By LYDIA BERGLAR
Through a state grant, Limestone Valley Resource Conservation & Development Council is able to reimburse a portion of septic repair costs to property owners within the Chattanooga Creek watershed. Some Dade County residents on Lookout Mountain are eligible. The grant also covers Rossville, Flintstone, and High Point properties along the watershed.
Failing septic systems can contribute to bacteria and pollution in streams and creeks. Repairing septic problems reduces these pollution risks and improves local waterways. Backed up showers, clogged toilets, and constantly wet, foul-smelling yards are indicators of a failing septic system.
Stephen Bontekoe, Limestone Valley executive director, said, “We all want safe drinking water, safe water for our kids to play in, to fish in, all these things we often take for granted. Fixing a septic system is the right thing to do from a homeowner standpoint, but also from a pleasure and enjoyment standpoint.”
This grant covers up to 40% of the cost to repair septic systems, with Bontekoe saying, “The cost of repairs is specific to each site. A two-bedroom house is going to be different from a five-bedroom house. In my experience, the average for a full replacement is between $6,000 to $9,000, but a repair is cheaper.”
Property owners are responsible for the repairs, but Bontekoe notes that the Dade County Environmental Health Department is a helpful resource. “They can help with repair permits, and they have a list of state certified contractors. It’s a great resource to have a health inspector guide you, but you can use the vendor of your choice.”
Regarding the refund process, Bontekoe explained, “We ask for a quote as part of our process and write an agreement with the land owner based on the permit and quote before any work is done.”
The grant is through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. All work is permitted and inspected by the local health departments in Dade and Walker.
A similar grant project addressed the Lookout Creek watershed, which covers a much larger portion of Dade County. In essence, water from the west side of Scenic Highway flows into Lookout Creek, while Rock Creek and the east side flows into Chattanooga Creek.
While the funds from the previous grant that were designated for septic repairs recently ran out, there are still designated funds left to address runoff issues. Bontekoe explained, “The Lookout Creek project ran out of money for helping with septic repairs, but we still have money available for agricultural advancements.”
Some funds in the new grant are also designated to address runoff issues. Urban runoff will be aided by installing a rain garden that captures and slows the water. Work on agricultural lands will reduce runoff issues related to agriculture.
For more information, contact Will Bontekoe, project manager, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 423-421-0555. You can also visit www.limestonevalley.org/septic.