Lakes-area septic repair/replace program seeing

Aug 16, 2021

When an aging septic tank, located at a residence in Grand Lake’s Ketchum Cove, was replaced with a tie-in to the local municipal sewer system recently, it marked a milestone in an ongoing effort to improve the water quality in the Grand River Watershed.

The owner of that property was the first to take advantage of grant dollars set aside to repair or replace aging septic systems in the watershed, as part of a partnership between the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA), Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ). GRDA is managing the effort in the lakes area, with technical assistance from ODEQ and funding from a program already established by the OCC and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB). Program managers expect to work with 10 to 15 homeowners each year, to identify and address aging septic systems that can be harmful to water quality.

Bacteria, in particular E. coli, is a problem in several of the streams that feed both Grand and Hudson lakes and while bacteria come from a variety of sources, such as cattle, wildlife, waterfowl, domestic pets and leaking septic tanks, improvement in septic systems has been identified as a key element in reducing both bacteria and excess nutrients in the water.

Replacing this first aging septic tank with a connection to the sewer system is a positive step for the program which intends to replicate this moment at other properties around the waters of Grand and Hudson lakes.

“This program is to help area homeowners address a problem that they may not realize affects the water quality of our lakes,” said GRDA’s Jeri Fleming, who serves as coordinator for the program. “We all affect water quality, so we all have to be part of the solution.”

Even as this positive step is taking place on Grand Lake, GRDA is also working with the Town of Salina, on the shores of Lake Hudson, to grant an easement that will allow the Spring Cove neighborhood to connect to the town’s lagoon system. In doing so, another aging septic tank, located near the water’s edge, is being replaced. At its August 12 meeting, the GRDA Board of Directors approved the easement, so the new sewer line can cross GRDA property south of Salina.

“Protecting our water resources for current users and generations to come is a prime focus for GRDA,” said GRDA President/Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan. “Reducing harmful impacts to our water resources today will have beneficial impacts for years to come.”

GRDA is in the process of updating the application for acceptance into the program and interested residents can email Fleming at for more information on the program or other GRDA initiatives, including its Guard the Grand Watershed Conservation Program. Established in 2020, that program’s goal is to educate area residents on issues surrounding the watershed and how they can play a role in helping to improve area water quality. Citizens that become involved by attending workshops, installing a best management practice, or changing lawn care practices area recognized as “Guardians of the Grand.”

 The Grand Lake watershed is large and diverse. It covers more than 12,000 square miles of land beginning in Kansas and includes land in three other states: Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Because of the size and diversity of use within the watershed, it is often a challenge to implement practices that can help improve the water quality. However, starting small, even with one septic system, can eventually make a big impact.

GRDA is Oklahoma’s largest public power utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees, and efficiency.