“These neighborhoods are bad. Very bad,” he added.
While health department leaders are confident hazards like bacteria, viruses, pharmaceuticals and personal care products are in the water, they don't have concrete proof. Due to very expensive testing ranging up to $450 per sample, it makes it difficult to pin point the exact level of nitrates.
“We know it’s common in all areas where drinking water wells are impacted by septic systems so we're quite concerned about that,” said Nelson.
The health department advised homeowners whose wells tested positive for nitrates to use filters to eliminate some of those contaminates in their drinking water.
Right now there’s a push for several businesses, two schools and a few homes along State Road 23 and Bittersweet Roads to get on board with a proposed sewer system. The county has not tested wells of businesses impacted by the proposed project because many of the septic systems are buried under cement and because there’s no law requiring those tests.
“If this project doesn’t go forward there's going to be a significant number of businesses go out of business,” said Nelson. “Because they’re putting their septic [contents] into dry wells which are no longer legal for businesses and the health department will have to come in and say ‘OK you can no longer do this. You’re going to have to put in a modern septic system,’ which they have no room for and they can’t do.”
Nelson said it’s important to point out there’s no need for people living in older Granger neighborhoods to panic, but it is important to act soon. He said he would drink the water in the affected neighborhoods now, but 10 years from now he would not because the contamination levels would be even higher by then.
County engineer Jessica Clark said if the county council passes the ordinance at its October 6 meeting, they hope to have the sewer system under construction by the spring of 2012. The health department also wants to have a sewage treatment plant serving the older Granger neighborhoods within 5 years.
WSBT also looked into how much it will cost people in the State Road 23 and Bittersweet Road area to hook up to and use the proposed sewer system.
Clark said the few homeowners in the area would pay $1,500 to connect and about $85 a month to use the system. Businesses would pay anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 to connect, depending on how big they are and how much they would use the system. It would cost those businesses between $85 and $3,000 in monthly sewer bills.
A public hearing is scheduled for 6 pm next Thursday, September 29 inside the county council chambers at the County City Building in South Bend.