Fountain Lake Restoration Project
Boosting Efforts to Improve Water Quality, Recreation, and Fish Habitat
The City of Albert Lea and the Shell Rock River Watershed District (SRRWD) are partnering to request $7.5 million in state funding for the dredging of Fountain Lake in Albert Lea. By dredging the accumulated sediment, we seek to improve Fountain Lake’s water quality, fishery, and recreational opportunities.
Fountain Lake and its three bays—Bancroft, Danes, and Edgewater—are central to the City of Albert Lea’s tourism industry and identity. The 555-acre lake, with its adjacent parks, is a popular summertime destination for boating, swimming, water skiing, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.
Fountain Lake has a tributary watershed of approximately 63,000 acres, which consists primarily of agricultural land.
Runoff from the upstream watershed includes sediment and pollutants such as phosphorous, which are conveyed to the lake through streams, ditches, and storm sewer pipes. Historically, large deposits of sediment and phosphorus in the lake have hampered the lake’s water quality.
Water Quality Concerns in Fountain Lake
Over the past 10 years, the summer-average water clarity in Fountain Lake has been only 1.5 feet—well below the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) standard (see graphic at right). And in 2008, the lake was included on Minnesota’s impaired waters list. As a result, the SRRWD has been partnering with the MPCA on a Total Maximum Daily Load study to determine pollution-reduction strategies necessary to help the lake meet state water quality standards.
The SRRWD and its partners have been proactive in their efforts to improve water quality in Fountain Lake. In addition to stabilizing upstream creeks, repairing failing septic systems, and managing populations of rough fish in upstream lakes, the partners have actively promoted agricultural practices that support conservation efforts. While these recent measures have helped, overall phosphorous levels remain high.
Section 206 Freeborn County Ecosystem Restoration - Albert Lea Lake
August 30, 2011 - Public Meeting Video
Powerpoint from Public Meeting
Because all water starts right here in the watershed, it’s important to better control storm water and manage land practices to improve water quality in local lakes and streams. It’s also important to send cleaner water downstream. What happens here affects water quality downstream through Iowa, all the way to the Mississippi, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.
The District employs a full-time conservation technician at the Farm Service Agency to help ag land owners qualify for federal and state farm programs to implement filter strips, water ways, wetland reclamation and other projects.
The District also offers a Cost-Share program to repair gullies and other problems.
For information on the above programs, call Jared Stricker, 507-377-5786 for more information.
The District works with developers and contractors to better control sediment on construction sites.
And the District also offers several educational programs to local schools and residents.
County Starts Loan Program For Sewage System Replacement
The Freeborn County Board recently approved a new loan program to help finance repair or replacement of failing septic systems within the county. Because an on-site sewer system can cost $10,000 or more, replacement can be a financial burden for rural residents.
Under the loan program, property owners may borrow the total cost of designing and installing an on-site system, at a 7% interest rate, and pay it back through property tax assessments over 12 years or less.
Should YOU be concerned?
- Do you know what kind of sewage treatment system you have?
- Has your septic tank been pumped in the last 5 years?
- Do you have a copy of your sewer system permit?
- Do you have a maintenance guide for your sewer system?
If you answered “no” to any question, be concerned.
How Failing Sewer Systems Affect Water
How failing sewer systems affect water
Here is how a rural sewer system can contaminate drinking water and surface waters (streams and lakes):
- The system lacks a drainfield to filter wastewater, and instead discharges wastewater directly to a field drainage tile, drainage ditch, roadside ditch or lake.
- The sewer system is malfunctioning.
- The tank is full and needs to be pumped, meaning solids are being discharged to the drainfield, which can then be plugged by solids.
- The drainfield is plugged, sending wastewater directly to aquifers for drinking water, ditches or surface waters.
- Instead of a properly designed system, the home or business is using a concrete block tank (cesspool) without a solid bottom and/or perforated sidewalls. These tanks discharge wastewater with no treatment and are illegal in Minnesota.
Approximately 4,000 homes in Freeborn County use on-site sewer systems:
- The impact of failing systems is immense to drinking water and surface waters.
- Exposure to sewage can cause illness and disease because sewage contains bacteria, viruses, parasites, and chemicals harmful to humans.
- Sewage also contains phosphorus, which fuels algae blooms in local lakes.
Diagram of a mound system showing all the components of an ISTS in compliance with state law.
(Graphic from the Minnesota Extension Service.)