Frequently Asked Questions
1Is the Clear Lake Sanitary District a branch of the city of Clear Lake or city of Ventura?
No, sanitary districts are not a branch of any city. They are formed under Chapter 358, Code of Iowa as a local government entity with taxing and bonding authority similar to cities, schools, etc. Sanitary districts have corporate boundaries just as cities and schools do. There are five publicly elected sanitary district trustees that oversee total operations as well as there are five publicly elected councilpersons that oversee total operations of their respective city and school boards.
2When was the Clear Lake Sanitary District formed and what are its responsibilities?
The Clear Lake Sanitary District was established in the early 1950s with the objective of eliminating septic systems that were polluting the lake. The sanitary district serves Clear Lake and Ventura residents as well as those residents situated on the south side of the lake in the unincorporated area. It was agreed to in the beginning that each city would be responsible for maintaining the sewer collection system that transports the sewage to one of the sanitary district's pump stations. It was also agreed that the sanitary district would operate and maintain the sewage collection system.
3What do I do if I want to annex my property into the district boundaries and connect to the sewer system?
Chapter 358 of the Code of Iowa stipulates that annexation into sanitary district boundaries is voluntary only and that any annexation petition must include the signatures of at least 25% of the valuation of property owners included on the petition. The annexation petition is prepared by the petitioner and submitted to the sanitary district trustees for approval. After the petition is approved, the homeowner must obtain a $50 connection permit from the sanitary district office and then hire an excavator that is bonded with the sanitary district.
4What causes the sewer system to become overloaded and possibly backup into homes and businesses?
Storm events that exert a large amount of precipitation can infiltrate into a sewage collection system and cause the system to become overloaded and possibly back-up into homes or businesses. A mechanical breakdown at a pump station can also create a back-up condition. Officials should avoid allowing rain-diluted or concentrated sewage from backing up into homes or businesses by pumping out of an overloaded sewage system and into a nearby drainage system. This procedure is based solely on the associated health risk of each choice. Sewage that backs up into a home or business is more concentrated and presents a higher health risk to those having to clean up as compared to pumping the sewage into a drainage system where further dilution of the sewage will minimize the health risks to everyone. Chances are that the homeowner has a sump pump discharging to a drainage system that will ultimately pump the backed-up sewage to the same outlet location that public workers designate but not before the destruction of private property and an increased health risk.
5Is the capacity of the new sewer system adequate to handle storm events?
The pumping capacity of each pump station was designed to accommodate the maximum amount of flow that the existing gravity sewer collection systems can contribute plus additional capacity for future growth. The problem during extreme storm events is that the collection system (gravity pipes) become overloaded with storm water and can cause a backup and/ or bypass to ocurr. In reality, a storm event that will test the new system will be an extreme event that occurs once every 100 or 150 years.
6Why didn¹t we just fix the leaky pipes instead of building the new pumping and treatment systems large enough to pump and treat the rainwater?
This option was considered. In fact, a study of the leaky system was completed and cost effective projects were implemented, but a very small portion of the leaks were fixed. The cost associated with fixing the leaks to a point that would have made a significant impact was approximately four times the cost to build the system that we did. Another important fact to consider is that approximately one half of the total sewer pipe length is represented by the pipes that connect from the house to the main sewer pipe in the street and this service pipe is owned by the property owner and is therefore the homeowners responsibility. Therefore, fixing the leaks in the main pipe would have only resolved approximately one half of the total leaks, but still cost approximately four times the cost that we did pay.
7If leaking sewer pipes allow ground water to infiltrate into them, do they allow sewage to ex-filtrate?
Although there is no scientific data to support any claim, it is estimated that ex-filtration through a typical leaking joint does not occur. This claim is based on the following: the sewer pipes are typically lower than the ground water table therefore, there should be a greater pressure into the pipe than out of the pipe, the laws of physics indicate that it is easier for sewage to flow through an open sewer pipe than it is for liquid to try to penetrate through a leaking joint and relatively impermeable soil.
8Please explain to me the different charges on my sewer bill.
A minimum monthly base rate of $11.26 representing the administration fee and a portion of the debt service fee is charged for each and every residence, apartment, condominium unit, cottage, commercial establishment, mobile home space, and seasonal trailer park or camp ground. A separate rate of $2.17 per 1,000 gallons of water/sewage used represents the operations, maintenance, and replacement fee, as well as a portion of the debt service fee. The sanitary district charges a sewer maintenance fee of $0.50 per 1,000 gallons to every customer in the unincorporated area for maintaining the sewer collection system that serves this area.
9I want to know why I get a blue colored bill and a green colored bill and each bill charges a sewer fee?
