Archived Story

Cass County approves construction in Ontwa Twp.

Published 8:00am Thursday, March 13, 2014

Residents of Ontwa Township moved one step closer to securing independence for their sewage needs following the Cass County Board of Commissioners approval for construction of a new wastewater treatment plant near Garver Lake last week.

The project was recently given the go-ahead by the township as well, said Ontwa Township Supervisor John Brielmaier.

Much of the preliminary work has been completed by Wightman & Associates, an engineering firm based out of Benton Harbor, who completed a federal loan application for the project last spring.

Engineers with firm estimate that the project will cost around $7.6 million, with a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program covering the costs. At the moment, the township is awaiting approval for a discharge permit for the plant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said Thomas Deneau, president of the engineering firm.

“Approval usually takes three to six months,” Deneau said. “During that time we will begin initial design work for the plant.”

The Ontwa treatment plant will be designed much like the plant Wightman & Associates helped build in Marcellus a few years ago, Deneau said. The Marcellus location has additional filtration systems to purify discharge from the plant due to the fact it runs into a trout creek. Deneau anticipates a similar process will be needed for the Ontwa plant as well, he said.

“We’re anticipating stringent discharge requirements from the MDEQ,” Deneau said.

At the moment, the area’s wastewater is processed in Elkhart, who charges $36 a month to residents for sewage. A few months ago, rates were increased by 7 percent, Supervisor Brielmaier said, adding that Elkhart will likely increase the sewage rates by another 12 percent next year.

“We’ve heard that won’t be the last hike either,” he said.

While the township had considered building its own wastewater plant for a number of years, the growing cost of outsourcing the service played a major role pushing the idea forward.

“It’s just time for us to do something,” Brielmaier said. “If you have a service someone else is providing you, and you know that the rates will go up, wouldn’t you want to do something about it?”

Controlling its own water treatment facility would give the township freedom to set its own service rates, Brielmaier said.

“The way its been presented to us by Wightman & Associates, by the time we get the plant built we can hold the rate steady,” he said. “We may even be able to lower it.”

Pending further regulatory approval, construction on the new plant may take place as soon as summer of next year, with the plant opening for operation in 2016, Brielmaier said.

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