Honeymoon Bay Wastewater Feasibility Study
While it may seem that not much is happening, progress is being made behind the scenes on multiple efforts to change and improve issues specific to Newman Lake such as water quality and overall lake management.
For many years, Honeymoon Bay has had issues with sewage ending up in the lake along with stormwater runoff. A wastewater feasibility study, paid for by a grant secured by the Spokane Conservation District (SCD) and assisted by a committee of volunteer Honeymoon Bay residents, has recently been completed by consulting company Belsby Engineering. The study area consisted of 80 land parcels which included 60 single-family homes in Honeymoon Bay.
They found that only 27 of the 60 homes have wastewater systems on record with the Spokane regional Health District which stated keeping records in the early 1970s. Their study found that three of these systems were cesspools , which are not allowed under current health district rules and are a hazard to human and environmental health. 18 of those on record have septic systems with drainfields, and 6 are using holding tanks. The condition of these is not known but the majority of them are several decades or more old and most likely inadequate or need replacement, according to the feasibility study. The 33 that are not on record are assumed to require replacement. The report also says, while there have been no income surveys conducted, the community would need financial assistance in the form of a grant or a low interest long-term loan to afford new treatment systems.
In order to select the appropriate system and develop accurate cost estimates, several different kinds of septic systems were considered, including STEP (Septic Tank Effluent Pumping) systems that would require each house to have its own septic tank that pumps the liquid to a common aerated lagoon; and Membrane Bioreactors that treat sewage with individual systems for each home, or in “pods” of 1 to 3 homes.
A detailed description of each of the alternatives considered, and the entire feasibility report, are available at http://sccd.org/departments/water-resources/water-resources-publication-library.
In early January, Honeymoon Bay residents had a meeting to discuss the results of the study and the next steps. The group decided to pursue a pilot project using the preferred alternative, the Biomicrobics MBR system. A second meeting, this one of the volunteer committee and the SCD, was held in late January to start identifying potential sites for components of the project.
One challenge that has to be addressed before any system can be built is management of permits and hiring or creating of an entity to manage the entire system. At the same time these discussions have been underway in Honeymoon Bay, volunteers from around the rest of the lake have been researching the possibility of a larger management body to manage the entire watershed.
The Newman Lake Flood Control Zone District (NLFCZD) has been the management body that has been used to date. It is run by staff in Spokane County’s engineering department who are advised by a NLFCZD Advisory Board (AB) of Newman Lake property owners. The Spokane County Commissioners are the legislative authority and make the major decisions for the NLFCZD.
There have been concerns in the past over whether the county is doing an adequate job and a lot of frustration over tax assessments that currently have some major inequities and seem to increase every year, expensive equipment that is not being maintained, and strained relationships between AB members and county staff.
County commissioners have recently agreed that another entity may be a better way to manage the water level, water quality and other aspects of the lake. Volunteers have been looking into what it takes to form another governing body, such as a water district, or if the current Moab Water District would be interested in taking it on. An attorney has been working with these volunteers on a pro bono basis to identify the potential options.
If a larger, overall district is formed with the goal of improving the overall water quality of the lake, it may be able to manage Honeymoon Bay’s septic project as well, and expand the idea to other areas of the lake to reduce the flow of nutrients into the lake from septic and runoff issues.
Updates on these issues will be posted as new information becomes available and as volunteers are needed to move forward. Please check back to NewmanLakeWa.com often for more information.