Lee County is taking legal action to try to stop the polluting of Chatfield Lake. County Attorney Mike Short filed a lawsuit Friday morning against Richard and Wilma Moore of Keokuk. The Moores own three homes along Lake Road in the unincorporated town of Mooar.
The lawsuit states that the three homes do not have approved onsite sewage systems.
“The defendants have a duty under [Iowa Code] 455B.172 and Lee County Ordinance V-2 to install and maintain an onsite sewage system within the parameters of law,” wrote Short. “The lack of an onsite sewage system causes each of the residence to discharge untreated sewage into a ravine, which then runs to Chatfield Lake.”
The lake is owned by the Lee County Conservation Department, which operates it as a public park. The department does not allow swimming in the lake and people are cautioned about eating fish caught there because of high levels of E. coli in the lake and the nearby ravine.
The cause is believed to be the sewer run-off from homes in the Mooar/Powdertown area that do not have adequate septic systems.
“The defendants have contributed to contaminating Chatfield Lake beyond limits acceptable to the Iowa DNR,” wrote Short.
The lawsuit seeks to prohibit anyone from living in the three homes until a solution is reached and to fine the owners for failing to comply with state and county code.
“We are going to get a pattern here,” said Short in an interview with Tri States Public Radio. “At some point, the handwriting is going to be on the wall and people are going to say, ‘If we don’t do this, they can get injunctions, they can fine us on a daily basis. Maybe it’s just easier to come into compliance.’”
The county sent a formal letter last fall to the property owners in the Mooar/Powdertown area, informing them that they would need to prove they had an adequate septic system or start working to install one.
Short said the Moores were among a handful of people who did not reply. He said more lawsuits are possible.