Elkhart County will seek federal funding to remedy a crop of failing septic systems east of Wakarusa that have led to high levels of contaminants including E. coli in nearby creeks and ditches.
The strategy, put together by consulting firm Jones Petrie Rafinski (JPR), is to add two septic drain fields combined with a low pressure sewer system near Southwest and Foraker in unincorporated Elkhart County.
The next step is to request financial assistance for the project by mid-August from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development division.
“There’s really no other method we’ve identified that’s financially feasible,” Kenneth Jones Jr., vice president of JPR, said in a phone interview Tuesday, June 24.
JPR first proposed the drain field solution in late March to the Elkhart County Stormwater Board, which agreed to contribute between $550,000 and $600,000.
As it stands, the project has a price tag of almost exactly $1 million, Jones said. The assumption is that the USDA will loan 55 percent of the funds needed and grant the remaining 45 percent.
Residents in each community could end up paying around $70 per month for maintenance, operation and to recoup the anticipated federal loan, Jones said.
The 55/45 ratio could shift in favor of the residents if the USDA agrees to an income survey of those affected.
“That will be a discussion with the USDA after a formal submittal takes place,” Jones said.
There was concern late last year that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management would issue violation notices with penalties if the faulty septic systems weren’t corrected.
So far, that hasn’t happened.
Small property sizes and soil type have prevented most affected residents from fixing the problem on their own.
The project’s exact location hasn’t been determined yet, according to Chris Godlewski, director of county planning and development.
The Elkhart Truth will continue to follow this story as it develops.