GOSHEN — A laundry list of consequences could await homeowners in Foraker and Southwest if they do not take part in a project to control surface water pollution in their areas, according to a consultant for the Elkhart County Stormwater Management Board.
More than half of the property owners in both communities who responded to a survey have no interest in a proposed sanitary sewer project. Consulting firm Jones Petrie Rafinski mailed survey packets March 20 to 73 homeowners in Foraker and Southwest with information explaining the sewer project. High levels of E. coli bacteria have repeatedly been found in creeks and ditches in the two communities east of Wakarusa.
“As of April 18, 2013, we have received a total of 39 responses,” JPR president Ken Jones wrote in a letter to the stormwater board. “Twenty-eight are against the sewer, and 11 are for it. However, it is interesting to note that if broken down geographically, Foraker has eight for and eight against the sewer, while Southwest had three for and 20 against the sewer.”
Now it is up to the county’s stormwater board members whether they want to move forward with the plan, which would create a new sewer system to serve parts of Foraker and Southwest.
“Foraker, with the information that I have, it has to be done,” said Blake Doriot, county surveyor and stormwater board member. “It has to be done. Southwest, I don’t have that data. Foraker, I know where the outflow is, and I feel like we have information that shows who is hooked up, and we need to act on Foraker for sure.”
If the county’s stormwater board decides not to take action, Jones explained in his letter that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management would likely get involved. IDEM would send a violation notice requiring the county to provide a plan to eliminate or mitigate illicit discharges into its waterways.
Further, Jones said, the county’s environmental health department would be charged with correcting runoff problems from home septic systems.
“This could result in the requirement for homeowners to construct new systems that fully comply with current local and state standards,” Jones said. “For individual sites that cannot comply, most in both communities, this could lead to a requirement for holding tanks or, in the worse case, some homes may no longer be considered inhabitable.”
The price tag for homeowners who install new septic systems that comply with code will likely exceed the long-term costs of a community sewer system, according to Jones. A study conducted in 2012 estimated that the monthly rates for the community system would range from $60 to $80.
But after all is said and done, Jones believes a community sewer system will likely be built eventually.
“This will be the result of continuing efforts to more fully comply with the Clean Water Act where state and federal standards will continue to compel local health departments to adopt even stricter standards for on-site systems in very densely developed communities,” Jones said.
The consulting firm plans to present the survey results May 1 to Elkhart County’s regional sewer district board.