In a recent letter to the Lincoln City Manger, Robert Buckman, of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife encourage the creation of the proposed Septic Revitalization Program. Mr. Buckman writes
I would like to provide Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Support for the efforts by Lincoln City and the Devils Lake Water Improvement District (DLWID) to address failing septic systems around Devils Lake.
This endorcement raises the bar since the city will likely weight the support of this State agency heavier that the comments of its citizens. This despite the fact that the letter only anecdotally suggest that this is “step in the right direction”. The letter offers no scientific or quantitative information that would indicate that septic tanks are failing or to what extent they may be contributing to the overall nutrient load of Devils Lake. Indeed Mr. Buckman closes with
The ODFW recognizes this alone will not solve nutrient issues and associated weed and toxic algae problems in Devils Lake, but it is a key action to bring about long-term improvements in lake conditions.
If you doubted that this ordinance would ever happen I encourage you to read the entire letter. To do so click here. Also review the DLWID Manager’s Report, it is clear our efforts have not yet dissuaded his resolve. As stated earlier I spoke to the City Recorder yesterday (January 4th) and she verified that the proposed septic ordinance will be on the January 11th agenda as a discussion item. This is moving forward. Please attend the upcoming meetings, write your DLWID Board, Mayor and City Council.
On November 25, 2009 the Devil’s Lake Water Improvement District’s (DLWID) Manager sponsored a meeting with Lincoln City officials and representatives from various agencies to discuss a program to regulate septic tanks tributary to Devils Lake. This action taken by the DLWID Manager toward implementation of the “Septic Revitalization Program” occurred prior to the DLWID board being provided with details of the program, an opportunity to review the program or the ability to authorize the creation of such a program.
Under this program, the operating costs of your lakefront home will be impacted and it is possible you will lose the right to use your lakefront property! Property owners, who do not comply with the terms of the Septic Revitalization Program, will have their water shut off by the city and be assessed daily fines, until the property is brought into compliance. Without water, your property would be rendered uninhabitable. It may cost $1,200 for the required pumping and the initial inspection of your septic system. The potential costs could be much greater, should a problem be identified; your septic system could require repairs or replacement. This may also impact functioning systems that are declared not up to current construction standards. Repairs costs could be measured in the $1,000, and replacement costs could range from $10,000-$15,000, with some properties requiring expensive Advanced Treatment systems running as much as $20,000 plus required 24/7 monitoring costs as much as $1,000 annually. Continue reading
Filed under DLWID, Septic
On December 3, 2009 an update and preliminary position paper on a possible program to regulate septic tanks tributary to Devils Lake was sent to the Lincoln City Mayor’s office and each of the City Council members from David Hawker Manager of Lincoln City. The document’s stated goal is to “Examine means to reduce pollution in Devils Lake from faulty septic systems.”
The City’s primary means to accomplish this goal is Section 13.12.050 (B2) of the Lincoln City Municipal Code. More specifically
“The city may reduce the quantity of water supplied by the service or entirely discontinue the service at any time, on a temporary or permanent basis, and by area or areas or by customer or classes of customers, in accord with such policies as the city may establish from time to time by ordinance or resolution adopted by the city council.”
Map of Septic Systems on Devils Lake
The document describes the reasons for this action. Devils Lake Water Improvement District provided the information justifying the creation of a Septic Revitalization Program. The District references the 1998 placement of Devils Lake on the EPA 303(d) list where we enjoy plenty of company as it took 288 pages to list impaired water bodies in Oregon alone. Also referenced is a 29-year-old study identifying septic tanks as contributing 25% of the nitrogen and up to 14% of the phosphorus in the lake. The referenced study was amended in 1982 because “upon examination of the water quality data collected, it was concluded that additional water sampling was necessary to fill in data missing during the high recreational summer and autumn use periods”. This second study performed by the DEQ suggests that excessive Fecal Coliform measurements attributed to septic systems were limited to samples taken near Thompson Creek.
