GOSHEN — The Indiana Department of Environmental Management may have to step in if action is not taken to stop contaminants, including high levels of E. coli bacteria, from being discharged into creeks and ditches east of Wakarusa.
Members of the Elkhart County Stormwater Management Board said Monday, Nov. 25, that IDEM will likely issue a violation notice with penalties if the county and homeowners in Southwest and Foraker do not correct problems with faulty septic systems contributing to surface water pollution.
“Under a normal situation, we would have them put a new septic system on their house and disconnect that connection to the field pipe from the house,” explained Karla Kreczmer, environmental health manager at the Elkhart County Health Department. “The issue that we have with many of the properties in Southwest and Foraker is they don’t have a piece of property large enough to put a septic system in for the types of soils they have.”
Most of the homes in that area would require a septic system too large for their property, Kreczmer added.
The county stormwater board has been exploring low-cost alternative options to new septic systems, including a community-wide sanitary sewer system.
Jones Petrie Rafinski, the stormwater board’s consultant, mailed surveys in March to 73 homeowners in Southwest and Foraker to gauge their interest in the project. Nearly 40 people responded to the survey, and 28 homeowners said they were against the sewer project.
Mike Yoder, a county commissioner and stormwater board member, said he would prefer to keep IDEM’s role minimal.
“Once a state agency gets involved, that’s just one more agency in the mix,” he said. “We could, on the other hand, resolve this locally and get the needed permit to build a new system.”
A community-wide sewer system, Yoder said, would cost less for homeowners than extending sewer services from the town of Wakarusa. A study from 2012 showed that monthly rates to hook up to a community-wide system would range from $60 to $80.
Kreczmer said the county’s board of health will likely back the project by writing a letter of support to the stormwater board.