Residents say proposed sewer system stinks.

April 17, 2019

Residents say proposed sewer system stinks.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

GOLDEN TOWNSHIP – A proposed $23.8 million public sewer project being developed by township officials to protect Silver Lake from contamination is drawing strong opposition from residents in the summer tourist community.

The plan is to construct a new sanitary sewer system to replace on-site septic systems for homes and businesses around the lake.

The $23.8 million sewer system would include underground pipes, updated septic tank effluent pump (STEP) systems for each piece of property in the service district, and a wastewater treatment facility. The township may also install settling lagoons.

Construction could begin in 2020 and is slated for completion by 2021, according to a preliminary engineering report drafted by Fleis & Vandenbrink, an engineering firm hired by Golden Township to coordinate the project.

The township began exploring a new sewer system in 2017 to decrease excessive algae blooms and improve poor water quality in Silver Lake. Officials claim that the use of individual septic tanks exacerbated both issues due to “nutrient loading” – the harmful introduction of nutrients into an ecosystem via industrial or wastewater runoff.

“All sanitary waste around Silver Lake is discharged to onsite treatment systems, composed of septic tanks with drain fields, and many have aged beyond their design life,” states the Golden Township website. “Proper maintenance and/or system replacement is more difficult due to high water tables and limited available land. Due to the close proximity of the septic systems to the lake, high ground water table and highly permeable soils, nutrient loading into the lake has been an ongoing problem. Numerous studies have recommended a centralized sanitary sewer system to solve this problem. With increased growth will come increased nutrient loading to the detriment of the Silver Lake water quality. The need for a centralized collection and treatment system is great.”

– OCP file photo of Silver Lake.

Several of the 600 residents living around the lake are against the project and have placed signs around the community. The signs simply say “SEWER” with a red circle and slash through the word and an octagonal stop sign shape in the background.

Opponents say water quality is an ongoing problem, citing a recent study that shows the algae blooms are starting to dissipate and that water quality improved in 2018. Several people oppose the project due to the cost and say other less expensive options exist. Some residents have stated that septage runoff isn’t the problem, and poor lake management is the issue.

The township was approved for a $23.8 million US Department of Agriculture loan to pay for the project pending a decision from the board to go ahead with the project.

The residential assessment for the project is approximately $850 per year with a user charge of $30 per month, states Golden Township’s website. The commercial assessment is approximately $360 per year with the $30 user charge.

Approximately 1,000 people attended a public meeting to discuss the project Saturday, April 13, at Grace Adventures on Ridge Road. The meeting, which included township officials, engineering experts, an academic expert and health department officials, spanned four and a half hours.

The township on Monday, April 15, mailed out 1,100 letters addressed to property owners, asking for feedback about the project, said township Supervisor Carl Fuehring. “The township has to ensure that every property owner in the district has one ‘say’ per property,” Fuehring said. So, residents owning multiple properties have multiple votes.

The results of the feedback will be reviewed at the next township board meeting, May 14, at 7:30 p.m. The township is expected to vote on the project at the following meeting, June 11, Fuehring said. “That will give the board one month to deliberate.”

Residents have formed the Silver Lake Dunes Area Property Owners group on Facebook. The group of 1,200, is collecting donations to retain an attorney if the township decides to go ahead with the project.

Upper Silver Lake could ultimately be connected to the new sewer system during the second phase of the sewer project.

The township has met with the USDA – Rural Development and gathered information on grant programs that are available to help low and fixed-income residents.

In addition to Fuehring, the five-member township board includes Clerk Rachel Iteen, Treasurer Connie Cargill, Trustee Dick Walsworth and Trustee Gary Beggs. Their five votes will ultimately determine the sewer system’s fate.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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