Tippecanoe Lake Sewer Initiative Reinforces That A Conservancy District Is The Best Direction

(LEESBURG, IN) For over a year, the Tippecanoe Lake Sewer Initiative (TLSI) has hired experts who have worked statewide in the engineering and legal details for planning and implementing sewer systems. The independent committee of residents of Tippecanoe Lake in Kosciusko County have researched legal structures between regional and conservancy districts, the different ways to engineer the project to different treatment plant options, as well as the projected homeowner costs related to Tippecanoe Lake’s situation.  They have spent tens of thousands of dollars investigating what they, as Tippecanoe Lake homeowners, feel is the best, fair and affordable option for all landowners.

A small opposition group has recently raised concerns without understanding the research that has been conducted. The opposition is misstating facts and they are stating that there is a misrepresentation of intent regarding the time and money that has been spent for the sole purpose of installing a sewer system on Tippecanoe Lake. Sewer systems have already been installed for most lakes in Kosciusko and the surrounding counties. Over 96 active conservancy districts exist around the state.

The success of the TLSI group’s education of facts to the community has resulted in over 500 landowners, representing over 1200 land parcels, signing petitions for the formation of a freeholder-led conservancy district for the sole purpose of implementing a sewer system on Tippecanoe Lake. Each freeholder was presented with a two-page legal description of the scope of the proposed conservancy district – for sewers only -- as well as a legal description of the properties included.    

“We want to clear up the misrepresentation of facts that has been presented by opposing community members who simply haven’t afforded themselves the time to understand the advantages of a conservancy district over a regional district,” states Joe Tynan, leader of the TLSI. “It is unfortunate that the people who want the most cost-effective solution are opposing the only structure that is in fact led by our very own residents who will make responsible, informed decisions, with required public input, under the same tax guidelines as any other structure. The difference is that a regional district would be led by government bureaucrats who will likely require higher costs that will be dictated to us.”

One fear of the opposition is that a conservancy district will go beyond the sewer implementation and will try to control other aspects of the lake. “From the beginning, our intent, as is legally stated in the petition, is to solely implement a sewer system,” states Jeff Thornburgh, TLSI committee member. “For that to change, in the future, the conservancy district board would have to engage this legal process through the court system all over again to change the scope of the district. If anyone attempted to change this scope, everyone in our group would greatly oppose such action and would fight to stop it.”

Jon Tyler, TLSI team member states, “70% of parcels in the proposed sewer district (Tippecanoe, Little Tippy and Oswego Lakes) have assessed values of $300,000 and less. 44% are less than $150,000. We believe a flat rate structure is unfair to the majority of landowners. We believe a flat rate structure is unfair to the majority of landowners, as under such fees everyone is charged the same regardless of property value or system usage. The new system should be affordable for everyone in the district. With grants, lower bond rates, and other discount structures that a conservancy district can use, and based on the engineering and plant treatment options that we have explored, we are recommending the most cost-effective solution that is fair to all. While there are always going to be people who want to stir the pot in projects like this, we are representing the facts. We are happy to sit down and discuss them further with everyone interested.”

As TLSI presented in their August 2017 release, they encourage the community to visit their website www.sustainourlake.com and learn the six key reasons why a sewer is necessary on Tippecanoe Lake. This includes reasons such as aging septic systems, small property lot sizes not meeting septic requirements, unfavorable soils and lowlands that are not appropriate for septic systems, and more. Also provided are details about the proposed cost structure. Information was also mailed to freeholders via a letter and three postcards explaining the facts.

Visit www.sustainourlake.com for project details.

>> Ink Free News Post

LRSD Considers Future Agreement with Tippecanoe Lake

NORTH WEBSTER — With the Lakeland Regional Sewer District’s wastewater treatment facility up and running since late July, Tippecanoe Lake has already expressed interest in connecting another pipeline, possibly doubling the system’s capacity.

Kenneth Jones Sr., president of Jones, Petrie and Rafinski, the company overseeing ongoing LRSD connections, addressed the LRSD board of directors monthly meeting Thursday, Oct. 5, at the North Webster Community Center, as a representative of the as-yet-unformed Tippecanoe Lake sewer system about the possibility of connecting to the LRSD waste treatment plant.

