50 for each day that passes after the deadline for compliance.

The law mentioned in this column can be found on the CNS Library


Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I thought this was a story about an American neighbour with a wind problem, but then I realised “septic tank” was not being used in the cockney sense.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Oh great. So I have to make a complain against my neighbour (which my neighbour can access) before government will enforce the law? Does no one in government recognize the issue with this?

    • Anonymous says:

      How on Earth will government know that your neighbor stinks if you don’t complain? Should they hire officers to walk around neighborhoods sniffing people’s yards?