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For residents of Diamond Lake, sewer plan is bit of a headache

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- The clock is ticking for the 70 percent of Diamond Lake residents who need to bring their non-conforming septic systems up to code by the state's July 2010 deadline.

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So far there's been no agreement on the type of replacement system, even though there is agreement that the current failing system needs to be fixed.

"We're not leaning either way, but we want this settled," said Harlan Meints, a member of the Diamond Lake Area Recreation Association. He said the lake residents need to make plans to get their systems updated and "get on with their lives."

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Harlan Madsen said people are "in limbo" and are being "held hostage" until a decision is made.

With action Tuesday, debate on the complicated issue will be accelerated and another step will be taken at the next Kandiyohi County Board meeting in two weeks.

On Tuesday the County Board of Commissioners unanimously rejected a request by the Diamond Lake wastewater committee to extend the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District boundaries to Diamond Lake for the sole purpose of building on-site systems -- including individual septic systems and multiple cluster treatment systems.

"We're only leaving one plan on the table," said Joyce Wittman, spokeswoman for the Diamond Lake wastewater committee.

Under state law, the lake community cannot build cluster systems on its own. The project must be part of an established sewer district, like the Green Lake district. Harrison Township could, however, create a sewer district for the lake, which could then proceed with building new on-site systems.

The commissioners agreed the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District board would not accept a resolution that was limited to just on-site systems.

Madsen said he hasn't received enough information and is "not prepared" to decide what type of system, or combination of systems, would be best for Diamond Lake.

Commissioner Richard Falk said he wouldn't favor the Green Lake district taking responsibility for an on-site cluster system. "People are just kidding themselves if they think it's a long-term solution to the lake."

Falk said failed cluster systems on Green Lake were a "disaster" for the local district. A loop was later installed around the lake to collect and treat sewage.

He said even some Lake Florida residents who had a modern, well-maintained cluster system opted to hook up to the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District when it became available there because it was a long-term, less-expensive option.

Wittman said past surveys indicate residents prefer on-site systems rather than paying to install a loop around the lake and a trunk line to the treatment facility in Spicer.

But Madsen said many people have changed their minds since the recent news that the city of Kandiyohi received a federal grant to help them hook up to the Green Lake district.

The grant will pay for about half of the construction cost of the city's trunk line, which will go right by Diamond Lake. That will mean reduced assessments for Diamond Lake residents.

There were some obvious misunderstandings between some Diamond Lake residents regarding the county's financial participation in the project.

In a later interview, Kandiyohi County public works director Gary Danielson said county taxpayers have not subsidized past Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District expansions, like the recent ones to Nest Lake, Lake Henderson and George Lake, and never agreed to subsidize the Diamond Lake project.

Instead, the county has used its revolving loan fund to offset initial costs. That fund is gradually repaid by the new Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District users.

Wittman expressed concern that Diamond Lake residents would pay to have the County Park 3 on Diamond Lake hooked to the local sewer district's loop system.

Not true, said Madsen. The county would be assessed for the park units and would pay its fair share.

The County Board of Commissioners agreed to give the lake residents two more weeks to talk to Harrison Township about creating a new sewer district on behalf of the lake community.

If the township agrees, then the county will do nothing to stop the lake residents from proceeding in whatever fashion they desire.

If the township is not interested, however, the county will then set the exploratory process in motion that includes hiring an engineer to prepare a report about all options for treating sewage around Diamond Lake. That report would be completed by June 16.

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