During any time of the year, Whitefish Lake is a beautiful sight to see. But there's a problem. Researchers linked septic waste in the lake to houses, both along the shore and further away.
"We know that septics generally last around 25 years in good soil conditions, and here in Whitefish around Whitefish Lake, we've documented that we have poor septic suitability ratings for the soil here," said Mike Koopla, the executive director at Whitefish Lake Institute.
In 2011, Koopla's Whitefish Lake Institute tested waters for septic contamination. He says the results confirmed septic waste in the water. He thinks he knows where it's coming from.
But the city council put off any fix until next year, and Koopla wonders if that's too long.
"Whitefish Lake is still safe to swim in, at this point we're concerned that if the situation worsens, there could be potential public health risks from contact exposure," says Koopla.
"It's certainly a complex problem with no easy solution," says Mayor John Muhlfeld.
Fixing this problem is costly. That's where city leaders come in. In the next year, the city plans to work with homeowners. After all, fixing septic systems or hooking in to the city's sewer system will be expensive.
No one will talk dollars with us. They say it's too soon to tell how much it will cost.
"We are pursuing various planning grants and Treasure State endowment opportunities, not only to extend services to high priority areas but help home owners to voluntarily hook up to the city system," says Koopla.
He has been studying the problem since 2005. He'll tell you people are worried, but no one has a quick solution to protect one of the Flathead's jewels.