A movement to get sewers around the entire circumference of Tippecanoe Lake began in 2009, according to Jones, and the effort has since restarted. “They’ve done a fantastic job organizing,” he stated, and expect to proceed to the district formation level by 2018.

Structurally, Jones indicated LRSD’s sole involvement would be a metered pipeline, possibly routed through the Chapman Lake community, and connected to the sewer plant, which, DLZ engineer Casey Erwin pointed out, has room for expansion. It is rated for 350,000 gallons per day and is currently handling 60,000.

The new group would pay a bulk metered rate — “one bill, one check” — hopefully minimizing LRSD’s responsibilities.

While the Tippecanoe Lake effort would require the help of LRSD operations staff, engineering firm and financial advisors, all costs, said Jones, would be borne by Tippecanoe Lake. Exactly how that would happen, however, is unclear, because a district or conservancy does not exist, a fact pointed out by Jim Haney, LRSD board president, so any costs reimbursed to the district must be a part of Tippecanoe’s plans.

The benefit for LRSD would be financial. “This would likely result in cost savings to your customers,” said Jones, as the costs would be spread over a greater number.

Treasurer Mike DeWald, however, expressed his concern LRSD would be “tying our own hands for expansion.”

Interlocal agreements between sewer districts are common, and Jones cited Warsaw’s long-standing cooperation with Winona Lake, as well as Fort Wayne’s relationship with “several municipalities,” though DeWald replied the latter has resulted in rate disputes.

Although Haney stressed the fact no deal could be made until a Tippecanoe Lake sewer district is formed in 2018, Jones left the meeting seemingly satisfied with attorney Andy Boxberger’s assertion LRSD was “interested in being interested.”

Other items on the LRSD board meeting agenda were as follows:

The board agreed to send mailings to the 496 properties not yet connected, giving them 90 days from the mailing date. It is also in the process of creating a penalty ordinance, likely similar to the state code, which charges $100 per day for failure to connect.

A JPR representative reported nearly 70 percent of properties are connected and 88 percent have pulled permits. Though future connections will depend on the weather, he was optimistic the district would reach the 92 percent mark, which he called a “realistic total” in line with other projects the company has overseen.

The board passed a motion approving DLZ’s submission of the LRSD project for consideration by the American Council of Engineering Companies for its excellence award.

The LRSD office will officially relocate from the North Webster Community Center to the wastewater treatment plant Oct. 31. The change will be reflected on the website, lakelandrsd.com. LRSD meetings will also move to the plant at 5002 E. 100N, south of the Barbee Lake chain.

Read full article in Ink Free News

Featured Article: Tippecanoe Lake Sewer Initiative Gains Overwhelming Support

(LEESBURG, IN) An independent, small committee of residents of Tippecanoe Lake in Kosciusko County have organized and gathered petition signatures from landowners representing over 500 of approximately 1200 land parcels. These homeowners support forming a lake conservancy district that will have the sole responsibility of installing a sewer system for the lake.

Tippecanoe Lake is one of the last, large lakes in Kosciusko County to install a sewer system. There are many reasons shared at www.sustainourlake.com for installing a sewer system versus disposing of waste in unregulated septic systems which are individually installed and maintained by homeowners.

For new homes constructed in areas without public sewers, Kosciusko County requires a minimum 20,000 sq. ft. lot size. This requirement is more than twice the size of the average Tippy home site. Many are far less than 10,000 sq. ft. To meet the requirement, new homes or existing homes replacing septic systems are forced to purchase and devalue backlots to make room for septic systems -- or expensive, complicated system designs are required if space is available.

The average, perfectly maintained septic system placed in perfect soil conditions has a life span of 20-25 years. However, the project engineers have found that Tippy soil conditions are less than perfect. This condition is further complicated on small lots where the 50-foot isolation requirement of water wells from nearby septic systems cannot be met.

