The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 17, 2013

Official: Grants could solve septic tank failures near river

By Susan Redden

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Jasper County is offering grants to help rural homeowners reduce the amount of septic tank waste flowing into Spring River.

The grants, to be made available to landowners in the Spring River watershed, can pay up to half the costs for septic tank pumping and repair, according to Tony Moehr, director of the Jasper County Health Department.

More than $500,000 is available in federal grant funds and local matching funds for projects in the watershed area. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has designated segments of the river as impaired because of high levels of bacteria in the water. Health department officials and others are working on a watershed management plan aimed at reducing those problems, Moehr said.

“The grant funds are for a number of projects we’ve planned,” he said. “We think this one will really have an impact, because if people’s septic systems are not working properly, that runoff ends up in the river.”

Under the program, grants will pay up to $125 of costs for a homeowner in the target area to pump out a septic tank, and up to $3,000 if the septic system needs to be replaced. The help is available for homeowners in the state-designated watershed area along Spring River between County Road 90 and County Road 200.

“We get calls from people all the time who have failing systems and they don’t have the money to fix them,” Moehr said. “This should help.”

Moehr said the duration of a septic system depends on maintenance, particularly the periodic pumping of the septic tank.

“Without that, solids build up to a point they start flowing into the lateral field, it gets plugged up, then the entire system is ruined,” he said. “But if you maintain it, you can save money in the long run.”

Homeowners who sign up for the program will select from three septic pumping businesses that have agreed to participate. The selected company will bill the homeowner for half the pumping cost, with the other half of the bill going to the county.

“If it needs to be replaced, we’ll ask them to get bids, and recommendations on what should be done, and then we’ll work with the property owner to select the lowest or best bid,” Moehr said.

Grant funds are expected to pay half the costs of about 300 maintenance projects and 36 replacement projects, he said. A map showing the watershed area where the grant funding will be available is on the health department’s website,

Information is available by calling the health department at 358-0481.

More projects

GRANT FUNDS also will pay for some demonstration programs and educational projects to show residents what they can do to help improve the quality of water in Spring River and other local streams.