DLWID Action May Prevent You From Using Your Lakefront Home

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. See related article (DLWID Septic Revitalization Program).

Your immediate action is required to protect your property rights.  This is no longer just an idea being kicked around at planning sessions.  Because of this one meeting, Lincoln City Manager David Hawker sent a memo to the Mayor and City Council outlining a program inspired by Ordinance 230 in Dunes City; a coastal community South of Florence where residents draw their drinking water directly from local lakes.  The program would require all homes with septic systems within 200 feet of the lake to have their systems inspected every five years.  The City Manager stated in the memo that he “believe(s) we should begin that legislative process which would include public and agency comment on a specific proposal, development of a draft ordinance, (and) a public hearing with notice to the affected owners.”  Mr. Hawkins continues, “It is my intent to put this on a public agenda for discussion at a January City Council meeting.” See related articles (The Dunes City Story and Lincoln City’s Recent Actions)

As a Devils Lake property owner, what can I do?  Voice your concerns to the DLWID board and to the Lincoln City Mayor and City Council.  The next DLWID Board meeting is Thursday January 7, 2010 at 6pm followed by a Goal Planning session on Saturday, January 9, 2010 from 11am to 1pm, both are open to the public.  Review the material that we have developed on this topic, become informed.  Sign up for the nosolarbees email service, call all of your lakefront  neighbors and inform them of the issue and encourage them to sign up to receive regular updates on this topic by visiting www.nosolarbees.com and selecting the “Join Email List”.  We have created a Septic Tank page on our website where you will find resources on this the topic as well as templates you can use to contact your elected officials.

It is with regret that we must once again be on the opposite side of a major issue from the Devils Lake Water Improvement District.  While the District has several initiatives that we can support; this version of the Septic Revitalization Program is not one of them.  The goals of this program are noble but the execution is a disaster! Please help us send that message. Ask the district to work together with its constituents to ensure that Devils Lake continues to be one of Lincoln City’s most valuable assets.

4 Comments

Filed under DLWID, Septic

4 responses to “DLWID Action May Prevent You From Using Your Lakefront Home

  1. Rayburn

    I must not understand what the objective is for the Septic Revitalization Program. What I get out of this is that the DLWD Manager wants the homeowners on the lake to be responsible for the proper operation of their septic systems so not to impact the water quality of the lake and yes costs will be incured by the homeowner if they haven’t kept their system in proper working order. There must be more to this or why wouldn’t this have been a requirement years ago.Maybe there is a happy medium.

    • nosolarbees

      I would not argue that homeowners are not responsible for maintenance of septic systems serving their property. That said, there are several problems with the DLWID plan.

      1.) There is no current information that indicates failing septic systems are contributing to pollution of Devils Lake. Recent experience in Dunes City after hundreds of required septic systems tests; officials have located only two systems requiring replacement.

      2.) The DLWID has released an RFP to develop a current nutrient budget for Devils Lake which will in part determine what level septic systems are contributing to the overall nutrient load of the lake. Our position is that this new program should not be contemplated until after this study is completed. Indeed the program may not be effective for the dollars required to be spent on testing.

      3.) The DLWID contends in its material provided in support of this program that septic systems are contributing large percentages of nitrogen and phosphates to the lake. A properly functioning septic system has no active process to remove these two compounds. Therefore little will be accomplished once this program is compete, as the same amount of these compounds will continue to enter the ground. Perhaps a restriction of sales of products containing these compounds would have a greater impact?

      4.) If a septic program is attempted it should be based on incentives such as grant or loan programs that would assist homeowners in repairs. A program that seeks to render a property useless by cutting off water is just wrong. In most cases homeowners will be required to pay for expensive tests only to discover a fully functioning system.

      5.) The only way to have the desired impact is to install a sewer system to serve all homes currently on septic. The city sewer system will need to be updated installing expensive modern equipment to remove nitrogen and phosphates. Washington State estimates that 50% of the phosphates release into rivers comes from the outflow of currently operating sewer treatment plants.

      Bottom-line the creation of an ordinance requiring septic testing is ill-advised, premature, and should be tabled at this time.

  2. Phillip R Haueter

    Although I agree septic tanks should be in good operating order-meaning designed, built inspected and maintained as per code. I have some questions about this “plan”.
    1 What scientific evidence is there to establish the fact that our septics are the major cause of pollution in the lake.
    2 Has anyone considered other forms of pollution that are obvious? ie constant dredging, boats, fisherman, runoff from clearcuts above the lake,chemicals like oils that were once used to seal the road around the lake,pesticides,fertilizers,construction waste,acid rains, and in the past illegal garbage and chemical dumps?
    3 The county has been advised for many years to implement a new sewer system to which they have done little at best.I feel now it is a matter of importance to them and they would like to penalize us or make us pay for their lack of leadership and management through the years past.
    4 The notion of holding our homes hostage, by turning the water off to enforce their rules is ridiculous and should be stopped in its tracks. If we the “lakies” are asked to pay for this, then I think all water users in the immediate area(Lincoln City) should be charged a surcharge to help pay for this as well.
    5 Since this body of water is not the only polluted water in Oregon what guarantees or even base lines (from scientific study) do we have to see if this propsoal would have any positive effect?
    6 If you can single out one source of pollution (us),can Lincoln County then charge money for other obvious polluters, like boaters for instance?
    In effect, I as a homeowner for over forty years on Devils Lake am against this ill concieved plan. I don’t think another move should be made until proper science is applied and we have some concrete proof as to what the real problems are.

  3. Phillip R Haueter

    One more thought!
    If this plan is passed and put into action, has DLWID and Lincoln County put aside a legal defense fund? I am sure that if property values are affected by this measure to the point of condeming peoples homes, many lawsuits will follow. Lincoln County is running out of money and what a waste it will be to defend itself. That money could be spent on a scientific study or a new sewer system that would benefit all concerned!!!!!!!

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