Diamond Lake Area
Recreational Association
Atwater, Minnesota
Diamond Lake News
Twenty-third Year
Labor Day Edition 2006
Ballot Results Announced
by Bob Meyerson

At its August 5 Board meeting, Treasurer Jon Hansen reported that he, Russell Johnson and Harlan Meints counted the ballots returned to him as of the Aug. 4 deadline. 111 opposed the sewer proposal and 86 voted in favor. 7 votes received from non-members were not counted; 3 who owned multiple properties were allowed to vote twice; one couldn’t make up his mind. 60 paid-up members did not vote. So out of 255 eligible members, 76% voted. Association members represent approximately 72% of the property owners around Diamond Lake.

Discussion focused on assuring the accuracy of the vote. Confusion was introduced into the process by unknown person(s) who distributed a counterfeit ballot a week prior to the deadline. The ballot looked almost identical to the one sent with the News, except that it had a spot to indicate that the respondent chose not to belong to the Association. On the back side of the ballot was County Commissioner Harlan Madsen’s address. It was noted that at least one Association member mistakenly sent a ballot to Madsen rather than to Jon Hansen, thinking that was the appropriate way to be counted. It was decided to ask Madsen for the ballots of Association members sent to him, which would then be checked against existing ballots to be sure all were counted.

The Board then decided to send the final results to Commissioner Madsen without comment. The Board was disappointed that some person(s) would attempt to subvert its efforts. (The editor of this News feels it was sneaky for the author of the counterfeit ballot not to identify himself and to have young children distribute the counterfeits, thus hiding the identity of the adult(s) involved. In some instances the ballots were stuffed into mailboxes (which is illegal).

Diamond Lake, Impaired Waters
At the Annual Meeting Maggie Leach of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Brainerd, informed the membership that Diamond Lake was now on the Impaired List. This is a consequence to the high 2005 phosphorous readings averaging 87 parts per billion (with a range of 40-114 p/b). Chlorophyll was also a problem.

Diamond Lake actually sits on the border of two districts, as MPCA divides the state. The lake is currently placed in the North Central Hardwood Forest district. But only a few miles to the south is the Western Corn Belt Plain district (editor: had Diamond Lake been placed there it would not be on the list as that district has a much higher threshold).

Designation aside, we have a problem. The lake has been given a start date for remediation in 2013. But MPCA has a funding problem and is 2-3 years behind right now. The good news is that the lake can apply for funding to correct the problem, just as it did some 10 years ago when it secured study and implementation grants. The bad news is that the Board did not know about this until now and will not be able to meet the September submission deadlines. It may be able to do so next year, provided there is still funding.

Leach characterized the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) remediation standard as very data intensive as compared to our earlier Clean Water Partnership Grant requirements. TMDL results in “thou shalts” as opposed to the recommended projects of the earlier CWP process. Commissioner Madsen later clarified that the danger of the impaired designation is that all activities deemed contributory to the problem could be shut down if a lawsuit is filed. That could include new construction, expansion and other permitted activities.

More information on impaired waters can be found at the MPCA website, www.pca.state.mn.us. . A copy of Ms. Leach’s presentation will (hopefully) be available on the Association web site soon.

Annual Meeting
In anticipation of a larger than usual crowd, the Association Board decided to hold the Aug. 19, 2006 annual meeting at the Community Center in Atwater. Perhaps 100 people were in attendance.

The corrected ballot results were reported as follows by Treasurer Jon Hanson: of 252 paid-up members, 197 valid ballots were received. 111 voted NO, 86 voted YES, or 56% against, 44% in favor. The difference in the numbers from those received by the Board by the Aug. 5 meeting was due to the confusion resulting from counterfeit ballots hand delivered during the voting period and sent to County Commissioner Harlan Madsen. He received a total of 71 ballots, only 13 of which were from paid-up members who were not previously counted. 5 of those voted NO sand 8 voted YES. Jon Hanson also reported a total balance of $52,483.82 in the Association’s several accounts.

Commissioner Madsen then addressed the meeting. He repeated his earlier remarks that no one was ramming the sewer down anyone’s throat and noted that the County Commissioners have put the project on hold. He observed that the earlier July 8 meeting  was informational only, not part of a legal process. He insisted that the cost of the sewer system was not designed to bail out Green Lake or the sewer authority, that everyone’s voice is important in the process, and that the ballot was not a final opportunity for citizens to express themselves on the matter – a legal process could begin at a later date. As for now, he has requested that Gary Geer of Kandiyohi Planning & Zoning extend existing permits for 1 year unless there was a threat to public health. He concluded by appealing to those involved to seek a middle ground and dialogue about the matter as he has been directed by the Commissioners to work with the Association Board.

In response to a question about cattle going into the lake Madsen argued that there was no documentation that pastured cattle caused degradation of water quality. Later in the meeting he spoke again to promote “rain gardens”, a system by which rain and drain water is diverted to gardens rather than the lake. Kandiyohi County is designing a cost share program to promote this idea. In response to questions he informed the audience that sewer inspections are only required when property changes hands, existing homes expand or there is a complaint. He did think mandatory inspection of all systems would be required in the future but that there is a problem finding enough inspectors to do the work.

In Association business, Harlan Meints reported that the Association By-Laws were brought up to date for the first time since 1973. A copy will be available on the Association web site. The membership then decided to wait until next year’s meeting to approve the changes. The Board will decide how to distribute copies to the membership.

