Next Tuesday morning, the Washington County Board of Supervisors may choose one of three scenarios developed by Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. to either continue with the proposed lagoon wastewater treatment system for Richmond, develop a new type of community system or require the property owners with inadequate septic systems to repair or install new systems.
Seward laid out three scenarios during the April 16 board meeting. He arrived at these three scenarios after spending three months talking with people involved in the Richmond project in one way or another and by researching the issue on his own.
“I’m not going to say that what I’ve got here is absolutely 100 percent correct because a lot of it deals with assumptions,” Seward said during the April 16 meeting. “If I’ve learned anything in the past three months, it’s that the more I dig into this, the more I understand it and what I understood yesterday I may understand differently tomorrow.”
The first scenario would be to force the proposed lagoon system to move forward.
“The system would be owned and operated by RUSS (Regional Utility System Services),” Seward said. “The plan does indeed solve the problem that was identified by the DNR (Iowa Department of Natural Resources) of effluent that tested over the limits. The plan would protect private wells in Richmond from any sort of contamination from otherwise open sewer systems.”
Seward said that he estimates roughly the lagoon system would cost users about $100 a month. However, the monthly cost could increase by an additional $25 or more per month if the county has to go through condemnation proceedings for easements from some Richmond property owners.
The second alternative, Seward said, would be to direct RUSS to come up with an alternate design for Richmond, which could include neighborhood mound systems and/or individual on-site systems.
There would be new costs to this alternative, plus the DNR would have to approve the new design. The USDA, which is supporting the projects through grants and loans, would also need to review and approve the project, which could take several months, Seward said.
“A good point of this plan may be, because it would first require an inspection of the residences with non-permitted systems, to actually identify the problem,” Seward said. “The result of eliminating all the working or easily updated systems could drastically reduce the size and scope of the footprint of the communitywide system. Hopefully, a smaller system will result in a cost saving that will result in a more affordable monthly user fee.”
RUSS would own the second alternative too.
“The third possible alternative is to cancel the project with RUSS, identify the problems and require individuals to fix their own deficient systems,” Seward said. “In this case, each property owner would decide what is right for their own particular situation with input from contractors and approval by the county sanitarian.”
Seward said that new individual on-site wastewater systems could range in price from $8,000 to $15,000.
“It all depends on how big your lot is, the situation with the wells and the situation with your other neighbors,” he said. “Costs to individuals that had to put in their own systems under this plan would be either through private funding and conventional bank loans.”
However, there are programs which could provide low-interest loans to homeowners who qualify and other programs that could assist elderly residents on a fixed income.
RUSS has given Washington County an April 24 deadline for making a decision before taking possible legal action against Washington County.
Seward asked everyone to “search our hearts” and talk to as many people as possible about the alternatives because a decision has to be made next week. The board of supervisors will meet at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 23, in the county courthouse.