GREEN LAKE, Wis. (WFRV) – A proposed wastewater project by the Green Lake Sanitary District to install sewer lines surrounding Green Lake could cost hundreds of residents anywhere from $28,900 to $53,700 dollars depending on their property size.
“I talked to about 30 people, and everyone I talked to was vehemently against it and opposed it for basically the same reason I am: financial,” Green Lake resident Dave Hudzinski said. He added that his property, which he bought two years ago, “became what I thought would be a financial burden because the costs they were throwing out were substantial.”
According to the Green Lake Sanitary District, 65% of homes in their service area surrounding Green Lake have septic tanks instead of sewer systems. The district decided to create a study, which is still ongoing, to see what is possible should it decide to implement wastewater systems in the area comprised of 674 lots.
“To see if it was feasible, can it be done, what would it cost, and does the wastewater treatment facility have the capacity to treat that water?” Green Lake Sanitary District administrator Lisa Reas said. “It is feasible to sewer all of the areas, but it’s costly.”
The $28,900 – $53,700 excludes the fee that homeowners would have to pay to connect to the system.
“My neighbor, a $60,000 property, talking $80,000 in total potential costs, you’re going to move people out of the area,” Hudzinski said. “Hopefully, 10 years down the line, my son will be able to handle whatever comes his way.”
That is because the board tabled the proposal for 10 years in two of the six areas it had created, in Area 6 Sandstone and Area 8 Sunnyside, which accounts for 420 landowners.
“A lot of landowners in the proposed sewer area were very concerned. The Green Lake Sanitary District does have the authority to move projects forward even without the public. Just because we can do that doesn’t mean we’re going to do it,” Reas said. “We really did want some public buy-in on it, and we’ve had some areas that we’re very open about feeling it wasn’t the right time for their area to be severed.”
Going forward, the board will review the possibility of sewering every 10 years for areas left un-severed so that homeowners are aware of the timeline for installation and potential future projects.
The Green Lake Sanitary District released findings on phosphorous levels in the lake, which the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is demanding be cut across the state. The study found that 1% of phosphorous entering Green Lake is leaking from septic systems.
“I wasn’t adding to the 1% phosphate that they say septic tanks are putting into the lake,” Hudzinski said, “My concern is where is the other 99%?”
40% comes from Silver Creek, 24% from the Southwest Inlet, 11% from Hill Creek, 4% from White Creek, 5% from the unmonitored watershed, 8% from the atmosphere, and 7% from waterfowl. Reas said that roughly two-thirds are from farming, which accounts for the creeks’ phosphorous contributions.
“But, everyone can still do their share,” she said. “I don’t want to completely put it on the farmers, and they already spend a lot of money on their cover crops.”
The Green Lake Sanitary District board members understand that the large quantities of money that homeowners would have to pay just are not realistic for many of them.
“We need to continue to work with our legislators from the federal and state levels to make this affordable for everyone,” Green Lake Sanitary District president Ken Bates said.
Reas hopes that politicians will expand infrastructure grants beyond low-income communities; otherwise, she said it is hard for middle-class communities to make much progress as well.
“We have looked at government infrastructure funding, but interestingly enough, all those grants are tied to median home income,” she said. “We have moderate-income people, and for some of these assessments, the moderate income is not enough to cover the cost of the assessment.”
Tourist rentals continue to drive the median income up, while locals who live there can not necessarily afford the same wastewater management systems that rental owners can and also need for large groups of guests.
“We’re seeing a rapid rise in Airbnb and VRBO rentals, and that changes how a septic system is used,” Reas said.
Hudzinski understands why the tourists come, but the potential expenses on the horizon dampen the laid-back attitude in the community for the year-rounders who may soon not be able to afford it.
“This is God’s country,” he said. “We have a big, beautiful lake, and I want to enjoy it as much as anyone.”