BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – Residents in Mooar/Powdertown are slowly getting their act cleaned up so to speak, according to a report Tuesday from the Lee County Health Department.
Rosa Haukedahl, program director of Environmental Services for the health department, updated the Lee County Board of Supervisors on the progress of the unincorporated district’s efforts to get permitted septic systems in place.
A program was started in 2016 to get 38 homeowners with unpermitted septic systems to have upgraded or new systems installed. The effort began when the Iowa Department of Natural Resources told Lee County that Chatfield Lake, located in the township, was contaminated and had to be cleaned up. DNR officials at one point threatened the county with fines of up to $25,000 per day if efforts weren’t undertaken to get the district and lake cleaned up.
Haukedahl said the efforts focused on residences on three roads in the township including Argyle, Lake, and Iowa roads. Out of the 38 properties that were identified as not having approved or permitted systems, 20 have been issued permits. She told the board those 20 either had systems in place or were working together under extensions to get the equipment and supplies into the area to build new systems for each residence to save on rentals and delivery charges.
In October 2016, right before former Lee County Attorney Mike Short retired, he sent out a letter making residences aware of the situation.
“We’re at about a year later and we’ve made some progress,” Haukedahl said. “Initially we sent letters out to 47 homes that we didn’t have a record for and over the last year we narrowed it down to 38 and we did that by people contacting us letting us know they did have the permit. There are also a couple homes that are vacant or the owner has passed away and the home is sitting there empty.”
The township was divided into three sections, Argyle Road, Lake Road, and Iowa Road. Lake Road had 18 homes out of compliance, but 13 permits have been issued, according to a report released by LCHD at the meeting. Argyle Road had six homes and three have been issued permits, and Iowa Road had 14 homes with only four permits issued.
“We have been asked and have granted extensions for six properties. They were given a permit, but they won’t be able to finish up by the end of the year. Permits are good for six months and we didn’t want to have to charge them again so we gave them an extension,” Haukedahl said.
She said permit fees for the systems are $500 in the county.
Supervisor Matt Pflug asked what timeline was put on the initial letters from Short.
Rosa said it didn’t have a specific date but did have a 30-day window for the residents to contact the LCHD. She said then the county could help them find financing options and explain guidelines.
“We met this summer with DNR and they were pleased with the progress we were making.” Haukedahl said. “Today, out of 38 homes, we have 20 permitted systems. We have made it over the halfway threshold. Of the 20 that have been permitted, six have grouped together to help save costs on the installation of the system. They won’t finish that this year so we gave an extension to all six because they are working together.”
Haukedahl said she met with Lee County Attorney Clinton Boddicker and the two talked about the 18 that aren’t compliant. She said Boddicker is actively working on filing suits against residents that have not complied.
“I have been in touch with DNR, but I haven’t given them these numbers yet, but I will before the end of 2017. If the residents have a permit through us, they have an intention to install so we work with them. That is what we want, we want them to have an intent to do their part,” Haukedahl said.
Pflug said at some point the DNR will demand 100% compliance and tell us time has run out.
“That’s why we want to stick close to them and let them know the worse thing they can do is not be in contact with us at all,” Pflug said.
Haukedahl said she can’t say all 18 will be compliant by the end of 2018, but the DNR has been reacting well to the progress being made toward compliance.
“We don’t want to remove anyone from their homes but we do have to clean up that lake,” she said.
In other action, the board:
– approved changes in the following sheriff’s fees: Notices – $30 (from $15), 2nd person in same household-$20 (from $10), Warrants-$35 (from $20), subpoenas-$35 (from $20), Court orders $30 (from $15) and permit to acquire pistols or revolvers – $40/5-year permit (from $10/year). Mileage will increase to 53.5 cents/mile (from .45/mile) and service delivery in Fort Madison or Keokuk will carry a flat $5 charge (from $1). The board needs to approve the final version of the fees at next week’s meeting.