Solution proposed for faulty septic problem in Foraker, Southwest

The area southwest of Goshen has been plagued with contaminated surface water due to leaking septics, but a county agency is willing to kick in $550,000 to $600,000 to a sewer project to fix it.

Posted on March 26, 2014 at 4:42 p.m.

GOSHEN — Faulty septic systems in two areas southwest of Goshen continue to pose health and environmental risks, but plans to remedy the problem are moving forward.

The unincorporated communities of Foraker and Southwest have dealt with faulty septic systems for several years, causing contaminants, including E. coli, to leaks into creeks and ditches.

The most affordable solution would be adding two septic drain fields to the area combined with a low pressure sewer system.

That's according to Kenneth Jones Jr. of consulting firm Jones Petrie Rafinski (JPR). He presented the firm’s findings to the Stormwater Management Board on Monday morning, March 24.

Members of the Elkhart County Regional Sewer District Board were at the meeting to express their desire to see the project move forward.

"The environmental situation in that area for those folks is serious," said Lynn Brabec, member of the sewer district board.

She wants to see the problem fixed soon, though she's not convinced that septic drain fields are the most feasible long-term solution.

"There are other options," she said.

While an official plan hasn't been determined, the Stormwater Management Board approved a motion to extend JPR's involvement and to contribute between $550,000 and $600,000 to the sewer project. The money will be used to keep project-related fees for affected residents below $60 a month.

Other funding will likely come from the USDA Rural Development Program in the form of grants, loans or a combination of both.

Health concerns

While officials and board members continue to hash out plans for the project, residents in Southwest and Foraker continue to face health hazards they have little control over.

Water tests have found high levels of E.coli contamination in the area, according to William Hartsuff, onsite program supervisor for the Elkhart County Health Department.

He said pets who wade in contaminated surface water could bring contaminants into homes. The area is also a breeding habitat for disease-bearing mosquitoes that could infect humans and horses, "which can be a concern in this area due to the many horses that are present with the Amish population," Hartsuff said.

Most of the homeowners in the affected areas don’t have the resources to fix this problem on their own.

“The type and size of the systems necessary are not feasible and would be a waste of resources for each individual homeowner,” Hartsuff said.

There was concern last year that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management would issue a violation notice and fines if the problem wasn't fixed, but that hasn't happened yet.

"Progress is being made toward correction. I would not anticipate their involvement as long as this continues," Hartsuff said.

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