Goshen News, Goshen, IN

April 22, 2013

Sewer board deciding on how to handle three communities

By ROGER SCHNEIDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS

— GOSHEN — Three rural sewer problems have county officials pondering what to do about them.

Monday the residents of the Orchard subdivision south of Goshen requested the Elkhart County Storm Water Board help pay for a sewer study. The board also discussed what do about water pollution from septic systems in Southwest and Foraker.

Glenn Stutzman represented a group of residents getting started on the process of having the subdivision hooked up to Goshen’s municipal sewer system. The city’s sewer line ends on Indiana Avenue (C.R. 21) near C.R. 36, which is just a few hundred feet from the subdivision.

Ken Jones Jr. of JPR Engineering has been hired by the resident committee to begin work on studying a sewer system for the subdivision.

Monday, Stutzman asked the Storm Water Management Board, which consists of county commissioners Terry Rodino, Mike Yoder and Frank Lucchese and county Surveyor Blake Doriot, to help fund the study. The board would pay up to $22,000 for the study using money from storm water runoff assessments.

Stutzman said his home’s septic system had to be replaced, as has many others in the subdivision, which got some of the residents thinking about a connection to the city’s system.

In addition to the septic troubles, subdivision resident John Huber asked the board to consider a solution to storm water run off. He said that years ago there were swales alongside the roads in the subdivision to collect rainwater, but many property owners have filled in those swales.

“It they hadn’t done that, I don’t think we would have the issues we do,” Huber said.

Those issues include water running down the roads and damaging the roads as well as water running across property.

Huber said his home’s septic system is working fine.

“I am not as concerned about the sewer issue unless the stormwater issues are addressed,” he said.

Stutzman said the two issues might be linked, as some subdivision residents report sewage odors following rainfalls. He suggested county officials study if runoff from septic systems is going into the nearby Elkhart River.

Doriot said he is in favor of studying the situation, but wondered if the board can legally spend storm water revenue on a sanitary sewer issue. He said the county ordinance is vague on the wording of what the board can spend money on other than storm water problems and water pollution. The board decided to have the county’s attorneys study the issue and make a recommendation.

“I would really like to fund the study if we can do it,” Yoder said.

Stutzman and Jones said that if the Orchard subdivision is hooked up to the city’s sewer and water systems, it’s most likely city officials would require annexation.

Stutzman said he has circulated information to all subdivision residents about the issue and the possibility of annexation and has so far received just a few negative comments.

Jones said he will be making a presentation on the Orchard subdivision issue May 1 to the county’s regional sewer district board.

As far as the storm water runoff issue, Rodino asked County Highway Superintendent Jeff Taylor to give commissioners a cost estimate on having highway crews re-dig the swales along the subdivision roads. Doriot and the commissioners agreed that any such cost can be passed along to property owners who have filled in the drainage swales.

Doriot said, “Now this wouldn’t make people happy, but the highway department has the authority to go in there and cut a swale.”

The board did not take any action on the swales.

Southwest and Foraker

Jones said he sent questionnaires about possible sanitary sewer systems to 73 property owners in the small rural, unincorporated communities of Foraker and Southwest. Thirty-nine responses were received and 28 of those were against the formation of sewer districts and 11 were for such action.

“It is now up to some combination of the storm water board and the county commissioners to determine if they want to do anything.”

The issue involved is surface water pollution to Yellow Creek near Southwest and Weaver Ditch near Foraker. That ditch drains into Dausman Ditch, which then drains into Turkey Creek. A county study found high levels of e coli bacteria in the Weaver Ditch and Yellow Creek. E coli bacteria is used by scientists to monitor organic pollutants, usually from fecal matter.

“We need to act on Foraker for sure,” Doriot said. The reason he said is at least 12 homes in the crossroads community are hooked to a sewer pipe that drains into Weaver Ditch.

“Southwest, I don’t have the data, “ Doriot said. “Foraker I know where the outflow is and it shows who is hooked up. Foraker we have to act on for sure.”

Doriot indicated that in Southwest some locals believe homes are hooked up to a similar system but he has no hard evidence of a sewer pipe’s existence at this time.

“I think either way it is going to end up with the health department,” Yoder said.

“This has to be done,” Yoder said, adding he knows the majority of respondents to the survey were against any action. “But they don’t have any alternative.”

Jones said he believes Foraker and Southwest should be part of one project if county officials go ahead with the effort. He will make a presentation on the issue to the Regional Sewer District Board May 1.

After the meeting Doriot said the idea for a solution to the Foraker and Southwest pollution problem is to create a sewer system that would use septic systems at the home, which would drain into an aerobic digester system, which would then drain into an absorption field.

He said while the technology exists to solve the problem, it’s the economic impact on families he is worried about.

“The problem is, in Foraker the income is low,” he said. “If you are looking at $60 to $80 a month (for sewer bills) that is a lot of money.”