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Re: E-M:/ Sewer-Generated Sprawl and Request for Treatment System Information

Enviro-Mich message from Cyndi Roper <croper@cleanwater.org>

The battle Bill Taylor and his Duck Lake neighbors are fighting to prevent 
the miles-long extension of the sprawl-promoting sewer line in their area 
is laudable. Others fighting similar sprawl battles in their communities 
should take note. The Duck Lake neighbors have done the work that MDEQ and 
local agencies should be doing. Funding shortfalls within these agencies 
account for part of the reason they have not been at the forefront of 
advancing sensible solutions to this and similar sprawl problems. But the 
major reason for their shortcomings relates to pressures by developers, 
uninformed planning officials, and others who continue promoting status quo 
approaches to extending sewer lines into every corner of the state.

Clean Water Action has spent several years learning the ins and outs of 
access to MDEQ's information about legal discharges into the state's 
waters. During the current water permit fee battle (which, when/if it is 
resolved, would still force taxpayers to pay MILLIONS of dollars to fund 
the program permitting legal pollution of the state's waters!!), we have 
pushed for on-line access to the detailed water permits issued to legal 

There are roughly 1,400 surface water permittees and hundreds more 
groundwater permit holders. It is our belief -- and that of the original 
surface water permit fee bill's sponsors -- that this information should be 
readily available to people like Bill from the comfort and convenience of 
their home computers. It is VERY difficult for the average person to find 
out about LEGAL discharges into local waterways. Many of them wouldn't even 
know to ask because they don't realize it's legal to pollute the state's 
waters. Once they figure this out, it is not easy for them to get their 
hands on the permits.

On-line access could allow residents to click on their local waterways and 
find the permittees along with the actual permit. It is likely they would 
still need to find technical assistance -- perhaps with state funding since 
taxpayers are paying for the dischargers to pollute the water (e.g., why 
should we have to pay for consultants??). The average person would have 
difficulty understanding the hocus-pocus used to decide "safe" levels of 
toxic substances such as arsenic, benzene, cyanide, lead, mercury and many, 
many more, which are legally discharged into the state's waters.  If the 
details of legal toxic discharges were readily available to Michigan 
residents, maybe elected officials, businesses, municipalities and others 
would be forced to embrace a shift from POLLUTION subsidies to PREVENTION 

Bill Taylor's inquiry and Fred Cowles' response make me think we should 
also provide on-line information about the wastewater treatment technology 
used at municipal and industrial facilities discharging directly into the 
states waters as well as the industrial discharges sending their wastes to 
the municipal treatment plants). Access to this information would allow the 
public to help direct decisions effecting local waterways.
Afterall, we're paying for the impacts both in the short-term and the 
longer term.

Keep up the great work, Bill.


Cyndi Roper
Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund

At 06:13 PM 3/26/2004 -0800, fred cowles wrote:
>Enviro-Mich message from fred cowles <fecowles@yahoo.com>
>I can give you answers to some of your questions.
>You can download an excel spreadsheet of all surface
>water discharge permits at:
>If you sort the list by permit number, all the permits
>starting with MIG58XXXX are semi-annual discharge
>lagoon type sewage treatment facilities. Looking at
>the fac_ownership column tells you if it is public or
>private.  There are other lagoon type systems that are
>more complicated with other permit numbers.
>Those facilities with WWTP in their name are other
>sewage treatment facilities.  You cannot tell from the
>spreadsheet what kind of treatment units they use.
>The DEQ has a list of facilities permitted to
>discharge to the groundwater, but I do not believe it
>is available on-line.
>A word of caution.  While this information may look
>straight forward, it is only a summary of basic data.
>The factual situations of each facility are unique.
>It is very difficult to draw valid generalizations
>from casual review.  The real world is very
>complicated even if a spreadsheet makes it look
>I suggest that you hire a consulting engineer with
>experience in designing public wastewater treatment
>systems to help you with your review.  It will not be
>cheap.  Presumably, your county public works officials
>have already gotten such advice.  If you wish to
>challenge their decisions, you will need at least as
>credible a source of information and judgement.
>========= Fred
>--- Bill Taylor <btaylor@springcom.com> wrote:
> > Re:  Sewer-Generated Sprawl and Request for
> > Treatment System Information
> >
> > My Duck Lake community has been resisting pressures
> > to replace a fundamentally sound lagoon sewage
> > treatment system with long regional pipelines that
> > would encourage unwanted development sprawl across
> > miles of agricultural and open land.  Our Calhoun
> > County public works officials finally agreed to
> > consider any specific alternatives that our public
> > could quickly develop, and our helpful State Senator
> > arranged for DEQ enforcement staff to discuss some
> > key requirements and potentially useful Michigan
> > sewage systems with us.  Consistent with the nature
> > of the entire process, however, DEQ staff declined
> > to conduct the agreed-upon meeting and we had to
> > file an FOI request for the needed information.  Now
> > the DEQ FOI Officer seems to be telling us that the
> > agency lacks the ability to provide basic
> > information on Michigan sewage systems.  We can
> > proceed without certain information but would
> > appreciate hearing from anyone who knows whether the
> > DEQ can or cannot generate lists of:
> >
> >  -    Michigan sewage treatment systems that are
> > discharging onto/into the ground;
> >  -    Michigan systems that are discharging into
> > surface water;
> >  -    Michigan lagoon systems that are discharging
> > into surface water;
> >
> > If you believe that the DEQ can generate this
> > information, please try to provide the precise name
> > of the data base and other specific words to use in
> > obtaining information from DEQ enforcement
> > activities that have been on the pipeline side at
> > every twist and turn in the process.
> >
> > I would also appreciate hearing from anyone who
> > knows of good, small Michigan sewage treatment
> > systems that we might wish to visit.  We are
> > particularly interested in lagoon systems that
> > discharge into surface water.  There include (1)
> > systems that use the traditional clarifiers and
> > phosphorus reduction, and (2) systems that discharge
> > into natural or constructed wetlands.
> >
> > Finally, many of you know how outrageous the Duck
> > Lake situation has been and how we have one of the
> > fronts in a potentially much larger sprawl threat.
> > We haven't had much time to devote to the underlying
> > problems lately, but will always have time to answer
> > questions from the Governor's office about how the
> > Clean Water authorities are being used to push
> > unnecessarily elaborate sewage "solutions" that
> > would encourage classic development sprawl.
> >
> > Bill Taylor
> > Duck Lake, Calhoun County
> > btaylor@springcom.com
>Do you Yahoo!?
>Yahoo! Finance Tax Center - File online. File on time.
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