Key question for farms: septic or lagoon?
Sewer lagoons are a standard for farmers who own livestock, but the topic becomes trickier when considering whether to use one for a house, county resident Duane Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick, who lives on Sunflower Rd. south of Marion, had to go through that process last year when he started building a sewer pond to replace his failing septic tank.
Progress has been slow because of where the family lives and last year’s wet weather, but Kirkpatrick anticipates it will be finished in another month.
Taking so long means that Kirkpatrick has to drain the lagoon frequently to remove any rain water.
“We’ve had so much rain that I’m going to have to get it pumped back out so we can get the rest of it finished,” he said.
Sometimes it isn’t the lagoon that is an issue, Duane’s wife, Lori, said.
“The lagoon itself isn’t a nuisance or a problem,” she said. “It’s where we live and getting it built. That’s why it’s not done yet.”
A septic tank with a lateral line drainage system is preferred, according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Lateral lines remove waste while allowing water to drain into the ground through filters attached to the laterally buried pipes.
When conditions are not suitable — for example, if soil doesn’t drain well or has high clay content — a lagoon may be a better option.
Clay wasn’t an issue for the Kirkpatricks, but the soil increased how difficult the ordeal was, Lori said.
“It’s a nuisance because we live on solid rock,” she said. “There was a rock quarry just east half a mile. All those big rocks you see, we have to pick them up and throw in the back of a truck. That’s a nuisance.”
Rural Peabody resident Lewis Unruh grew up with a lateral line septic tank, but his father switched to a sewer lagoon midway through Unruh’s childhood.
While factors like flooding can be concerns for those in low-lying areas, Unruh isn’t worried about it now.
“It’s not an issue for us because we’re way up on a hill,” he said.
Figuring out which government department to contact regarding lagoons is another matter. Whether it’s a question for county planning and zoning, KDHE, or a municipality can depend on where a person lives and what a sewer lagoon’s function is.
Lagoons that discharge less than 2,500 gallons of wastewater per day are under the jurisdiction of local governments, according to KDHE. Those with more discharge need permits from KDHE.
“Planning and zoning, maybe they are the ones who would do it here,” Unruh said. “I don’t know. The zoning laws could be one reason why you have to have a certain size.”
The Kirkpatricks’ sewer pond had limited enough use that the permit process could be done through county planning and zoning, but additional stipulations existed because the family received a grant through National Resources Conservation Service, Duane said.
“You have to jump over all the hurdles to see if you qualify for the grant money,” he said.
Last modified Aug. 6, 2020