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2010-02-03 / Front Page

DEQ tosses back sewer plans

by TOM DRIVER reporter

WORTH TWP. - The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has rejected an engineering report and a preliminary basis of design for wastewater collection submitted by Worth Township.

The DEQ noted several items that need to be addressed before the engineering report and design can be approved. The township engineer, during a special township meeting on Jan 6, said a couple of the items were real “zingers” and that the DEQ is requiring information typically found in a final design – not a preliminary design like the township was required to submit.

The final design for the court mandated wastewater collection system isn’t due until June 1, but the DEQ wants details such as collection pipe diameter, pump capacity, and waste processing figures within 30 days of the Jan 4 letter or face a penalty.

Richard Grant, an engineer from Fleis & Vandenbrink, said a couple of the requests were absurd and one flat out wrong.

Grant said more information will be submitted by the early February deadline but they won’t know the exact pump or sewer pipe sizes for a couple months. “We’re still in the preliminary stages and no where near a final design they are requesting,” said Grant.

Meanwhile, the township is appealing an Ingham County Circuit Court decision requiring them to correct illegal sewer discharge within a service area. A court of appeals date has been set for March 9 in Ingham County at 10 a.m.

However, even if the township wins the appeal, they will still move forward on the sewer collection project. “ I don’t think we could stop this project,” said Clerk Marcy Bartniczak. “We won’t be able to turn back.”

Board members met with the Sanilac County Department of Public Works and the Board of Commissioners Jan 26 to discuss getting the wastewater project financed through the county under Department of Public Works Act 185. The project cost is estimated at $33 million.The township hopes to acquire $13 million in grants while the other $20 million is financed in bonds issued by the county. Commissioners adopted a resolution of intent to issue the bonds, which would be paid off with a special assessment in the service area.

In another “zinger”, the DEQ requested information on cleaning contaminated soil. They contend contaminated soil was discovered in the past decade when water lines were placed within the township. They have not supplied any study proving this but are giving the board thirty days to budget for the costly removal of the soil.

“There is a level of absurdity here,” Grant said. “I’ve never seen this request before and I’ve been in this business a lot of years.” Grant proposed drying the soils to kill the fecal coliform. He recommends taking the soil to a fill location while replacement soil will be backfilled when installing the sewer pipes. They will also ask if the DEQ has studies showing where the contaminated soil is located.

In another item, the DEQ said the township has not addressed the location for a centralized wastewater treatment system that is not within a 100 year flood plain or wetland.

“This is false,” Grant said. “We’ve been working for the past month and a half on finding a site.” The board held a closed session after the meeting to discuss acquiring land for the treatment plant.

The DEQ also wanted statements removed from the report claiming they did not test for human and nonhuman contamination. Grant said it’s important to differentiate the two. The wastewater project will only address human waste not nonhuman waste such as duck or geese.

In a Jan 21 regular meeting, the board:

*Changed the date of regular meetings from the third Thursday of each month to the third Wednesday of every month starting Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. They will also hold a special meeting Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss fire and ambulance contracts.

*Heard Don Hunt, the Sanilac County Board Commissioner representing Worth Township, explain why he supports a three-quarters percent pay raise. He said the county is financially sound because union and elected officials have worked together and made concessions. The county has a $4 million delinquent tax fund, a triple A credit rating and 12% contingency fund on a $12.3 million budget.

For instance, last year the county saved $549 thousand dollars in health care concessions. Reduced court appointed attorney fees was another example Hunt discussed. The county changed the invoicing from billable hours to a flat rate and paid just $71,000 in 2009. The county paid $250,000 in 2006.

“These are things the public needs to be aware of,” Hunt said. Last year, the union received a three-quarters percent raise and Hunt feels the 49 appointed and elected officials should also receive a raise. The amount is equal to just $245 a year for each member.

“It’ s not the money, it’s the principle,” said Hunt. “We needed to work together and in 2005, we said we’re all serving the public and whatever one person gets the other should get.” The raise has so far been denied.

*Adopted a fifteen page General Ordinance Code that took three years to implement. It was noted the process took so long because codification took a year and a half and previous administrations presented roadblocks. The planning commission was also accused of not managing their time properly.

*Extended the Metropolitan Extension Telecommnication Rights-of-Way Oversight Act for another two years.The act requires all providers apply for and obtain a permit from every municipality for access to and use of a public right-of-way.The township receives about $2,000 a year.

*Approved paying Aerocon $38,680 to map aerial shots of the wastewater service area and Fleis & Vandenbrink $7,100 to do a ground control.The results will be available in 4 to 6 weeks.

*Decided to switch banks from Citizens First of Port Huron to Eastern Michigan. The board felt it risky to keep their accounts with over $2.5 million in the bank. Citizen’s First has recently had financial problems.

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