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Lee County to Take Legal Action to Stop Pollution of Lake

Nov 8, 2018

Lee County plans to file lawsuits against the owners of several properties near Chatfield Lake. The county said raw sewage runoff from homes contributed to high E. coli levels in the lake several years ago.

The county sent a letter in October 2016 to the owners of more than three dozen homes in the unincorporated community of Powdertown, which is located near the lake.

The property owners were told they had to either prove they had a proper septic system or install one at their own expense. The letters followed an unsuccessful attempt to build a community-wide sewer system.

The Lee County Health Department said the owners of 30 properties have either complied with the letter or are in the process of doing so. It said the owners of eight properties have either ignored the letter or refused to participate.

The county board this week said the county had given the non-compliant property owners enough time. Members said the county attorney should file injunctions against each non-compliant property owner before the end of the year, with a formal vote to do so expected Nov. 13.

“The other 30 people have done their job,” said County Board Chairman Don Hunold. “The law is the law. It’s time to tell them we are going to go on with this. Either get in line or we will see you in court. I don’t like to say it that way, but they have to obey the law like the rest of us.”

Hunold said the Iowa Department of Natural Resources could have fined the county for polluting the lake because Powdertown and the surrounding area is unincorporated. But he said the state agency knows the county is working to resolve the situation.

The idea of filing injunctions is not new to this situation.

The Lee County Health Department has already filed for temporary and permanent injunctions against a couple property owners near Chatfield Lake, threatening to ban them from their properties for non-compliance. The department said those property owners have since either installed septic systems or are in the process of doing so.

Hunold said just because the injunctions will be filed before the end of the year does not mean the work will need to be completed this winter. He said this will simply start the legal process and the property owners will have time to make arrangements to get the septic systems installed.