Carmel residents forced to move from septic to sewer
by Diana Lamirand
Chris Katterjohn knows it's only a matter of time before he's forced to connect to a new sanitary sewer system installed in his Carmel neighborhood.
The Clay Township Regional Waste District required two of his neighbors in the Oak Tree subdivision to connect, but he and 11 others escaped the district's project to extend sanitary sewer to 25 homes near 116th Street and Shelborne Road.
"It's going to be a big expense and I'd rather not do it," says Katterjohn, an Angie's List member. "I've got a septic system that works just fine. If it's not broken, why fix it?"
CTRWD Utility Director Andrew Williams says pollution from failed septic systems is most often the reason for extending sanitary sewers into a neighborhood. The Hamilton County Health Department requires certain criteria when replacing septics, such as not putting the new one in the same spot.
"There are residents with failed septic systems who don't have enough ground to put in a replacement," Williams says.
Angie's List members Dean and Carole Kimsey spent more than $12,000 to connect to the new sewer in Oak Tree. "We've lived here for 21 years and we worried about our septic tank anyway," Carole says. "In order to replace a septic system to today's standards, it would cost about the same as this."
The Kimseys are among about 266 Clay Township homeowners who have received a connect notice from CTRWD in the last year. Following neighborhood meetings and public hearings, the CTRWD board decides whether to extend sanitary sewer and sets monthly sewer rates.
Residents have five years to connect and 90 days to make financial arrangements. About half opt to pay it immediately while the other half agree to five-, 10- or 20-year repayment plans. If they refuse to connect, a judge could order them to comply.
Jeffrey Franz, one of nearly 100 homeowners in the Holaday Hills and Dales subdivision near 99th Street and Westfield Boulevard, is paying $19.96 a month for 20 years for his neighborhood's sewer lines.
He plans to wait five years before hooking into it, and then he'll pay an additional $1,750 connection and application fee. And that doesn't include the $6,000 to $8,000 he'll likely pay a contractor to install a pump and make the connection.
Sewer demand has increased in Carmel-area locations where gravity service is not always feasible. Low-pressure systems use pumps to grind waste.
Williams says the cost burden "is an issue for everybody," but it must be shared.
The district has tried to reduce costs by installing low-pressure systems instead of gravity sewers, which typically saves about $20,000 per home and is less disruptive to landscaping and roads.
Franz says it's still frustrating. "We have a handful of people in the subdivision who didn't take care of their septic systems," he says.
"Now we're going to get this crammed down our throat."