The City Manager believes there is sufficient scientific and anecdotal information that septic systems are part of the problem. He feels the City has a responsibility to act. Continue reading
Filed under City, DLWID, Septic
In order to better understand the current situation it is useful to look at the procedural history of the DLWID Septic Revitalization Program. To accomplish this I reviewed the DLWID public record available online covering the period January 2006 through December 2009. The result was the creation of a document entitled “Septic Program Documented History” which highlights all excerpts related to “septic” from all DLWID online records. Given the importance of context a hyperlink is provided to the original document should the reader wish to continue their research.
2006 Board Activities
There were very few activities or discussions regarding septic systems in 2006. Septic systems were not discussed in any DLWID 2006 board meeting. The district did trial a discount coupon good for getting your septic system pumped. The coupon took $25 off pumping services provided by T&L Septic Tank Service. Very few residents took advantage of the offer.
2007 Board Activities
Discussions related to septic systems began to appear in 2007 DLWID board meetings, exactly 3 meetings contained a reference to this topic. None of the 2007 references are related to actions of DLWID. The year began with the Vegetation Management Workshop on February 20, 2007. A portion of the discussion in that meeting was about the removal of septic systems on Clear Lake which was an example of a lake with SolarBees. In May during public comment there was a complaint about a building permit for a new dock that was really more related to the activities at a rental property. Concerns about the septic system being overworked due to the high occupancy rate were expressed.
2008 Board Activities
Discussions related to septic systems by the DLWID increased dramatically in 2008. Septic tanks were mentioned in 6 meetings during the year with most of the discussion related to the Devils Lake Plan and SolarBees as there was an attempt to fund both SolarBees and the Septic Revitalization Program from the Oregon DEQ Revolving Loan Program.
During the Goal Setting Workshop held February 16, 2008 a goal was produced to create a Lake Management Plan as well as a goal to investigate grants for home repair with an eye to septic tank revitalization within the watershed area. Continue reading
Filed under DLWID, Septic
The November 25, 2009 meeting organized by Paul Robertson, Manager of Devils Lake Water Improvement District with the City of Lincoln City was intended to explore septic regulation for properties tributary to Devils Lake. Much of the material provided was from Dune City, Oregon identified as a model for a septic monitoring program. Given the prominence of material from Dunes City a review of the circumstances and details of their program are in order.
Lincoln City’s and Dunes City’s interest in septic regulation differ greatly. Lincoln City is interested solely because of the advocacy of Paul Robertson who believes based on a 30 year old study that leaking septic systems are contributing to cyanobacteria blooms in Devils Lake. Dunes City interest is based on a complex set of unique issues. The local lakes are the source of the community’s drinking water. Drinking water has been the focus of intense public debate in the community for years. These complex issues involve, historical water rights, the lack of a municipal water or sewer system, rapid development, allegations of official abuse of power and degrading water quality.
Dunes City is a City in Lane County, Oregon. The population was 1,241 at the 2000 census, and has increased to 1,360 in 2007. There were 705 housing units in the City. Residents of Dunes City , one of two cities in Oregon without a municipal water delivery system, rely on individual water systems to divert water for domestic purposes and this keeps water quality concerns before the public.
Dunes City has a unique set of circumstances, they source their drinking water from Woahink Lake, Clearwox Lake, Siltcoos Lake and private wells. Water is not provided from a common source, but rather from individual pipes (over 200) into Woahink Lake that feed single family dwellings. In some cases small community water systems have been created to feed water to several homes from a single lake source. Homes further from the lake shore use individual wells for their water. There is no sewage system in Dunes City, 100% of residences process waste water through the use of 814 individual septic systems. It is this unique situation that has driven Dune City to use of a variety of City ordinances to ensure residents have a clean source of potable water. According to a City official, in the three years since the ordinance was pass over 200 septic systems have been inspected and while repairs have been made on several systems less than 1% were identified as a “failed systems” requiring replacement. Continue reading