Kelle’s Creek Watershed Septic System Inspection Program
The Valley Branch Watershed District (VBWD) has obtained a State of Minnesota Clean Water Fund (CWF) grant (C15-2471) to develop a voluntary septic system inspection pilot program for all properties located within the Kelle’s Creek watershed in Afton, Minnesota. Kelle’s Creek does not meet Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) water quality standards. It is classified by the MPCA as impaired, due to high levels of E. coli bacteria—typically associated with human and animal waste. According to a water quality study of Kelle’s Creek, one of the primary sources of the E. coli bacteria is noncompliant (failing) septic systems.
With the CWF grant funds, the VBWD is able to offer FREE septic system inspections (normally $400–500) to all property owners within the Kelle’s Creek watershed to help identify systems that may be polluting Kelle’s Creek and shallow groundwater in the area. This voluntary program will be available in through Fall 2018, while grant funds last. Proactive inspection and subsequent improvements to noncompliant systems will have a direct positive effect on the water quality of Kelle’s Creek and reduce threats to public health.
Based on the TMDL study completed for the Kelle’s Creek watershed, there are approximately 160 septic systems within the watershed and based on inspection information from Washington County, as many as 50-60 of these systems could be noncompliant and not adequately treating wastewater. Some of the septic systems (approximately 12 current systems) in the lower portion of the Kelle’s watershed (within Afton village) will be connected to the Afton community septic system. However, there are still many septic systems in the upper portion of the Kelle’s Creek watershed that should be inspected.
Do you live in the watershed and are qualified to participate in the septic system program?
If you are interested in participating, an application must be submitted to the VBWD to start the process. A state-licensed septic system inspector will then make an appointment with you to perform the system inspection. Again, there will be no charge to you for this service.
If your septic system is classified as compliant, you will receive a copy of the inspection report to serve as a certificate of compliance (good for 3 years) and no further action will be required. However, if the inspection shows that your system does not comply with state and local ordinances, the report will be further reviewed by Washington County, on behalf of the City of Afton, and a system upgrade or replacement may be required.
My system was classified as noncompliant and the County is requiring me to upgrade or replace my system. Now what?
To help offset the financial burden of upgrading or replacing a noncompliant septic system that the County orders to be addressed, there are two sources of financial assistance available to property owners in the Kelle’s Creek watershed:
Although we do not expect all property owners within the watershed to participate in this voluntary inspection program, the goal is to begin identifying some of the noncompliant systems within the watershed and connect the owners of the systems that are ordered to be upgraded or replaced with existing financial assistance programs and to begin addressing the primary source of bacteria to Kelle’s Creek.
As part of the Kelle’s Creek septic system inspection program, 23 septic system inspections have been completed to date. Additionally, approximately 17 inspections completed within the watershed as part of recent home sales were also reviewed. Based on this data, 22/40 (55%) of the septic system inspected within the watershed were non-compliant.
The VBWD established a septic system replacement cost-share program to help offset the potential costs to residents of having to replace or upgrade their systems. Seven (7) residents have participated in the program and the VBWD has committed $27,658 to date in helping replace noncompliant systems in the Kelle’s Creek. In addition to helping address the bacteria loading to Kelle’s Creek, the replacing of septic systems can also reduce the nutrient loading to Kelle’s Creek and the St. Croix River. Using the Septic System Improvement Estimator (SSIE) from the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the replacement of the seven noncompliant systems through the cost-share program is estimated to result in the removal of: