County considering regional sewer district


Should the county create a regional sewer district to help address septic issues around the county?

That is what the Dubois County Commissioners are trying to determine. They have been researching the idea of having such a district.

“We’ve had some concerns of septic issues throughout the county that have been brought to our attention over the last five years,” Commissioner Elmer Brames said. “Creating a regional sewer district could be the first step in putting together some kind of ability to manage that whole situation.”

But the commissioners don’t know if they want to do that.

Eleisha Shelton, development specialist with the Rural Community Assistance Program, told the commissioners last week that there are different options for districts. The Rural Community Assistance Program, or RCAP, provides consulting services to help communities tackle wastewater treatment and drinking water needs. The consulting services are free to communities, as RCAP receives federal funding to operate.

Blessinger asked Shelton to come to the commissioners meeting last week to start the conversation.

“I don’t think we were really clear on what direction we could or were wanting to go, if we were going to take any direction at all,” Blessinger said. “So I think one of our questions was, how do we set one up from a legal standpoint? What does that do for us? Is it a good idea? We just need more people to have a better understanding of the process and what we’re getting ourselves into.”

Shelton said she has a lot of information to share with the commissioners and would be willing to meet with one of them sometime to discuss that. The commissioners agreed, so Shelton will be in touch with a commissioner to pass along the information.

The Dubois County Health Department has requirements for installing septic systems. “We don’t go around looking for these things,” said Shawn Werner, environmental specialist at the county health department. “But if a house sells, or we get a complaint on a septic system that is failing, then we will help the homeowner correct that issue.”

This would not affect areas that are already under sewer districts. But there are communities in the county not served by a sewer district; they could be helped through a county sewer district, Werner said.

“There are older communities that have homes built on smaller lots, and there’s not a lot of options for septic repairs,” he said. “If you got 50 homes in a cluster and they don’t have a lot of options for septic repair, a regional sewer district could possibly bring them in as a sewer customer, if sewers are ran to them.

“It wold be more economical to hook up to sewers,” he said, “especially if there is not an option for septic repair.”

Brames is not sure that having a district is the way to go. “This could have some major jurisdictional impact over the rural citizens of Dubois County,” he said. “If you have an area that has multiple sewer problems and people can’t sell their homes because of it, they may be interested in having some help in managing that. But for people who have lived there all their life and have no intentions of selling their home, and any fix on their system would cost thousands of dollars, they would have a hard time with that.

“The sewer board would manage those kinds of issues,” Brames said. “And how those issues get solved, I can’t predict that.”

The idea of a county having a regional sewer district is not new. But after having various septic problems brought to them, the commissioners are now looking into the possibility.

“This would look at the areas where there are known septic problems,” Brames said, “problems that have been brought to the county’s attention. It’s about the septic issues that exist in the county, and trying to find a way to manage that. We’re kind of thinking that a sewer district might be the only way to do that.”

The commissioners are still looking into the idea.

More on