Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wastewater Systems Jumping to the Forefront in Garden Valley!

Wastewater is becoming the buzzword around Garden Valley, with the problems Terrace Lakes Resort is encountering, along with the City of Crouch also delving into alternatives for effluent disposal amid concern with failing septic systems. A special public Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the Crouch Community Hall. Within discussions about wastewater are mentioned the Garden Valley School wastewater treatment system and the Southfork Landing system, now going by the appellation of Two Forks. It would behoove residents to pay attention to these developments, because ya never know what will happen in the future.

The Central District Health Department mailed the following letter to the Idaho World newspaper with the intention of clarification and to "correct some statements presented by Ilene Johnson in her memo titled 'The Whole Story about Terrace Lakes Resort’s Septic Problems.'” The letter from Environmental Health Director, Rob Howarth, offers some general information about wastewater treatment systems, which should be helpful. Included is a chronology of events involving Terrace Lakes:

Central District Health Department (CDHD) staff have worked with Terrace Lakes to find a solution to their wastewater treatment problems since September 2009. At that time, we were made aware through a complaint filed with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality that untreated wastewater was surfacing from the location of their 30-year-old drainfield.

CDHD allowed Terrace Lakes to add additional soil on top of the failed drainfield at least six times over a two-year period in an effort to cover the wastewater and isolate it from humans and animals. This was intended to allow Terrace Lakes time to work with us and their engineering company to identify a permanent wastewater treatment solution.

Each of these drainfield “capping” episodes ultimately resulted in wastewater surfacing again. Finally, in August 2011 we asked Terrace Lakes to permanently discontinue the use of the failed drainfield by capping the effluent line from the septic tank to the drainfield. We also notified Terrace Lakes that continued use of the failed drainfield could result in our revocation of their license to operate the restaurant and public swimming pool facilities. Terrace Lakes did comply with this request and has begun hauling wastewater by truck from their facility to the Southfork Landing wastewater treatment plant.

Standard septic tanks and drainfields (i.e., operated by gravity) are still allowed by Idaho rules governing these facilities; the rules have been in place since 1985. Additional standards for large-volume systems have been in place since 1989. In fact, we estimate at least 75% of the systems installed in Boise County during the last three years are of the standard type. Improvements in wastewater treatment technology have also resulted in more expensive units that require pumps and electricity. These more expensive options treat wastewater to a higher degree and are sometimes used in areas with small lots, shallow ground water, or areas with minimal amounts of suitable soil. People sometimes choose these more expensive options to allow them to build on property that will not accommodate standard systems, and would otherwise be unbuildable.

We recognize that Terrace Lakes is facing a difficult challenge in adequately treating its wastewater. Shallow ground water occurs in the remaining flat areas and will not allow the installation of a standard drainfield. Also, the amount of wastewater needing treatment is large. Systems that can properly treat this amount of wastewater are more complex and costly than the standard gravity system once used here. The existing system has failed and can no longer be used in a way that is protective of the public’s health.

CDHD has provided a great deal of flexibility in allowing Terrace Lakes to identify and implement a permanent solution to their failed drainfield. After two years of little progress, we have decided that the public’s health cannot continue to be put at risk by allowing untreated wastewater at the surface. That is why we recently asked Terrace Lakes to discontinue use of the failed drainfield.

The attached chronology of events shows a lengthy pattern of collaboration and regulatory flexibility in working with Terrace Lakes on this problem. We intend to continue to work with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and Terrace Lakes to find the best possible solution. At the same time, we will maintain our focus on protecting the health of neighbors and visitors of the Terrace Lakes Resort.

Please contact me at 208-327-8520 or via email at if you have further questions.

Rob Howarth
Environmental Health Director
Central District Health Department

Attachment: CDHD Chronology of Actions
cc: Russell Duke, CDHD
Barry Burnell, IDEQ
Jamie Anderson, Chair, Boise County Commissioners
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October 24, 2011

Central District Health Department Chronology of Events Related to
Terrace Lakes Sewage Notice of Violation Case

The following is a chronological timeline of the events of this case:

• September 2, 2009: Complaint forwarded from The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) to CDHD detailing surfacing sewage effluent from the community drainfield servicing Terrace Lakes Resort Facilities and roughly 41 individually owned lots within the Terrace Lakes subdivision.

• September 2, 2009: Investigation by CDHD verifying the failure of the community drainfield and the surfacing of sewage effluent.