“Even when septic systems are constructed in favorable soils and are regularly maintained, vertical proximity to the water table in densely developed areas, like Tippy, raises real concerns,” states Ken Jones, project engineer and President/CEO of Jones Petrie Rafinski. “Where the isolation for water wells cannot be achieved, this can often develop a preferential pathway for contaminants between septic systems and water wells. Sewer systems address lake residents’ concerns about surface water resources. Also, most have also recognized that their drinking water is even more of a concern.” 

Another concern for Tippecanoe Lake residents is the flooding of low lands during high rains. The flooding of septic leach beds can push back water towards water wells or pull contaminated surface water back into the lake, states Jones.

“We have strong support for this project. The only expressed difference which the district board will need to decide is the fee structure,” states Joe Tynan, district formation committee leader. A few residents believe the cost should be an equal flat fee for all residents. Tynan shares the committee will recommend a variable fee structure that is based on a percentage of each property’s assessed value. 70% of homes on the lake have an assessed value less than $300,000 or are residents living on fixed incomes. “We simply want to be fair so that everyone can afford to pay for the sewer system,” states Tynan.

Another concern that has been raised is whether a sewer system will make condominium developments more prevalent and create a lesser desirable, higher density population. Steve Snyder, Attorney of Snyder, Morgan, Federoff and Kuchmay, confirms that the current zoning regulations for the lake restrict the possibility of condominium developments. The sewer system or its managing conservancy district will have no impact on these regulations.

The group aims to collect 200 more signatures through the week of Labor Day to prepare for the application and formation of the conservancy district. Once approved, a Board of Directors will initially be appointed. Subsequent members’ terms will be elected.

Visit www.sustainourlake.com for project details.
 

Media Links to Article

>> InkFreeNews, 8/30/17

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Contact:
Shelley Moore
c/o Tippecanoe Lake Sewer Initiative
Insight Strategic Concepts Inc.
shelley@insightsc.com
574.970.1322

The Details About Conservancy and Regional Districts

There are numerous distinctions between the regional sewer district and a conservancy district. Both are “creatures” of statutes. The regional sewer district statute is found at IC 13-26-2-1. 

Conservancy Districts

The Indiana Conservancy Act (IC 14-33) provides a mechanism by which landowners, through a circuit court process, can organize a special taxing district (a local unit of government) to solve specific local issues related to water resources management.

The following issues can be addressed through the Conservancy Act.

  • Flood prevention and control.
  • Improving drainage.
  • Providing for irrigation.
  • Providing water supply, including treatment and distribution, for domestic, industrial, and public use.
  • Providing for the collection, treatment, and disposal of sewage and other liquid wastes.
  • Developing forests, wildlife areas, parks, and recreational facilities where feasible in connection with beneficial water management.
  • Preventing the loss of topsoil from injurious water erosion.
  • Storage of water for augmentation of stream flow.
  • Operation, maintenance, and improvement of any work of improvement for water based recreational purposes, or other work of improvement that could have been built for any other purpose authorized by the Act.

Often a local steering group first forms to research the issues and gather input from those who would be benefited/affected. To form a district, a petition is created and then circulated in the area to be included in and served by the proposed district. This petition is then filed in the circuit court of the county having the most land in the proposed district. The percentage of signatures on the petition is dependent on the number of freeholders owning land in the proposed district or proportion of all freeholders in the proposed district. A municipality may file a petition to initiate a proposed district by ordinance adopted by the legislative body.

Boundaries of a conservancy district are based upon the identification of properties expected to be benefited by the establishment of the district. Any area may be included in a district regardless of it political boundaries; however, the district needs to be contiguous with all other parts of the district and cannot overlap another district established for the same purpose.

>>Read more about Indiana Conservancy Districts here.

>> There are 96 active Conservancy District in Indiana

Regional Districts

“Regional districts” can be established by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management upon the filing of a petition for creation of the regional district by one or more “eligible entities” which would include a county, city and/or township government. A regional district can be created for matters related to sewage collection and treatment, water distribution and/or solid waste collection, treatment and disposal. The contents of the petition are controlled by the “eligible entity” filing the petition. The decision to create a regional district is vested with IDEM which retains oversight responsibility. The regional district statute contains a remonstration procedure and the entity filing the petition is required to comply with certain public meeting and notice requirements.

