With shallow groundwater, porous soils, densely platted lots and only onsite septic systems the groundwater in south Deschutes and North Klamath counties is vulnerable to septic contamination.
The problem was first discovered in the 1970s, but addressing it has been an adventure of ordinances, repeals, law suits and hard feelings.
See an overview of the problem with this video.
Transcript of Video:
Hi this is john Blakinger
I’d like to talk to you about protecting the groundwater in south deschutes county and north Klamath county.
Let’s start with some history.
In 1999 a groundwater work group jointly formed by DEQ and Deschutes county recommended taking action and creating and area wide rule to address ground-water contamination concerns in the southern portion of Deschutes county.
DEQ and Deschutes county received federal funding for a USGS groundwater study and demonstration project.
Wow that’s a mouthful.
The demonstration project installed alternative waste water systems to determine what alternative systems maybe better at reducing nitrates.
Generally, water tables in the area are shallow and sandy pumice soil do little to filter waste water effluents.
There’s a concern that ground water in the shallow aquifers will become contaminated with nitrates and if left unchecked will eventually reach unsafe levels.
To protect the quality of drinking water in the local aquifers Deschutes county commissioners passed an ordinance in 2008 to require upgrades on all septic systems.
County voters overturned the ordnance in a special election in march 2009.
As a result in July 2009 Deschutes county commissioners asked DEQ to take the lead in the efforts to resolve the issue.
DEQ hosted townhall meetings in February and May 2010 with citizens and agreed to assemble the steering committee of citizens representing the south Deschutes and north Klamath counties.
The purpose of the committee is to provide recommendations to the DEQ on how to best protect the groundwater and prevent groundwater contamination of surface waters in the area of south Deschutes and north klamath counties.
These recommendations may impact areas beyond the boundaries of the original USGS study.
The committee will be an advisory level forum for collaborative efforts related to development of a ground water contamination reduction and protection plan.
The participants are voluntarily working together to achieve a mutually acceptable outcome that satisfies, to the greatest degree possible, the interest of all citizens in the groundwater protection area.
The committee has been meeting since the fall of 2010.
We’ve approved the charter and agree to a boundary for the affected area.
To come up with a coherent plan the committee has divided the project into four areas depicted on the graphic.
The areas are: sources of contamination, the environment, the impact and the solutions.
The committee would like your help in identifying items it should be considered and questions that need to be answered related to each of these four areas.
Going into a bit more detail:
The sources of contaminants include residential & commercial wastewater systems, livestock, fertilizers.
Questions that we’ve identified: What is the potential contaminate contributions from each of the sources?
What other question should we answer in this area?
The environmental conditions of the area: the shallow groundwater and pumice soil.
And some questions that we’ve identified: Where the high nitrates? Have the models used in the study been validated?
Impacts – impacts include river health human health property values financial impact.
And some of the questions: What are the permissible levels of contaminants?
And then lastly the solution includes: extending sewers, individual and clustered de-nitrification systems, composting toilets.
We’ve not yet identified any questions.
Thank you for your time