• September 3, 2009: Phone conversation between Terrace Lakes representative and CDHD with CDHD requesting the septic tanks for the system be pumped and the area where sewage has been leaking on the ground surface capped with uncontaminated soil, also recommended they begin planning the replacement of their septic drainfield and determine what is actually connected to the system (Failed drainfield has no plans in regards to what exactly is connected).

• September 3, 2009: Official Notice of Violation sent to Terrace Lakes via certified mail and regular mail.

• September 4, 2009: Site visit by CDHD to verify that areas affected by surfacing effluent had been capped with soil.

• September 8, 2009: Information received from Terrace Lakes that roughly 39 dwellings plus two vacant lots are connected to the system as well as Terrace Lakes lodge, swimming pool facilities, hotel, and two rental cabins. Asked that Terrace Lakes provide the address information of the properties connected to the community system.

• September 8, 2009: Discussion with IDEQ representative to discuss IDEQ records of Terrace Lake’s existing and prior community sewer systems. Very limited information is available through IDEQ.

• September 10, 2009: Verification from a Terrace Lakes representative that they had received the Notice of Violation. Discussed that none of the structures had water meters to monitor inflow from community water system.

• September 22, 2009: CDHD contacted Terrace Lakes to again request the address information for properties connected to the community system, recommended that they bring an engineer on board to help them design replacement system options.

• September 22, 2009: Site visit to ensure system was not leaking effluent.

• September 23, 2009: Received address information from Terrace Lakes, after verification of bedroom numbers for each dwelling connected to the system through the Boise County Assessor’s website and applying IDAPA 58.01.03 flow projections for the homes CDHD estimates the homes need a system designed to handle 9,400 gallons per day. Additionally based on the projected number of users for the resort facilities CDHD estimates the lodge, swimming pool, hotel, and two rental cabins will need a system sized at roughly 3,715 gallons per day. Suggested Terrace Lakes would need two separate large soil absorption systems based on projected flows exceeding 10,000 gallons per day for the entire system. Again recommended that an engineer be obtained by Terrace Lakes.

• September 30, 2009: Meeting at Terrace Lakes involving CDHD, IDEQ, Terrace Lakes, Matrix Engineering, and Alternative Wastewater to discuss replacement options available and reviewed the site with all parties.

• October 30, 2009: Received two applications for subsurface sewage disposal systems from Terrace Lakes paid at the large soil absorption system rate.

• November 17, 2009: Excavated 24 test holes for soils evaluation in driving range and near tubing hill and placed groundwater monitoring pipes in applicable holes.

• November 19, 2009: Excavated more test holes near failed community drainfield, noted that all test holes in the driving range area were already failed due to high groundwater levels.

• November 23, 2009: Excavated more test holes in a couple fairway areas, this and all previous areas were chosen due to the possibility of gravity flow and proximity to Terrace Lakes facilities and applicable dwellings.

• December 10, 2009: Meeting at CDHD involving CDHD, IDEQ, Terrace Lakes representatives, and Matrix Engineering. Discussed timetable for replacement of failed system. Agreed CDHD and IDEQ would receive system plans for first system in late spring 2010 once groundwater levels could be verified to be acceptable and that installation would begin as soon as plans could be approved, system for individual dwellings would then be installed in early summer 2011 assuming that they could keep the community drainfield from surfacing in the interim.

• March 2, 2010: CDHD verified that Terrace Lakes had begun monitoring groundwater in test holes on a weekly basis.

• March 8, 2010: CDHD performed groundwater monitoring at Terrace Lakes and found that too many test holes near sledding hill, existing system, and in fairway had failed due to high groundwater levels and that areas would not be suitable for system design of this size.

• March 10, 2010: Meeting between CDHD and Matrix Engineering to discuss other potential area options for system placement.

• March 12, 2010: Test holes excavated in new areas presented by Matrix Engineering. Provided permission to Terrace Lakes to discontinue monitoring test holes that had already failed.

• March 16, 2010: Test holes excavated in new areas presented by Matrix Engineering.

• March 23, 2010: CDHD performed groundwater monitoring of new test holes that had been dug.

• April 7, 2010: CDHD performed groundwater monitoring.

• May 11, 2010: CDHD performed groundwater monitoring.

• June 17, 2010: CDHD performed groundwater monitoring. Found that community drainfield had begun leaking from a new location, discussed with Terrace Lakes representative that area needed to be covered with clean soil and that flows to surface of ground needed to cease otherwise Terrace Lakes’ food establishment license and public pool license would be revoked until sewer system had been replaced.