Once established by IDEM, the regional district is governed by a “Board of Trustees” which under the current version of the enabling statute can be “elected by the voters” or appointed by the elected executive or legislative officers of the eligible entity having territory in the regional district. There is no authority contained in the regional district enabling statute which would allow the district to impose a real estate property tax.

A regional sewer district is also eligible to seek and secure grants and/or loans for the cost of constructing the needed infrastructure. The Board of Trustees of the regional district is also empowered to adopt reasonable rules and regulations concerning utilization of the sewer system. There are multiple restrictions contained in the enabling legislation limiting the Board of Trustees implementation of the collection and treatment system.

Should You Buy a House With a Septic System?

Facts to consider about investing in a home with a septic system.

It’s a home feature that can make prospective buyers nervous: a septic tank.

Part of a home’s wastewater system, a septic tank is found in households that aren’t served by municipal sewers. Instead, these standalone systems are designed to dispose of and treat the household’s wastewater independently.

If you’re considering buying a home with a septic system, here are some things you might want to know:

How common are septic systems?

Septic systems are pretty common, actually. About 25 percent of the U.S. population relies on such systems (whether shared among multiple households or set up as individual systems) says Craig Mains, technical assistant at the National Environmental Services Center at West Virginia University. While most people think septic systems are a rural home feature, they can also be found in urban and suburban locales.

So, how does a septic system work?

A pipe collects all the home’s wastewater and transfers it to an underground, watertight septic tank. Here, solids (known as “sludge”) settle to the bottom, and floatable materials (known as “scum”) float to the top; both are contained by the tank and are periodically pumped out by a professional.

The middle layer contains liquid wastewater (known as “effluent”) that exits the tank into a buried drainfield in the yard, where the wastewater disperses into the soil. The soil filters out contaminants and beneficial bacteria break down any organic materials.

Is the septic system related to the drinking water system?

No. Many homes with septic systems also have a private well. But, the septic system is entirely independent from the well; its purpose is not to treat wastewater so it can become drinkable, but to safely disperse it in a way that prevents contamination, Mains says.

>>Wells at Lake Tippecanoe are required to be 50 feet from septic systems. 

What differentiates one septic system from another?

The size of the drainfield and the soil, says Eric Casey, executive director, National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA). For instance, liquids have a tougher time penetrating clay than sandy soil, he says. In these cases, the system might be set up differently. The drainfield also has to be large enough to handle the liquid volume a family generates.

To avoid the possibility of clogging the system, don’t use a home’s toilet, sink, or disposal as a wastebasket for dental floss, coffee grinds, kitty litter, paint or chemicals, advises Mains. The EPA offers some additional do’s and don’ts.

What type of maintenance is involved?

Pumping of the septic tank by a professional is required to remove the sludge and scum; the frequency is determined by the tank size and the level of home activity (how much wastewater is generated). Most three-bedroom homes should have a 1,500-gallon septic tank pumped every three to five years, says the National Environmental Services Center’s Mains. The EPA says some systems may need to be pumped more often—annually in some cases.

Besides pumping, the tank should be inspected regularly for leaks or clogs. Red flags that the system may have a clog include occasional bad odors and slowly draining or gurgling fixtures, he explains.

Casey says homeowners should avoid septic tank additives—products that claim to break down sludge and scum inside a tank to minimize the need for pumping—because they can cause damage to the system.

What about maintenance costs?

This depends on tank and drainfield sizes, tank accessibility, and how far away waste must be hauled for disposal. Pumping a 1,500-gallon tank might cost $300, says Mains. The EPA recommends a search of SepticPages, a database of more than 30,000 septic professionals managed by an industry magazine, to find a service professional.

What should I do before buying a home with a septic system?

Know your state’s rules. Some require an inspection before a title transfer. But even if your state doesn’t require an inspection, your lender might. (Conventional home inspections typically don’t include an inspection of a septic system).

An inspection can detail the system’s condition, if it’s sited a proper distance from a well (to avoid contamination), and can confirm the absence of invasive tree roots in the drainfield, which can damage the system.

