#1  did you know that we are reaching the point where on-site, septic treatment will either become too costly for homeowners to replace or not possible?

High-density residential communities where land use ratios exceed 3 or 4 units per acre produce and discharge far more wastewater to the environment than many of us realize.

  • The average American home generates 210 to 310 gallons of wastewater per day. At Tippecanoe, James, and Oswego Lakes, approximately 320,000 gallons of wastewater are deposited into the soil within close proximity to the lake and the residential wells from which we draw our water used to cook, clean, bathe, and drink.
  • Septic systems do not completely treat bacteria, viruses, nitrates or phosphorus. Septic systems store or trap some constituents in soil and then discharge the balance to groundwater and surface water around the lakes. Recent studies show that septic systems can also discharge trace amounts of pharmaceuticals.
  • Undocumented failures and/or poorly functioning systems, coupled with less than ideal soil conditions can contribute to public and environmental health risks.

COUNTY Septic System Standards Require Twice The Lot Size of Most Current Tippy Home Sites

The Kosciusko County standard for a building site without sanitary sewer is 20,000 sq. ft..  This is required to make space for the home, garage, driveway, sidewalks, patio/deck, storage shed/building, initial septic system, replacement septic system, and a 100-foot diameter (50-foot radius) isolation area for the water well under current standards.

This 20,000 sq. ft. standard is more than half the size of the service areas for most Tippy home sites which are far smaller than 10,000 sq. ft. (based on review of the Kosciusko County GIS and zoning ordinance).

Given the age of the residential development at the lake and understanding that many of the on-site septic systems have likely matured to the point that they will need to be replaced, on-site treatment will either become too costly for homeowners to replace or not possible.


#2  Did You Know that Tippecanoe lake Is one of the last large residential lakes in the area to implement a sewer system?

Tippecanoe Lake is one of the last Kosciusko Lakes to yet implement a sewer system. Effective water monitoring programs are underway on many area lakes that have completed the installation of sewer systems.

Kosciusko County lakes that have sewer systems are:

  • Banning Lake
  • Big and Little Barbee Lake (just completed)
  • Center Lake
  • Hernon Lake
  • Irish Lake
  • Knapp Lake (underway) 
  • Kuhn Lake
  • Pike Lake
  • Sawmill Lake
  • Sechrist Lake
  • Shoe Lake
  • Syracuse Lake 
  • Wawasee Lake
  • Webster Lake
  • Winona Lake


Read more about how these area lake communities have defined and claimed success with their community sewer systems.


#3.  Is the age of Your Septic System already 20 Years old or more?


How Long Does A Septic System Last?


  • Costs of obtaining alternative drinking water supply such as bottled water

  • Costs of replacing a septic tank ($3000 to 10,000) before its projected life span

  • Impact on home resale value for septic tanks that cannot pass inspections

  • Septic systems in Indiana may function for 20 years or more. The Health Department’s responsibility is to make sure the system is properly sited, designed, and installed; but the homeowner is responsible for the use and maintenance. If the system is not maintained, the system will prematurely fail. Click here to learn how to properly abandon your septic system.

    With the septic system life expectancy of 20-25 years, a community sewer system offers you less upfront replacement costs and approximately the same average monthly cost.


    Alternative On-site Septic System Replacement Costs

    Gravity trenches, flood dosed trenches, elevated sand mound, and aerobic systems are the alternatives to a community sewer system. Replacement costs for these systems can range from $4,600-$30,000 which over 20 years at 4% can cost $28-$176 per month.  


    #4  Are You Properly Caring for Your Septic System or will it soon reach Its Life Cycle?


    How Often Should You Be Pumping Your Septic System?

    As a rule, tanks should be checked for solids buildup every year and pumped every one to three years if you have a garbage disposal which can increase solids buildup by 50%. In practice, however, how often solids should be removed depends on the lifestyle of the family using the system and the size of the tank. If you wait until wastewater begins to back up into your home, solids have already started over-flowing from the septic tank and into your absorption field. This can cause some very expensive damage to the soil absorption system. Note: a septic permit is required for any alteration or repair to the system. If you have questions about what is required, contact the Health Department.


    Is Your Septic System Failing?

    You may sometimes hear gurgling in your drains, see bubbling in the toilet or an occasional damp/wet spot in the yard, or after a large rain the plumbing seems… slow. These are all signs that your system may be “ailing” and headed for replacement.