• June 23, 2010: Met with Terrace Lakes and Matrix Engineering to discuss potential system design options based on recorded groundwater and soils data. Discussed how plans would move forward.

• June 29, 2010: CDHD verified floor plans of rental cabins for flow projection purposes. Discussed some system design pertaining to collection system for Terrace Lakes Resort facilities only.

• July 15, 2010: CDHD verified that community drainfield had begun to leak from previous location again, requested Terrace Lakes cap the leak immediately.

• July 19, 2010: CDHD verified that community drainfield was still leaking. Terrace Lakes promised area would be capped with clean soils that day.

• July 21, 2010: CDHD verified drainfield has been capped and is no longer leaking at this time.

• August 5, 2010: CDHD verified that ground in area that had been previously capped was very wet and appeared to be the beginning of another leak, requested Terrace Lakes cap the area before it begins to leak.

• August 17, 2010: CDHD verified drainfield was not currently leaking.

• August 30, 2010: Spoke with Terrace Lakes representative to verify that they had received recent emails. Representative stated their engineer should be working on the system plans and that they should be ready in the near future. Representative stated all of their finances were in order with their engineer and the project should continue moving forward.

• September 17, 2010: CDHD made site visit to ensure that septic system is not leaking, no visible effluent leaking.

• September 27 and 28, 2010: Reviewed first submittal of the Terrace Lakes community system plans and operations and maintenance manual associated with the system.

• October 28, 2010: CDHD made site visit to ensure that septic system is not leaking, no visible effluent leaking.

• November 5, 2010: Spoke with Terrace Lakes to remind them that renewal fees needed to be submitted for their LSAS applications.

• November 8, 2010: CDHD made site visit to ensure that septic system is not leaking, no visible effluent leaking.

• January 21, 2011: Reviewed second submission of LSAS plans, issued review letter 11-0049 discussing adjustments that needed to be made.

• March 28, 2011: Site visit to examine shape of existing system. System was leaking badly from multiple locations.

• March 31, 2011: Spoke with a Terrace Lakes representative who stated that they were working on capping system as well as attempting to fix infiltration of groundwater into collection system.

• April 4, 2011: Site visit to verify the septic system leaks had been covered. Terrace Lakes was capping over entire system with a few feet of soil to help prevent future leaks.

• May 2, 2011: Reviewed third submittal of LSAS plans. Wrote letter 11-0322 in response for needed corrections and items.

• May 3, 2011: CDHD made site visit to ensure that septic system is not leaking, no visible effluent leaking. Looked like soil was still being capped over system.

• May 16, 2011: Received recorded extended treatment operations and maintenance agreement.

• August 3, 2011: Received variance petition from Terrace Lakes for reduced setback to the property line near the designed LSAS. CDHD set a hearing date of September 6, 2011 for the variance hearing. Notification letter 11-0631 sent.

• August 17, 2011: Site visit to check on existing system. Sewage effluent is leaking again from end of system. Informed Terrace Lakes management that a pump and haul scenario would need to be implemented to keep sewage from surfacing from system or suspension of Food License and Pool License would be issued by CDHD.

• August 25, 2011: Site visit to verify that effluent line from septic tank to community drainfield had been capped off so effluent cannot discharge from septic tank. Septic tank is being pumped and hauled per the agreement between Terrace Lakes and IDEQ. Terrace Lakes states this will occur until a sewer solution is implemented and installed.

• August 26, 2011: Meeting at IDEQ between Terrace Lakes representatives, IDEQ, CDHD, and Matrix Engineering. Discussed pump and haul plans and possible options for Terrace Lakes moving forward.

• September 1, 2011: Renewal letter 11-0761 sent by CDHD to remind Terrace Lakes to renew their LSAS applications. Made an on-site visit with selected variance hearing committee from CDHD to review the site against the requested variance conditions.

• September 6, 2011: Variance hearing at CDHD attended by Terrace Lakes representatives and CDHD. Variance was approved by the hearing committee.

• September 27, 2011: Informed Terrace Lakes representatives via email that septic permit for 4500 gallon per day system that would serve Terrace Lakes lodge, pool, motel, and two rental cabins could be issued as LSAS plans and variance had been approved. Told them we would wait to issue permit upon their request, but were under the impression they were going to go into a redesign phase while they were pumping and hauling. Informed Terrace Lakes that the treatment portion of system would still need to be approved by IDEQ.

• October 17, 2011: Site visit by CDHD appears septic tank is being pumped and hauled as agreed. Road has been improved into septic tank to improve winter access.

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