Also, know the age of the system. While a well-designed, correctly installed septic system can last 25 to 30 years, according to Casey, prices can vary widely if you do have to replace a system. Mains says that a conventional (gravity-flow) system may be as low as $4,000, but that an alternative system with electrical or mechanical parts can run from $15,000 to $35,000.

Where do I go for details?

The EPA’s SepticSmarts pages are a great place to start.

Click here for article source.

Lakeland Regional Sewer District Completes Wastewater Treatment Facility

NORTH WEBSTER — On Friday, July 21, the Lakeland Regional Sewer District reached a symbolic milestone with a ribbon cutting at its completed wastewater treatment facility, 5002 E. 100 N., south of the Barbee Lake chain it serves. The ceremony marked the culmination of a nine year process to construct a sewer system providing service to 1,700 residents at a cost of $28 million.

The wastewater plant will also be open to the public from 9-11 a.m., Saturday, July 22.

LRSD Vice President Bob Marcuccilli kicked of the proceedings with an outline of the project’s history, going back to 2007, when the Kosciusko County Commissioners and County Counsel petitioned the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to form the district. Construction eventually began in 2015 with a loan from the United States Department of Agriculture, following a complicated process of working with property owners to place grinder stations and obtain easements for each connection.

This facility is one consideration for the Lake Tippecanoe treatment facility.  Warsaw or building Lake Tippecanoe's own are the other two options.

Click here to read more. 

The Watershed Foundation Statement of Support

The Watershed Foundation (TWF) Official Statement of Support

Whereas: Many farmers and landowners within the Upper Tippecanoe Watershed (UTW) have worked with TWF to voluntarily change management practices and implement water quality improvement projects on their land.

Whereas: TWF has taken action, educated landowners, and implemented solutions for approximately 70% of the known water pollution problem areas. More than 200 water quality improvement projects have been completed since 1997, and another 35 projects will be completed this year.

Whereas: TWF’s original watershed management plan – as approved by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in 2006 - includes the formation of sewers as a priority project to be accomplished for the preservation and protection of the Upper Tippecanoe Watershed.

Whereas: The formation of a Conservancy District for the purpose of establishing a sewer system to serve the areas near Tippecanoe, James, and Oswego Lakes represents a significant project.

The Board of Directors of The Watershed Foundation unanimously supports the formation of such a Conservancy District.

Therefore the Board of Directors respectively is asking the property owners who will be served within this district to approve the formation of the Conservancy District when contacted by volunteers seeking your signature in favor of this very important project.

Septic Tanks Aren't Keeping Poo Out of Rivers and Lakes

The notion that septic tanks prevent fecal bacteria from seeping into rivers and lakes simply doesn’t hold water, says a new Michigan State University study.

Water expert Joan Rose and her team of water detectives have discovered freshwater contamination stemming from septic systems. Appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study is the largest watershed study of its kind to date, and provides a basis for evaluating water quality and health implications and the impact of septic systems on watersheds.

“All along, we have presumed that on-site wastewater disposal systems, such as septic tanks, were working,” said Rose, Homer Nowlin Endowed Chair in Water Research. “But in this study, sample after sample, bacterial concentrations were highest where there were higher numbers of septic systems in the watershed area.”

Until now, it was assumed that the soil could filter human sewage, and that it works as a natural treatment system. Discharge-to-soil methods, a simple hole dug in the ground under an outhouse, for example, have been used for many years. Unfortunately, these systems do not keep E. coli and other pathogens from water supplies, Rose said.

“For years we have been seeing the effects of fecal pollution, but we haven’t known where it is coming from,” she said. “Pollution sources scattered in an area – called non-point – have historically been a significant challenge in managing water quality.”

The researchers used source-tracking markers, a novel method Rose calls “CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) for water,” to sample 64 river systems in Michigan for E. coli and the human fecal bacteria B-theta. Advances in source-tracking allow water scientists to track down the origin of non-point pollution more accurately than ever before.