If you live inside city corporate limits you receive a blue bill. The blue colored bill is sent by the city of Clear Lake or Ventura and includes charges for water sold, possibly a garbage fee, and a sewer charge that is paid to maintain the sewer pipes that transport the sewage from your home or business to one of the sanitary district's pump stations. The green bill is sent by the sanitary district and includes charges to maintain the sewage pump stations and the sanitary district's treatment facility. Sanitary district customers living outside city corporate limits are charged a similar sewer maintenance fee by the sanitary district to maintain the sewage collection system serving that area.
10If the water is shut off to my house or if nobody is living in my house, why do I have to continue to pay the monthly base rate of $11.26?
The base rate of $11.26 must be paid regardless of vacancy or water valve status to ensure sufficient funds are available to pay the annual principal and interest on the debt. The only way that a base rate will not be charged is in the event a house is torn down or removed or it is deemed to be uninhabitable by the county health department.
11Why aren't the sewer bills mailed out by the first of each month so that I can pay it when I pay all of my other bills? The way it is set up now makes me forget about this bill and I end up having to pay the $5 late fee.
The mailing date of the district¹s 5,000 sewer bills each month is controlled by the date when the District graciously receives the water meter readings from the city of Clear Lake. After city personnel update their accounts and mail their water bills, the water meter information is passed on to the District which occurs the first of each month. It takes office personnel four to five working days to update all accounts and complete the bill printing process. By Ordinance, the bills have to be mailed on or before the 10th of each month and are due on or before the 25th of each month.
12Is there somewhere that I can drop off my sewer payment instead of having to mail it?
There are three drop off locations in Clear Lake and one in Ventura. The drop-off locations in Clear Lake are at Manufactures Bank and Trust, Clear Lake Bank and Trust, and city hall. In Ventura you can drop off your payment at Farmers State Bank. There is also a drop box outside the gate at the sanitary district office. Please note that cash payments are NOT excepted at any of the drop off locations.
13How can I sign up for automatic payment of my sewer bill?
To initiate automatic payment (auto-withdrawal) from a bank account, you must notify this office so that we can mail you a form to fill out, sign, and return to this office with a voided check. When the process is completed, you will continue to receive a sanitary district sewer bill each month showing the amount withdrawn on the 25th of that month. The sewer bill will indicate ³auto withdraw 25th-do not pay².
14Why does the District certify unpaid sewer bills as a lien on the property tax bill? Why don¹t you just shut the water valve off or plug the sewer service pipe?
The law states that water valves cannot be shut and/or locked for an unpaid sewer bill, only for unpaid water bills. Plugging the sewer service pipe for an unpaid sewer bill is illegal due to health issues. Therefore, the law clearly states that unpaid sewer bills are to be certified by sanitary districts as a lien against the property from which the bill was generated and not those who generated it.
15Where should my sump pump discharge?
Sump pumps should discharge to your lawn, street, or to a storm drain. A sump pump that discharges to the sanitary sewer is illegal and must be corrected. If homeowners are not sure of the legality of their sump pump connection, please call the sanitary district or your city's public works department and a representative will inspect your system free of charge and/or penalty.
16Is everyone around the lake connected to the public sewer system?
Every house situated on Clear Lake's shoreline is connected to the sewer system. There are approximately 90 septic systems within the Clear Lake watershed area and approximately one half of those are within one half mile of the lake. There are approximately five or six septic systems within 1,000 feet of the lake. There are approximately 10 homes within the cities of Ventura and Clear Lake that are not in the lake watershed are but utilize a septic system.
17Is the treated sewage discharged into the lake?
No, the treated sewage is either pumped to Interstate Power and Light's electric generation plant and used in the cooling water process and/or is discharged to a private drainage ditch that flows into Beaver Dam Creek and ultimately the Mississippi River.
18If I'm building a house, do I have to connect to the sewer system or can I install a septic tank?
The state law requires connection to the sanitary sewer system if any portion of your property, not structure, is within 300 feet of the public sewer system.
19What are the procedures for getting my home connected to the sanitary sewer system?
If you are building a new home inside the city limits you are required to obtain a building permit from city hall. Officials will provide you with connection details at that time, but you may want to check with those officials to find out the location and depth of the connection that you will make at the main sewer system so that your building elevations can be planned out. If you are building in the unincorporated area you must obtain a building permit from the county zoning department. This zoning permit must be reviewed and signed by the sanitary district administrator and the county public health department office. You must also obtain a $50 sewer-connection permit and a water meter from the sanitary district office. The cost of the water meter is $149.27. A licensed contractor who is bonded with the sanitary district must perform the actual work of connecting the sewer pipe to the sanitary sewer system and installing the water meter.