    It is possible there may be a simpler solution such an obstruction or your tank may need pumped. However, if the symptoms return after the tank is pumped your system is headed for failure. You won’t know until it is evaluated. It will not go away by ignoring it! If you have an “ailing” septic system that is limping along, Don't wait until it is a full blown failure to start the process. The symptoms will get worse! If you complete as much of this process as possible, you can plan. Remember, once the “ailing” goes to “failing,” it disrupts the whole household.


    I am younger and want to have the lake around for my kids and their kids. We need to take care of our lake and get this done. It will increase the property values on the lake and houses can be built to be longer without consideration of space for septic systems. Water quality will be better for people and the animals that inhabit the lake. If you look at pictures from 50-60 year ago, you can see the difference in water clarity and quality. We need to control what we can. We know that no one has a perfectly working septic system and in 20 years or less we will have to replace the existing systems anyways. It is a no brainer.
    — Ryan Drake, Property Owner

    #5  Is Your Septic system located 50' From wells and above the lake's water level - even during flooding?

    Click to View Map

    Click to View Map

    About 50% of the home sites at Lake Tippecanoe have some type of encroachment from the floodplain onto their land. In many cases it is adjacent to the water's edge and may be present only on the lake side of the lot. Some neighborhoods are completely within the flood zone. For those where only a portion of this land is in the floodplain the impact is related to the reduction of available space for the replacement of their on-site septic system or their water well.

    Both wells and septic systems must be permitted by the county. This includes any repairs or replacements. All must meet the requirements of the state code and local code. Key requirements are:

    • 50’ isolation from the nearest water well in the case of a septic system and 50’ from the nearest septic system component in the case of a well.
    • A septic system component could mean the tank, field system, connecting pipeline etc. Both must be 5 feet from any property line or dwelling and 25 feet from the lake or its tributary. 
    • Wells can be constructed  within the floodplain but must have a casing extending 24” above the regulatory flood elevation — septic systems cannot be located within the floodplain. 

    Understanding that the majority of home sites at the lake are under 10,000 sq. ft. and assuming an average size home, out buildings, sidewalks, decks, landscaping etc. — isolation area compliance, under the code, by itself will be hard for many homeowners to achieve. This coupled with limitations in soil conditions, high water table, as well as the location of the existing septic systems — the compliant installation of a replacement system may be impossible in many cases.


    A Tippy sewer system will raise property values considerably as has been proven with other lakes in the area. Our lake is slowly degrading and we need to reverse that trend. People would be astounded to know how septic systems impact their wells and compromise their water quality.
    — Steve Matthias, Property Owner

    #6  Did you know that 50% of the land in the proposed district is not suitable for septic systems even with special design considerations?

    Only 44% of the available land area within the Tippecanoe Lake study area is suitable for septic systems without special design considerations. This is accordance with the state of Indiana’s design and construction requirements for code compliant systems. 

     Of the remaining 55%, only 5% (81 acres) could be approved with special design considerations. this means that a pressure dosed mound system or something similar would be required. 

    Also it is important to note that criteria for septic system suitability relates only to soils suitability and doesn't account for other constraints such as water well isolation, available undisturbed area with the owner's lot etc.

    Undesirable (and possibly unusable) Soils:

    • High clay content (the more clay the slower the absorption rate)
    • Dense compact till, hardpan and bedrock (all impede water)
    • Shallow seasonal high water table (are not suitable for absorption systems)
    • High organic content soils (i.e. muck)  have very low and unpredictable loading rates
    • Coarse and gravely soils (these drain too fast to properly treat the effluent)
    • Fill and/or compacted soils (soil that has been man-handled and moved around looses it’s natural structure and drainage properties)

    Clay soils are made up of very small particles.  Therefore, water drains through this dense soil slowly.  This is why absorption systems in clay are much larger (and expensive) than absorption fields in sandier soils. In fact, because of it’s capillary action, clay soils like to hold water and not give it up.

    Click to View Map

    Click to View Map

    for Septic Systems

    Total Area of Interest........................................2,840.4 acres
    Water (Lake Tippecanoe) .................................1,147.3 acres
    Not Rated Soils .....................................................452.3 acres
    (wetlands, paved areas, etc.)
    Unusable Rating ......................................................50.6 acres
    Very Limited Rating...............................................354.7 acres
    Somewhat Limited....................................................81.0 acres
    Not Limited...............................................................754.5 acres

    1USDA Soil Inventory and Classification