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E-M:/ Resisting Sewer-Generated Development Sprawl

Enviro-Mich message from "Bill Taylor" <btaylor@springcom.com>

Re:  Resisting Sewer-Generated Development Sprawl

I am looking for the wastewater treatment planning information described
below to help on an unusual situation. My County public works officials
are planning to close my rural wastewater treatment plant and pipe the
raw sewage to another plant via a planned new sewer line that would run
across ten miles of agricultural and open land and allow connections
along its length.  This plan was developed without public input or
apparent regard for the "agricultural" zoning.  There is strong local
concern that the plan would be extremely expensive and would lead to
development sprawl on land that is planned to remain rural.  We foresee
the current zoning becoming ineffective because our local townships lack
resources to meet continual legal challenges from the developers that
are attracted to large tracts of land with sewer access and nearby
interstate access.

The rural wastewater treatment system at issue serves about 420 homes
and uses treatment lagoons and a spray irrigation discharge system.  The
County owns our system until we finish paying off the bonds, and County
officials plan to use this conditional authority and some effluent
discharge deficiencies that we have not seen specifically defined to
close the treatment plant and run this long accessible line.  Residents
with some wastewater treatment knowledge (myself included) believe that
there are other solutions to the probable deficiencies, including ones
that could be implemented on our large treatment plant site.  Our
community association has asked the County to retain a specialized
engineering firm to document the specific discharge deficiencies that
are being violated and identify and analyze the various potential
solutions.  The engineering firm will require a careful contract
workscope and should not be performing other work that could compromise
its objectivity.  We would like to see analyses that include rough cost
estimates and information on the probable development impact of each
alternative. Citizens should be able to obtain information and offer
comments at key stages in the process.  In my experience this is the
sound way to perform major sewer infrastructure planning.

County officials have not yet agreed to the outside study and dispute
that the planned sewer line would lead to more development than would
otherwise occur.  Our local township officials are caught between the
County positions and public opinion, and are also uncertain about the
probable development consequences and appropriate planning process for
such a large infrastructure project.  Therefore, I would appreciate
hearing from anyone who has articles, issuances, or insights on:

 -    recognized planning processes for major sewer infrastructure.

 -    how planning has been performed for comparable sewer projects.

 -    the probable development consequences of constructing an
accessible sewer line across large tracts of open land within a few
miles of an interstate exit in Southern Michigan.

 -    ensuring that sewer infrastructure plans are consistent with local
land-use plans.

We want input regardless of whether it is consistent or inconsistent
with the positions voiced above.  I would also appreciate hearing
from anyone who has (1) upgraded or replaced a deficient treatment
system such as ours, (2) contracted for engineering services to identify
the various potential solutions, or (3) knows of actual cases where
accessible sewer lines have been constructed across long stretches of
open or agricultural land that the community wished to keep in that

Thank you for your assistance.  We have related issues involving MDEQ
responsibilities and the Federal public participation requirements that
I will post in the near future.

Bill Taylor

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