For Wright County residents who have failing or non-compliant septic systems, there is an affordable option for them to find the assistance they need through a low-interest septic system loan program administered by the county through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Clean Water Partnership.
Because of the expense of upgrading or replacing a failing septic system – many are in excess of $20,000 – Wright County Environmental Health Officer Bill Stephens explained that the system allows homeowners to get the loan money up front and pay it back over time.
The MPCA loan program awarded Wright County $500,000 over the next three years, which Stephens estimated would allow 30 residents with failing/non-compliant septic systems to get the upgrades they need.
“It’s a program that we started nine years ago with the Crow River Organization of Water, who worked with the entire watershed,” Stephens said. “We got into it simply because it’s a low-interest loan program that can up front the cost for design and installation of their septic system upgrades. This is for systems that are failing or non-compliant, not because someone wants to put an addition on their house.”
Stephens said the payback of the loans is done over a 10-year period – making the program not only much more affordable for families that don’t have thousands of dollars to pay the upfront cost, but also gets more failing septic systems back in compliance – which helps the environment in that area.
“That money goes on their property tax as a special assessment over a 10-year period,” Stephens said. “They pay it back incrementally to the county, who pays back the state. We don’t actually hold the money at the county level. The PCA holds the money.”
In the nine years the CROW, which disbanded Jan. 1, 2020, administered the program, Wright County utilized $1.5 million in the program and upgraded 109 septic systems in that period. The county averaged utilization of approximately $165,000 a year, which is why it requested $500,000 in funding over three years. If the county expends its entire allocation, it can request more funding through the program if the need is demonstrated.
Stephens said it took collaboration between several county departments to take over the loan program from the CROW. Board Chair Christine Husom commended the county employees for picking up the ball on the program. Having recently had to install a septic system in a home she moved into, Husom knows full well the cost considerations needed for such an endeavor.
“It’s great to see programs like this,” Husom said. “We recently had to put in a septic system and they’re not cheap. To give the option for people that they can extend (payments) over 10 years is very nice.”
For those interested in learning more about the program, contact Stephens at (763) 682-7331.