Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Walt Hill
Seeley Lake, Mont. 

Seeley Lake and the Sewer


SEELEY LAKE - To respond to the full-page ad from Concerned Citizens, let me address two issues:

Is the ground water contaminated? Answer – YES. The fact that test results vary with weather conditions doesn’t change the fact that nitrates in high numbers are present. The fact that they haven’t quite reached the stage where they exceed the safety limits continually does not negate the fact that they are present in excess - enough to cause Missoula County to create a Special Management District for Seeley Lake to limit additional nitrate contamination. These nitrates do not occur in ground water naturally but are caused by humans. They will only increase with time unless we take steps to remove them.

Composting toilets and standard septic systems do not remove nitrates. Only more expensive level 2 systems fitted with denitrification accessories will remove about 60 percent of the nitrates, but they cost upwards of $20,000. The planned sewer system uses Sequence Batch Reactor (SBR) technology and will remove more than 90 percent of the nitrates.

Cost – Composting toilets only cost a few hundred dollars, but when they are connected to a water supply, they have to drain into a septic system, a standard replacement costing between $6,000 and $10,000. All septic systems will fail at some time - a 20-year lifetime is exceptional.

So if we prorate $10,000 over 20 years, we will pay $500/year or $42/month over a ten-year period for a septic system. That doesn’t include maintenance or pumping.

The proposed sewer system will cost more than $12 million for phase 1. Of that we have a grant that will cover about $8 million (no payback needed), leaving about $4 million to be borrowed at very low interest rate.

The cost for the debt service will be about $28/month per residential lot and $59 a month for a non-residential lot. It is expected that bids may come in slightly lower than estimated, so this cost may go down.

But, using all of our financial reserves and the tax monies received in previous, current and future years, I have calculated that if each lot were to pay $22/month for operation and maintenance, in addition to the $28 (residential) or $59 (non-residential) a month for debt service, the total cost per residence would be $50/month for the first ten years, which is only slightly more than the cost of a standard septic system – with no maintenance or pumping or worry! And this system provides roughly 90 percent removal of nitrates, which even the most expensive septic systems cannot provide. The total cost for non-residential properties would be about $81/month.

So is it worth $50/month to have a community sewer system to help clean up some of the contamination we are causing? I think so. Please vote for it.


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