Mower County making progress with septic systems

(ABC 6 News) – In a news release on Tuesday, Mower County Environmental Services says progress is being made with septic systems getting replaced in the county.

In an initiative to protect groundwater and local waterways, the county says that 338 septic systems have been replaced since 2020. Just last year, Mower County property owners installed 98 replacement septics, with the leading townships being Lansing (12) and Austin (9).

Nearly 67% of the new septics installed in 2022 occurred in the Cedar River watershed; with most of the other 33% being in the Root River watershed of eastern Mower County. This progress follows 112 septic systems installed in 2021 and 128 systems in 2020, which was a record high, topping a previous mark of 125 systems a decade earlier.

“We’re very pleased with the continuing progress being made in partnership with property owners to protect our groundwater and surface waters,” said Angela Lipelt, the county’s environmental services supervisor. “The county’s septic initiative is making a big difference.”

Another 17 septic systems were issued permits in 2022, with those replacements expected to be built in 2023, Lipelt said. County staff has another 23 sites scheduled for replacement installation this year that involve landowners who established escrow accounts resulting from property transfer or zoning-permit reasons.

Non-compliant septics threaten human health and the environment because they do not thoroughly or properly treat waste water before it enters groundwater, lakes and streams, according to Lipelt.

Last year, Mower County had 94 compliance inspections done by private contractors, leading to 33 non-compliant systems being found of which four have been abandoned permanently by the owners. In 2021, the county had 30 non-compliant systems found after a subsurface sewage treatment system (SSTS) ordinance was adopted that year by the Mower County Board to increase reviews of septics.

To date, Mower County has more than 4,000 properties with a septic system. The county estimates that 75% of those systems are in compliance with another 22% considered to be failing to protect groundwater and 3% designated as an “imminent threat to public health and safety.”

Under its SSTS program, Mower County offers some assistance to property owners that includes:

  • Septic loans of up to 90% of the replacement system’s cost to be paid over 10 years as a tax assessment.
  • Compliance-inspection vouchers (while available) if required to inspect for a land-use permit.
  • Low-income grants; an qualifying example is a family of four with an annual income under $66,650.

On Feb. 22, a free workshop for SSTS contractors will be offered from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at Austin’s Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. The Mower County and Freeborn County environmental services along with the Cedar River Watershed District are organizing the workshop which provides contractors an opportunity to earn two “continuing education units” or CEUs.

Registration is required by emailing or calling 507-377-5186.

For more information on Mower County septic replacements and other septic questions, CLICK HERE.