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Diamond Lake sewer project gets go-ahead from Kandiyohi County

Diamond Lake homeowners, from left, Jim and Patti Lowinske and Daniel Larsen express their displeasure with the installation of a new sewer system as they talk Friday night to Ron Hagemeier, director of the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District. An open house, informational meeting and hearing were conducted Friday at the Atwater Community Center before the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners voted to approve the project to install a common sewer system on the lake. It will be connected to the...

ATWATER -- A long-debated project to install a common sanitary sewer collection system around Diamond Lake was unanimously approved Friday night by the Kandiyohi County Commissioners.

Construction on the $6 million project is expected to begin in June.

When it's completed in September of 2011, it's expected that about 80 percent of the tier one homes on Diamond Lake will be connected to the system that will transport wastewater to the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District's treatment facility near Spicer.

Kandiyohi County Public Works Director Gary Danielson thanked the residents for studying options about what would be the best way to address approximately 70 percent of septic systems that were non-compliant with current pollution standards.

"You've agonized with decisions of how to handle wastewater," he said.

Danielson commended residents, including a special wastewater committee, for spending "more time than any other lake in Minnesota has done" in studying the issue of handling wastewater around lake.

"I appreciate your willingness to come to meetings and look at what needs to be done," Danielson said.

During an hour-long informational meeting prior to voting on the issue, the County Board of Commissioners listened to a long list of nuts-and-bolts questions from the audience about the equipment that would be installed, how the old septic tanks would be crushed or removed and the cost of the project.

By contrast, the 7 p.m. official public hearing elicited just two comments and lasted just a few minutes.

Jim Lowinske, of Hutchinson, said the proposal was too expensive and there were less expensive alternatives to bring the non-compliant septic systems in line. His comments that the project was being "shoved down their throats" by the County Commissioners drew applause and guttural sounds of agreement from the crowd.

He said the cost of the project, including the assessment of $16,265 per lot, has made it impossible for him and his wife to retire on Diamond Lake. "As of this morning, our property is up for sale," said Lowinske, before walking out of the hearing.

The project includes dismantling most of the individual septic systems on lakeshore lots and replacing them with grinder pumps and service lines that will carry wastewater to a collection line around the lake. That line will connect to a force main that's being installed by the city of Kandiyohi, which will also be sending its sewage to the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District.

Ellingson Drainage Inc. of West Concord was awarded the contract with its low bid of $4,179,340.

So far 319 of the 366 homes on the first tier surrounding the lake have agreed to hook up to the system, which includes many homes that have septic systems that are in compliance, said Danielson, who is pleased with the sign-up rate.

Some who have opted not to hook up to the system have been installing new septic systems or holding tanks since last fall.

Danielson said the deadline for requesting a permit for a new septic system was 4:30 p.m. Friday.

During the hearing, Carl Zeidler said residents had not been formally told about the Friday deadline and asked the commissioners to extend it for another week.

In a later interview, Danielson acknowledged the deadline date hadn't been officially stated, but he said residents had been told many times that once a sanitary sewer system was "available" that permits for septic systems would not be granted.

Danielson said that since the late 1990s the county has interpreted "available" to mean when a project has been approved, which was Friday night.

Installation of the loop around the lake will be completed this year and an assessment hearing on that portion of the project will be held in October. The rest of the work will be completed next year with the final assessment hearing to follow.

Bonds for the project will be sold June 15.

The bond sale will also include $443,000 for a project to expand the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District's liquid storage facility. The expansion is needed to handle the additional wastewater from Kandiyohi and Diamond Lake and because a different method of caking the bio-solids has proven not be successful.

The commissioners Friday night also agreed to refinance $4.2 million from a 2001 bond for the water and sewer project on Green Lake that could save about $242,000 in interest payments.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750