Michigan, Florida and South Carolina, as well as resort areas near lakes all across the United States, rely heavily on septic tanks for human sewage. Though each state regulates septic tanks differently, more needs to be done in order to ensure humans are not contaminating surface waters by using septic tanks.

Continuing to use long-trusted methods of waste disposal systems may come at a hefty price, added Rose. The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest survey for capitol improvement identifies the need to invest $298 billion over the next 20 years on wastewater and stormwater infrastructure to meet the Clean Water Act public safety goals of swimmable and fishable waters.

“This study has important implications on the understanding of relationships between land use, water quality and human health as we go forward,” she said. “Better methods will improve management decisions for locating, constructing and maintaining on-site wastewater treatment systems. It’s financially imperative that we get it right.”

This research was supported by grants from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Tipping Points Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab) and EPA (112013 and 118539). Contributing scientists were Marc Verhougstraete, College of Public Health, University of Arizona; Sherry Martin, Anthony Kendall and David Hyndman, Department of Geological Sciences, MSU.

Read additional article by Joan Rose.

Source: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2015/septic-tanks-arent-keeping-poo-out-of-rivers-and-lakes/

Addressing Concerns About Blue-Green Algae

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH), and the Board of Animal Health (BOAH) are working to provide information about blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, in our lakes.

Algae are commonly found in Indiana lakes and streams without concern, however the concentrated presence of blue-green algae can be linked to some adverse health effects. Factors promoting algal growth include sunlight, warm weather, low turbulence, and nutrient sources, such as phosphorus and nitrogen. Phosphorous is particularly important in fueling cyanobacteria growth. Often nutrient inputs come from nonpoint source pollution, but fortunately, there are many ways to reduce or stop nonpoint source pollution, many of which are simple things we can do right in our own backyards.

Not taken seriously, blue-green algae can destroy a lake community with a long recovery period. To be good stewards for sustaining our lakes, it is important to control the common sources of nonpoint source pollution in Indiana, which include:

  • animal production operations and feedlots;
  • agricultural activities;
  • stream bank and shoreline erosion;
  • timber harvesting;
  • land development;
  • on-site sewage disposal units;
  • solid waste disposal landfills;
  • transportation-related facilities;
  • coal mining;
  • oil and gas production;
  • non-energy mineral extraction; and,
  • atmospheric deposition.

Blue-green Algae Stories:

Learn more:

 

Source:  http://www.in.gov/idem/algae/

How To Properly Abandon A Septic Tank or System?

An onsite septic system or any component thereof must be properly abandoned or removed when the useful life of the system or component has been exceeded or when it is to be abandoned. The property owner is responsible that it is done in compliance with the following:

  • When a septic system or any component thereof must be abandoned or removed, it shall be completed in a safe and sanitary manner.
  • Evidence of the proper disposal of waste materials shall be available upon request.
  • Septic tanks, dose tanks and dry wells shall be abandoned according to the following requirements:
    • The power shall be disconnected at the source from all electrical controls and all controls and panels shall be removed. All electrical lines (including service lines) shall be removed that will not be used for other purposes.
    • All tanks shall be pumped and cleaned by a person licensed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
    • Tanks shall be removed or the lids shall be collapsed into the tanks.
    • Dry wells and tanks to be left in place shall be completely filled with debris-free sand or other granular material, concrete or soil in a manner to prevent settling.
    • The area shall be properly graded so that water does not pond over the area and a vegetative cover shall be established.

Absorption fields shall be abandoned according to the following requirements:

  • The components of the absorption field may be left intact.
  • If effluent has discharged to the surface, the area shall be covered with hydrated lime followed by topsoil. A vegetative cover shall be established.
  • If components of the absorption field are to be removed:
    • The site shall be graded so that it does not pond water and vegetative cover should be established.
    • The distribution network, aggregate and sand (if any) shall be removed from the site and taken to a licensed landfill for proper disposal.
    • Distribution boxes must be pumped and cleaned by a person licensed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
    • Sufficient time shall be allowed after the system is taken out of service and the tanks are pumped to make sure the entire absorption field is completely dry. 

Source:  http://www.sjchd.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Septic_faq.pdf