City to Ponder Lake Sewers

One option for tackling pollution, officials say

The News Guard

Lincoln City leaders are to take a fresh look at ways to deal with septic systems around Devils Lake, with sewering being on the table as well as a mandatory septic tank inspection program.

The City’s proposal to introduce mandatory inspections of lakefront septic systems, was the subject of vocal opposition from some property owners in the run up to its approval in a split Council vote in March 2010.

Supporters of the inspection plan said failing septic systems are contributing toward pollution in the lake, a claim disputed by the plan’s opponents.

The details of the plan were originally to be hashed out in a series of public meetings throughout 2010, but the City has since placed the project on the back burner due to other priorities.

During that time, the November 2010 election reshaped city council, with voters electing Dick Anderson, one of two councilors who opposed mandatory inspections, to the mayor’s seat.

City Manager David Hawker said an upcoming workshop on the issue would see council “back up and talk a little more about sewer” in addition to an inspection program.

“There is no question in my mind that the septic systems are contributing greatly to the pollution,” he said. “And that can be reduced, but it’s not the final solution.”

“Even a well-run septic system is going to contribute some pollution because of the proximity to the lake,” he added.

Most of the roughly 700 septic systems that are tributary to the lake are on the east side, outside the city limits where there is no sewer line available.

However, there are also several neighborhoods and individual properties within the city limits that rely on septic systems.

The City’s movement toward a mandatory inspection program had been supported by the Devils Lake Water Improvement District (DLWID), whose mission is to improve the quality of the lake’s water.

DLWID Project Manager Seth Lenaerts said exploring sewer opportunities is also on the District’s list of goals.

“If it’s practical, we’re in favor of sewering,” he said. “The one concern we have is, with sewering comes increased development. So, we just want to make sure that, if we are going to be sewering, at the same time we are looking at land use processes that are going with that.”

Hawker said allowing some development in return for sewer installation might be a good tradeoff.

“Would we try to permit sewer to promote growth around the lake? No.” he said. “Would we allow growth to subsidize sewer? Maybe.”

Hawker said growth would be limited by the fact that most of the undeveloped land around the lake is in the form of large lots outside the city limits, where current City policy limits new developments to one water tap per lot – effectively prohibiting subdivisions.

“Just count them up,” he said, “It’s not many.”

Earlier this year, Council signaled its intent to consider prohibiting new water hookups outside the city altogether in an effort to drive development within the city limits.

The issue is slated for discussion, and no decisions have been made.

Hawker said technological advances might allow sewering of some areas that were previously deemed too expensive to serve.

For example, he said, it might be feasible to run a high-density polyethylene pipe across the lake, rather than around it, reducing the amount of pipe and roadwork required.

Lenearts said DLWID would seek assurances that any such pipe was being monitored for leaks to prevent the release of waste into the lake waters.

“You would want to get a pipe that’s going to work,” he said.

Councilors will discuss the sewering and mandatory inspection issues in a public workshop scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7, in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 801 S.W. Highway 101, third floor.

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Filed under City, City Actions, Lakeside, Septic, Sewer

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