By: Hailey Gorman, Northern Community Facilitator August 7th, 2018
Sheila Craig has been the driving force behind numerous community sewage projects in Southeast Minnesota for fifteen years. Craig uses her University of Minnesota Extension Educator background to bring communities together and solve septic issues. Noncompliant septic systems are common in older, often rural, communities not connected to municipal systems. They are so common that since 2003 more than 20 projects have been completed with Craig’s assistance. Each project is unique because every community is different. Craig believes “Our goal is to work with the residents so they’re not just being told what the options are. We try to bring them information so they can help select the best option.”
Community solutions have varied from arranging annexation of rural properties to nearby municipal systems, to building shared wastewater treatment systems. Craig does more than facilitate discussion on how solutions can be made, she also helps communities secure grant aid to make installing new systems more affordable. Despite all of the projects Craig has been a part of, there is more work to be done. The Southeast Minnesota Wastewater Initiative has 14 other projects currently underway, one being the Sunset Bay neighborhood in Oronoco Township. This will be the third project Craig and the township have come together on to improve water quality along the Zumbro River and Lake Zumbro. Craig has left a lasting impact on the communities she has served, and the water quality she has improved through her efforts.