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Something Stinks in Swan Valley

Swan Valley's Designer $7000 Septic System By Daryl L. Hunter (2003)

Something is stinking in Swan Valley could it be the new and expensive septic system law, or maybe just the septic system itself. The Rainey Creek Store has one of these fancy systems go check it out on a hot summer day. You will probably want to eat your ice cream cone inside.

At the 10-11-1999 Swan Valley city council meeting septic system installer/Swan Valley councilman (not named because now deceased) made a motion to pass sewer ordinance #32. retired Septic System installer Dennis Bitton seconded the motion and the motion passed. While investigating how this ordinance came to be around 6-2003 The now decased septic installer told me he didn't vote on it as it would be a conflict of interest. The question is, does a motion to pass constitute a vote when you are friends with all on the council?

The Swan Valley city council has mandated a septic system standard that greatly exceeds the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality standard. There should have been a public forum and vote at a general election about something that can cost each household thousands of needless dollars as tax issues are are voted on.

This is a beautiful valley and many wealthy people are moving here and don't bat an eye at the extra $4,500 dollar expense of the new higher standard system. The problem is that there are still a lot of blue-collar people here and the extra needless $4,500 dollar expenditure hurts the pocket immensely.

Of course us unfortunate blue-collar folk can finance the $4,500 over 30 years to remove some of the sting so our monthly penalty for pooping where the rich people do is only $26.98 dollars a month. But that does mean that our $4,500 over-engineering charge now has a real cost of $9,712 when financed at 6% a year. Our kids probably couldn't have gone to college anyway.

Swan Valley's 2.5-acre building lot minimum will avoid any sewage/groundwater problems except for where the ground water is excessively high and Idaho State DEQ laws address those problems already. A percolation test should be the deciding factor for septic system standard not an across the board smack in the wallet for everyone because their neighbor down yonder has a high water table.

If you live within the confines of Swan Valley city limits and you need a septic system and you don't want to reward the guy that legislated your business and cost you several thousand dollars I recommend Jerry Allen of Water Treatment Solutions who I had do mine. Not only does he get his business the old fashion way, his Nayadic Advanced Aerobic Treatment Systems doesn't stink up the place like the Swan Valley councilman's Whitewater Treatment System does, (i.e. Rainey Creek Store).

There are parts of Swan Valley that need the higher tech system, much of Swan Valley does not.  City Center at Rainy Creek store has a four foot water table, the south side of Swan Valley where Chapel of the Valley is has a 15 foot water table and all a

(2017) Well Jerry doesn't install them any longer so I recommend getting ahold of the county and talk to "ALL" the approved instalers and get several bids because I just heard a horror story that one installer now wants $15,000 for this system.

Caveat Emptor (Let the buyer beware)

I don't know if the $7000  (? $15,000?) Designer Septic System would be a full disclosure item for real estate agents but consider yourself duly notified by me that where there is one bogus self-serving law there may be more. So if you don't like unpleasant surprises and you are thinking about buying real estate in Swan Valley Idaho, don't do it. Irwin is right up the road and will be a better choice for you.

Sources of Nitrogen in the Upper Snake River Basin (Source) The US Geological Survey

According to M.G. Rupert's (1996) estimated the amount of total nitrogen input by cattle manure, fertilizer, legume crops (such as alfalfa and beans), precipitation, and domestic septic systems for counties in the upper Snake River Basin, eastern Idaho and western Wyoming. The estimates were used to rank the input of nitrogen by source and determine the amount of total nitrogen potentially available to ground and surface water through leaching and runoff. Results showed that about 45 percent of the input was from fertilizers, 29 percent from cattle manure, 19 percent from legume crops, 6 percent from precipitation, and less than 1 percent from domestic septic systems. Input from cattle manure, fertilizers, and legume crops varied widely among counties, reflecting differences in land-use practices such as cropping patterns and numbers of dairies and feedlots. In the Henrys Fork Basin, Rupert indicated that fertilizers were the major source of nitrogen input. Manure and crops were secondary sources and precipitation and domestic septic systems were minor sources of nitrogen input.

A hypothetical exercise using today's scientific Nitrate numbers for the Upper Snake River Drainage

The United States Geological Service results show that in our area about 45 percent of the nitrite input into the groundwater was from fertilizers, 29 percent from cattle manure, 19 percent from legume crops, 6 percent from precipitation, and less than 1 percent from domestic septic systems.

Logically if we estimated that in 20 years that our valleys population increased by a factor of 20 (20,000 people) which is unlikely we could safely assume that septic system nitrate levels would also increase by a factor of 20.

Today's nitrate level in my well is 2.15 milligrams per Liter. The Maximum Contaminant Level for Nitrate is 10 milligrams per Liter as established by the EPA and the State of Idaho for public water supplies. Of that 2.15% of Nitrates 1% (.0215 mg/L) was caused by septic systems. If we multiply this by a factor of 20 we would increase septic system Nitrate contribution form .0215 mg/L to .43 mg/L.

Of course if Swan Valleys population soared to 20,000 people logically you would have to assume that agriculture 93% of Nitrate contamination (1.9995 mg/L) would have to drop by half to .99975 mg/L as homes would displace much of agriculture.

So hypothetically if you added the increased septic Nitrate contamination by a factor of 20 (.43 mg/L) and you subtracted agriculture's nitrate contribution by half to .99975 mg/L then you added the new total of septic contamination to agriculture's new contamination and as precipitation wouldn't be effected by either factor it would remain the same as present (.129 mg/L). The new total Nitrate level would be 1.55875 mg/L. This results in a .59125 mg/L decrease from the present level.

Next lets hypothetically figure an illogical, liberal, Chicken Little, Tree Hugger, Eco-tally-ban like scenario where the population of Swan Valley increases by a factor of 20 (unlikely) and agriculture also increases by a factor of 2 (impossible) the numbers would stack up like this.

Nitrates from agriculture would be 3.9995 mg/L, Nitrates from septic systems would be .43 mg/L and if precipitation remained constant its contribution would be .129 mg/L for a grand total of 4.5585 milligrams per Liter.

Considering the 10 milligrams per Liter allowable by the Environmental Protection Agency we would still be about 55% below the allowable level if in fiction, Chicken Little's sky were falling.


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