Monday, September 24, 2007

Le Leach Field League of Lowell

The Saber Heights subdivision in Lowell has 85 homes using septic tanks and was built on dense, clay-like soil that doesn’t drain well. The Arkansas Department of Health warned the developer in 1991 and 1996 that soil profiles and percolation tests indicated that there would be serious problems with septic systems on the lots and dual absorption field systems would be required. No one paid much attention.

Now residents are complaining that raw sewage collects in puddles in their yard or backs up into their homes. The odor is nauseating. There’s enough organic material there for viruses to survive, and residents worry about bacterial infections carried by the hordes of flies and mosquitoes. They want the City of Lowell to pony up and provide them with free connections to the municipal sewer lines that run within 300 feet of the subdivision.

The City of Lowell has no water or sewer impact fees and uses the systems in Springdale and Rogers. One resident was told it would cost $20,000 to establish a connection, and the cost for connecting the subdivision would be about $2 million. Mayor Perry Long says tough, it’s their problem, not the city’s fault that the developer left them with the problem, so they can fix it or endure the consequences. The city took a pass on a low-interest, 20-year loan from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission for sewer projects.

Mayor Long says the city will spend its money on “economic development” and run lines somewhere else and hope to get some money in return. More development on I-540; that’s the ticket. Lowell officials must think that companies will surely rush to build in a "business friendly" community that ignores raw sewage and encourages growth, especially if it can make residents pay higher rates to subsidize the cost of water and sewer for industrial customers like Fayetteville does.

Apparently no one has considered requiring the developer to fix the problems, and Richard Massey’s article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette doesn’t even mention the name of the developer who built the homes on a field of clay or those who approved the project. It is politically unwise to question unbridled growth or to ask developers to pay for the costs of sprawl.

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