The Board recommended that Jim Teschendorf and Rhonda Nordin be added to the Board to replace retiring members Larry Redepenning, Russell Johnson Chris Black and Joan Schultz. Wenzel Kojetin stepped forward to volunteer as well. All 3 were unanimously voted in.

Gordon Behm of the Watershed Board then spoke about the process of writing up a plan for the district. Interested persons can attend their meetings held on the 3rd Thursday of every month at 7 PM in the Bell Tower Plaza in Spicer. He was followed by Todd Newman of the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Department Water Patrol. He encouraged people with complaints to call his office (and not the Atwater police) at 235-1260, but he cautioned that their limited staff may not be able to respond in a timely manner if they happen to be at a distance at the time of the problem.

The biggest news at the meeting may have been the fact that Diamond Lake is now considered “impaired.” That is covered elsewhere in this newsletter.


Mom always said “You always have choices”
.                                                      by Ron Jaspersen

The wastewater industry has changed tremendously the last 10 to 15 years. In the early eighties several universities began doing serious research on how onsite septic systems work and just as important why they fail. How they work and why they fail could be two separate articles but this one is about some of the choices that are now available to homeowners. Another interesting outcome of the research is that EVERY researcher and the USEPA and the MPCA all concluded that, when properly maintained, onsite systems are equal to, or superior to central treatment plants. The key is the maintenance.

So what are the options other than a grinder pump loop around the lake? That is what we call a “centralized system”. All the waste goes to one central location, is cleaned up and the discharged into a surface river or creek. Centralized systems are designed for and are cost effective for high density population areas.

Onsite systems include standard trench septic systems, mounds, pressure beds, and holding tanks. These are systems where the waste is disposed on the same property it is generated. Decentralized - onsite systems are systems where the waste is moved shorter distances to a separate site and then discharged back into a soil based disposal system. These systems often pretreat the waste before final disposal but that depends on the circumstances.

So what are the advantages or disadvantages of these options?

Grinder pump loop
* Minimal involvement by the homeowners.
* Usually lower interest rates due to public funding.
*Forced cooperation?
* High level of treatment of waste as waste is treated at a central treatment plant.

  * Homeowners are responsible for the grinder pump.
* Usually higher construction costs.
* Water is discharged to a surface river = local aquifer depletion.
*Construction  $17-$24000
*Annual water use bill approx. $500-$600
*Pump maintenance & replacement costs (15 yrs) approx. $250
* total annual cost to operate(includes all of above and construction debt retirement) approx $2800-$3100

Onsite Options                                                    
Basic septic tank to trench drainfield
1.High level of treatment of waste.
2. Minimal maintenance, operating, and replacement costs.
3.Soil based disposal= aquifer recharge.
4.Known and contained failure indicators.
1.Homeowners responsible for maintenance unless contracted out.
2.Needs room on the property.
3.Needs three feet of vertical separation to saturated soil.
* Construction $4-$7000
* Annual operating costs approx. $150.(incl. annual professional inspection)
* Replacement capital, based on 20 yr. life, approx. $455 per yr.
* Total annual cost to operate approx. $1120

Individual Mounds
* 1,2,3,4 Same as trenches plus-
* Needs only one foot of vertical separation to saturated soil.

* 1,2,3 Same as trenches plus-
* Sometimes hard to landscape around.

* Construction $7-$11000
* Annual operating costs approx. $150.
* Replacement capital, based on 20 yr. life, approx. $740 per yr.
* Total annual cost to operate approx. $1730

Pretreated performance individual onsite
* 1,2,3,4 Same as trenches plus-
* Needs only one foot of vertical separation to saturated soil.
* Adaptable to small lots and or high soil satruations.

* 1,2,3,4 Same as trenches and mounds plus-
* Must have contracted maintenance and monitoring contract.
* Needs a renewable operating permit.

* Construction $10-$14000
* Annual operating costs approx. $700+
* Replacement capital, based on 20 yr. life, approx. $850 per yr.
* Total annual cost to operate approx. $2200

Individual Holding Tanks
* Ideal for impossible sites

* Homeowners need to practice water conservation.
* Needs a pumping contract.

* Construction $3-$5000
* Annual operating costs assuming100 gallons per day 365 days a year, at $150 per pump event = $2190 per year

Decentralized - Clusters
* Ideal for impossible sites
* Minimal involvement of homeowners.
* Cost shared by multiple property owners.
* Managed, maintained, and monitored by professionals.
* Recharge local aquifer.

*  Needs contracted maintenance and monitoring.
* Needs renewable operating permit.
* Needs cooperation among homeowners.

* Construction $11-$18000
* Annual operating cost approx. $500-$600
* Replacement capital (does not include collection system) based on 20 year life, approx. $300 per yr.
* Total annual cost to operate approx. $2200
(Editor’s note: Ron Jaspersen, owner of Willmar Precast Co. has over 30 years of experience in the onsite wastewater industry. He is currently president of the Minnesota Onsite Wastewater Assocation, the state association of onsite Designers, Installers, Inspectors, Maintenance Providers, Regulators, Educators, Soil Scientists, and Professional Engineers involved with onsite systems. We hope that this article will start a discussion on alternatives to the sewer proposal. Informed responses are welcome).