Residents question septic at lake
Two Jim Thorpe residents approached the Carbon County Commissioners regarding a proposed change to on-lot septic systems near Mauch Chunk Lake.
On Thursday, John McGuire and Louis Hall spoke to the board about Jim Thorpe’s current consideration of changing the buffer for on site septic systems from 1/2 mile from the lake to 1,000 feet.
Hall cited several areas where such a small buffer has caused problems with lake systems, closing them due to contamination.
“Mauch Chunk Watershed would inevitably suffer the same fate and would affect more than just the immediate residents,” Hall said. “How do you recent cabins, campsites and short-term rentals in an area with a polluted lake? Who would fish in a polluted lake?
“This would have a ripple effect on the entire business community.”
Hall said that he spoke with 130 residents at the recent Heritage Festival at Mauch Chunk Lake Park and surveyed them on the matter.
He reported that 121 residents said they were not in favor of changing the buffer zone to 1,000 feet.
“The lake is an asset for the entire county,” Hall said before asking the commissioners to get involved to help protect the lake, which the county owns.
McGuire said that there are several cases where too small of buffer zones has caused pollution in lakes.
This would also cause problems for the borough because part of the town uses water from Mauch Chunk as its water supply.
McGuire and Hall are also members of the Jim Thorpe Planning Commission, and two members of the board who have been vocal against the proposal.
McGuire said that if the change is allowed for the developer that started this process of changing the buffer zone, it could potentially ruin a natural resource that Carbon County has had for decades.
The pair asked that a representative from the commissioners attend the borough’s next planning commission meeting, held at 6:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month at Memorial Hall.
“We’re looking to protect this most valuable asset,” McGuire said.
The commissioners agreed with the pair.
Commissioner Chris Lukasevich, who has been vocal about the proposed change, said that having a septic system so close to the lake “is a threat to a high quality fishery,” which is one of the “highest valued man-made outdoor recreational activity areas in Carbon County.”
“We don’t want to see a municipality take unilateral action that’s going to impact an asset for 64,000 people plus the 10s of thousands of visitors we have every year,” Lukasevich said, adding that if the county had the funds, he would be in favor of friendly condemnation of the property in question.
The commissioners asked the pair to return in a few weeks to report on anything further in this matter.
Last month, Jim Thorpe Borough Council, in a 4-2 vote, authorized its solicitor to draw up a zoning amendment that would allow for a septic system on property near the lake.
The borough requires all properties within a half-mile of the lake to connect to public sewer, but the amendment would allow on-lot septic systems for properties 5 acres or larger that are at least 1,000 feet, but less than a half-mile, from Mauch Chunk Lake.
At that time, Hall and McGuire spoke out against the plan because it would harm the water quality of the lake.
The property in question is owned by Edward Kanick. His attorney said last month that it would cost Kanick upward of $500,000 to connect to a public sewer line based on the location of the property in conjunction to where a line is now.