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Reducing Chloride, Increasing Shoreland Protection

Posted: 04/12/2022

Author: Julie Anderson

Category: Departments

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When people take a look around Douglas County, they see beautiful lakes, expanding resorts, and nice new homes being built. All of this activity is great for the economy, but it is stressing our natural resources. And that’s where the county steps in. The Land and Resource Management department works to educate professionals and the public on how their work and behavior impacts the area we all share.

The county’s many septic and excavator professionals play a big part in protecting natural resources. On Thursday, April 7, Douglas County Land & Resource Management hosted an event with those professionals to discuss new procedures, best practices, and an exciting pilot program.

Douglas County septic expert Pat Schultz and Justin Firme, the county’s stormwater management expert, were joined by Scott Gilbertson, executive director of Alexandria Lake Area Sanitary District and Dave Gustafson, a U of M trainer in the onsite sewage treatment program. 

One solution in the quest to reduce chloride emissions is for septic professionals to be trained and certified to install what’s called a brine disposal system. These systems will keep the chloride out of the sewer system and ultimately the lakes.

Alexandria Lake Area Sanitary District is offering up to $2,000 rebates for homeowners with private wells who are connected to the ALASD sewer system. The brine disposal systems are located on a homeowner’s property much like a septic system. The goal is to greatly reduce the 3,000 tons of salt discharged every year from home softeners to the ALASD sewer system.

The Land and Resource Management Department will keep a record of all permitted brine disposal systems installed. To get more information on this pilot program go to www.alasdistrict.org

The septic and excavating professionals also learned about the county’s new ordinance to protect shoreland. The Land & Resource Management Department will be responsible for educating and enforcing the new requirements which limit the amount of riprap that can be installed and require a buffer plan be implemented following riprap installation. Justin Firme explained the details of the updated ordinance which also means a clearing and drainage permit is required when there is disturbance to an area 2,000 square feet or greater that is within 500 feet of the ordinary high-water level of a protected water. 

It's important that septic professionals and excavators are aware of these changes. They are often some of the first workers at a new construction site.

Pat Schultz also reinforced the importance of educating homeowners about their responsibility. The size of a septic system is based on the number of bedrooms. He shared with the group that he repeatedly sees rooms referred to as offices or workout rooms which ultimately means the new home has a septic system that’s too small and that will eventually cause an issue.

ALASD also stressed that if county residents do not act to drastically reduce the chloride in the lakes, there will be repercussions. Lake Winona, Lake Agnes, and Lake Henry have chloride limits that dramatically exceed state requirements. Lake Henry flows into Lake Le Homme Dieu, which is part of the much-cherished chain of lakes.

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