Archived Story

Residents voice displeasure with sewer plant plan

Published 12:19pm Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nick Donis, a Garver Lake resident of 25 years, told the Ontwa Township Board Monday night that he loves the lake, raised his family there and had one very simple question: “Why put a sewer here?”

Donis represented a group calling itself SORE, Save Our Resources and Environment.

“Our homes are here,” he said. “We are against the $8 million sewer plant. We don’t need it. I just learned about it three weeks ago. A lot of people didn’t know what was going on.”

The Ontwa Township board has been planning to build a $7.9 million township sewer plant in lieu of continuing to send sewage to the Elkhart treatment plant and to discharge treated water into Cobus Creek which originates on the south end of Garver Lake. The creek flows into the St. Joseph River south of Old US-20 on Elkhart’s west side.

Although the property owner of the 20-acre site was not revealed, it is located southwest of the pump station on the other side of Elkhart Road.

State Representative David Pagel, who attended the meeting, said he was in the area and didn’t know that the discussion was going to take place Monday night.

Donis said he visited the Porter Township plant and met with the Elkhart City engineer about sewage problems. Donis said he learned about the hydrogen sulfide and its odor. He also visited the sewer plant in Marcellus and said it looked like “detergent.”

He was also concerned about harming the wetlands, nature and wildlife.

Donis received cheers when he said, “It stinks.”

“We live with this hydrogen sulfide. It’s at the lift station,” he said in referring to the pump station on Elkhart Road.

He also mentioned that Elkhart sewer officials want to continue the contract to receive Ontwa Township’s sewage.

Several other residents voiced objections to the sewer plant proposal as did representatives from the Elkhart Conservation Club who showed concerned with the warm water discharge into Cobus Creek and its effect on trout, which thrive in cold water.

“We are gravely concerned about sending warm water into the creek,” resident John Harding said. “I am a member of the Elkhart Parks and Elkhart Conservation Club. It would take years to recoup.”

Several citizens had questions about permits and treatment that were answered by Engineer Thomas Deneau of Wightman and Associates of Benton Harbor. He said that a permit for the proposed sewer plant has been submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He said a decision is expected this week. Also, he said the hydrogen sulfide problems in the present system are being studied and hopefully eliminated.

Deneau also answered a question from William Becker who lives near the lift station about where the money will come from to pay for the plant. Deneau said the money comes from the user fees of $36 a month. He also answered a question whether or not  what if people could get a rash from the water in Cobus Creek. He said the plant will eliminate contaminates.

Following several comments and shouting from the audience, two Edwardsburg police officers were called to the meeting.

Trustee Jerry Marchetti suggested that the board take all the comments and decide where to go from there and to let the people know. His comment brought cheers from the audience.

The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. May 12 at the Ontwa Township Hall.

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