Lincoln City Manager David Hawker will request a continuance of the scheduled discussion on the planned septic ordinance until the March 8th Council meeting, stating a planned meeting between City officials and DLWID could not be scheduled until March 1st.
In his February 8th Memo to City Council Mr. Hawker suggests “that many opponents are not well informed, or pick and choose bits of information they believe will help their case.” He further states that opponents main objections are;
A. That there is no evidence showing that septic systems pollute the lake, or have little impact.
B. That septic tanks don’t need inspection or pumping.
Let’s clear up a few of these misconceptions.
1. Opponents are not opponents but rather affected parties who wish to be included in the process that creates this ordinance. Indeed, this group supports the responsible operation of county approved septic systems and share a similar goal of a clean and clear Devils Lake.
2. These affected parties have never claimed that septic systems don’t contributed to the nutrient load of Devils Lake. The City however has characterized the hundreds of permitted septic systems as polluting the lake, implying that raw sewage may be flowing into the lake. There is no evidence of this, indeed the County Sanitarian stated at the last DLWID Board meeting that he doubted that the inspection program would discover a significant number of failing systems.
What the affected parties have been claiming is that a fully functional septic system will contribute to nutrient loading of Devils Lake on an ongoing basis, by the normal leaching of drain field flow into the water table. The normal operational process of these approved systems has never been measured. Therefore, the impact on nutrient loading on Devils Lake of a successful inspection program is impossible to predict.
Devils Lake Water Improvement District and the City are missing a tremendous scientific opportunity by not first establishing a baseline nutrient budget, and creating a measurement plan to determine the impact of what would otherwise be considered a groundbreaking regulatory requirement. If the science is ignored, then nothing will be learned from this relatively expensive, privately funded experiment. Once completed we will never know if it was successful, or whether to continue the program. Other communities will not benefit from what was accomplished in Lincoln City because we will not be able to directly associate the Lake’s future condition with the results of this program.
3.) These affected parties have never claimed that septic systems don’t need to be inspected or pumped. In fact these residents wrote the DLWID Board and requested they pass a resolution containing,
“To develop the most effective Septic Inspection Program; the DLWID recommends the City and the District jointly begin a process that solicits input from interested stakeholders including representatives of property owners in the Devils Lake watershed; prior to the creation of a final ordinance; such process shall be completed by June 2010.”
The DLWID did incorporate this request into the resolution passed in their February meeting, stating,
“That the Devils Lake Water Improvement District with existing stakeholders develop the criteria for the inspections. That property owners affected by the ordinance be considered part of the stakeholders who further develop a draft ordinance.”
This approach will provide several benefits not the least of which it allows the District to establish a meeting schedule to give the issues the due consideration they deserve. By joining the original group of regulatory agencies with the representatives of the group most affected, the property owners, it is probable that the final program will be more effective and may gain the full support of all parties.