GOSHEN — For years, homeowners in a subdivision just south of Goshen have dealt with their septic systems failing and water repeatedly flooding their properties, but now they’re turning to Elkhart County’s stormwater management board for help.
Residents in the Kercher Orchard Subdivision asked the board Monday, April 22, to pay for a study that would research the cost and effectiveness of alternative septic systems and other solutions for their problems. The subdivision lies between C.R. 36 and C.R. 38 west of the Elkhart River.
“A couple of years ago when we did our countywide utility master plan, this is one of the areas of concern that we identified with a noticeable failure rate,” said Kenneth Jones Jr., vice president of consultant Jones Petrie Rafinski.
The homeowners started talking with Jones about the septic issues a couple of months ago, but he said they were concerned about being able to fund the study. Jones estimated the project would cost $17,500, plus another $4,950 if the county wanted his company to come up with a strategy to put the study’s results into motion, complete with timelines, funding models and further recommendations on how to proceed.
About six residents from the subdivision were at Monday’s stormwater management board meeting, including Glenn Stutzman, who lives on Apple Lane. Stutzman told the board that many of the older homes in his neighborhood, including his, are on their second septic system. He had his second system installed almost 10 years ago. When it was put in, Stutzman paid about $300 annually to maintain it. Now, he said, the cost has shot up to $450 a year.
The problem is underground, Stutzman said.
“The soil out there is of a nature that it just fails,” he explained. “Our systems have failed on a higher frequency basis than other areas in the county. It’s clay soil mostly, or a clay and sand mix, so it’s tighter soil than some areas of the county to the point where it’s become a problem.”
John Huber, who has lived on Bluff Drive since 1992, hopes the study will also cover the area’s drainage problems.
“Personally, it’s more of a stormwater issue, but it will eventually become a sewer issue because my septic will eventually give out, at which time I’m going to have to spend $15,000 to $20,000,” Huber said.
Water has made its way into Huber’s house five times over the past 10 years.
“We’re looking for answers,” Huber said. “We’re looking for at least a commitment to look into this.”
The stormwater board’s attorney is checking whether the county’s stormwater fees can legally be used to pay for the study.
“I would really like to fund the study if we can find a way to do it,” said Mike Yoder, a county commissioner and stormwater board member.