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Kootz Lake Wastewater Project

July 20, 2010 |

Where: Kootz Lake in northern Indiana

Problem: Small lots, slowly permeable soils, and a high water table caused onsite septic systems to function incorrectly

Solution: Build a wastewater treatment plant for all of the homes around the lake

In 2004, RCAP received a request for help from residents of this small lake community in northern Indiana. The citizens and the health department were concerned about the lake’s water quality and recreational value. Additionally, they were worried about drinking water contamination, as the homes were on private wells, many of which were shallow and located too close to the failing septic systems.

RCAP quickly set up a citizen steering committee and developed a project timeline. The group chose to form a regional sewer district to oversee the management of the project, and RCAP helped them with the legal process and documentation of forming the district. The newly-formed Koontz Lake Regional Sewer District (KLRSD) Board participated in RCAP’s Small Utility Board Training. Meanwhile, RCAP coordinated a free well-testing event, where residents could have their drinking water tested for waterborne pathogens. RCAP also tested surface water in the area.

The ARRA funds were based upon the ‘shovel-ready’ status of a project. Absent RCAP, we would be years behind where we are now, and that’s not an exaggeration.” ~ Paul Warnke, KLRSD President

RCAP helped the Board procure an engineer to do a planning study and environmental review. It was decided that a wastewater treatment plant should be constructed to treat all the homes around the lake.

The project moved quickly into the funding phase. A USDA loan and grant package was identified as the most likely source of funding. However, at a price tag of approximately $14 million, USDA Rural Development was unsure it would be able to fund the project all in one year. Everyone was concerned that phasing the project over two or more years would add not only time but additional cost to the project. The Board voiced other worries: what if there was less grant money available for the second year? Would they be able to afford the project? The Board, RCAP, and the project engineer scrambled to look for alternative funding, but the fact remained that USDA-RD would be the most realistic source of money for the project.
In early 2009, USDA RD informed RCAP that because of the ARRA stimulus package, the agency would have enough grant money available to fund the project all in one year!  In April 2009, USDA-RD committed $6,439,000 as a grant and $7,873,000 as a low-interest loan.
RCAP continues to work with the KLRSD Board as they proceed into construction of the wastewater treatment plant, advising on site control and permit issues, providing document templates, and helping low-income homeowners find financial assistance. The project is expected to break ground in May 2010.
The President of the KLRSD, Paul Warnke, has accredited the success of the project to his Board and RCAP. He stated: “The process of qualifying for the ARRA funds started when RCAP began working with what became the Board of the KLRSD. It’s like eating an elephant, one bite at a time:   Board training, IRSDA membership, evaluation of funding alternatives, budgeting, fighting the battles to get District status, selection of consultants, PER, selecting a funding agency, working with USDA RD, getting the Grant/Loan package, the heartbreak of learning the magnitude of our project required spreading funding and thus engineering and construction over a 2 fiscal year period, and then getting the ARRA boost. RCAP was with us every step of the way, providing assistance, resources, and advice. It would never have happened without RCAP, and we’ll be leaning on them for some time to come as we break ground.
Certainly the Sewer Committee had the desire, will, and tenacity to drag this community into the 21st century, but not the knowledge base or tools to accomplish the mission. RCAP gave us those tools. After our Board, the single most important factor in our success to date is RCAP.”
By: Vicki L. Perry, Indiana RCAP