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Commentary - The myth of sewage facilities

By Jim vonMeier, Zimmerman, MN Most think sewer plants are constructed to protect the public's health/environment. At one time this was true, however, now treatment facilities have turned into a multibillion dollar a year business often driven by...

By Jim vonMeier,

Zimmerman, MN

Most think sewer plants are constructed to protect the public's health/environment. At one time this was true, however, now treatment facilities have turned into a multibillion dollar a year business often driven by greed. Engineering firms profit millions to design and build them; developers get rights to build more/bigger homes in an area; and the government bodies gain more tax dollars and revenue from those monthly fees.

And they sell these projects to the public by using a simple business tactic; discredit the competition. People are told septic systems are pollution hazards, extremely expensive, and only last a few years. At the same time they portray their product as a cost-effective, modern marvel that will solve everyone's problems. By the time they are done, only a fool would want to stay with a septic system.

However, this information is either wildly exaggerated or out-right lies. Septic systems are no longer the cesspools of the early 1900s; today, systems will treat wastewater better than a treatment facility and if you use/maintain them properly, will last indefinitely. And they are not expensive either; septic systems will run $3,000 to $12,000 and that is if you even need one. Many of the systems in use already meet the requirements wanted by the state.

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On the other hand, treatment facilities cost far more than you are led to believe. Your assessment fee may be $10,000, but that is just the cost to run the pipe past your house. It does not include the cost to build that plant and run those mains out to your neighborhood. Now you could be looking at $30,000 to $60,000.

If the cost of that plant isn't enough to shock you, maybe what happens after the plant is built will. Developers come in, building upscale homes that drive-up everyone's property values, and with the increase in population comes more tax increases to expand police, fire, schools, etc. Now many are forced to move because they can no longer afford the property taxes.

Pollution - it actually gets worse. The damages to our shore and coast lines have gone up almost 600 percent in the last 15 years where these plants were built because they reduce, not eliminate, contaminants in wastewater.

But it is the third issue that everyone should look at. We are running out of water. Treatment facilities have been discharging trillions of gallons of water out to the oceans via rivers for the last 60 years and now those underground water supplies are dropping to critical levels. Even Minnesota and Florida are feeling the effects. But like so many other problems (the economy, the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis), our elected officials wait for things to break then bill the taxpayers to fix it. So why would someone in a position of voting these projects in ignore these problems? They are often in on it. There are numerous examples of local officials being "rewarded" by engineering firms and developers for pushing these projects through. Some have even gotten in on the game by purchasing raw land, voting in a treatment plant then selling it off at a tremendous profit.

By joining with the Citizens League for Environmental and Economic Responsibility (CLEER), a local non-profit organization, you have an opportunity to stop this "plant for profit" syndrome that has become a national disgrace by staying with septic systems. You will not only save yourself money but also protect your community for future generations. At the same time, other parts of the country can look to you as the citizens that took control of the situation rather than letting a handful of people control them for their personal profit.

    Jim vonMeier performs educational programs directed at homeowners, teaching them the health and environmental need for proper septic systems and how to find a certified septic professional to inspect/design/install/
    maintain their systems. He was the speaker at two recent CLEER meetings in Miltona and LaGrand Township. He has also represented homeowners in their fight against public sewer projects and speaks at contractor programs around the country on the subject of customer service.

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