September 2, 2014

White’s Beach Committee gathering information on water and sewer utilities

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STANDISH TWP. — A committee has been meeting in Standish Township for the past few months to research the best way to provide municipal water and sewer utilities to the White’s Beach area of the township.

Debbie Krajewski, chairwoman of the White’s Beach Committee, said committee members have had discussions with officials from the cities of Standish and Pinconning, and the Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe, about connecting to one of their systems.

“We decided that we would get quotes from the city of Pinconning, the city of Standish and then the tribe as to what their rates would be in order for us to hook up to one of those systems,” she said. “There are other issues, such as construction costs. Obviously that’s a different issue. As far as what they would charge people to use their system, a lot of that is much more defined.”

Although they have spoken with the two cities and tribe about rates, Krajewski said the committee would like to receive something in writing.

The number of White’s Beach area residents who would be connected to the system is still being developed, according to Krajewski.

“Some of that will depend on where the lines actually run,” she said. “Right now we’re looking somewhere around 225-250 households. That’s just a very rough estimate.”

Krajewski said the Central Michigan District Health Department conducted water testing in the Saginaw Bay at White’s Beach over a span of the past few years, and the tests showed that there were water quality issues caused by septic systems and water wells.

Michelle Patton, CMDHD Director of Environmental Health Services, said the testing was done with a $200,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“Our grant was to look at three Arenac beaches, which included White’s Beach, that were high in E. coli,” she said, adding beaches at Singing Bridge and Twining Road were also sampled.

In White’s Beach, Patton said the grant allowed the health department to look at every White’s Beach residents’ water well and septic system. The findings indicated that the sewage system as a whole in the community needed to be upgraded, Patton said. The placing and condition of the septic tanks was particularly troublesome, she said.

“They are undersized. They are in the water table,” she said. “In some cases, we found actual failures that need to be corrected. All of those things are affecting the surface water at White’s Beach, and the Saginaw Bay. That’s why I think they’re moving in the direction of looking at longterm solutions.”

Krajewski said properties at White’s Beach are typically smaller lots, so wells and septic tanks are often closer than in other residential areas where people use well and septic rather than municipal water and sewer. She said another reason the problem has grown over time is because many of the houses in White’s Beach were built as vacation homes, but have become full-time permanent residences.

According to Krajewski, once the township gets some more information on costs, the committee can move forward with seeking construction grants for the project.

“There are things that we would qualify for,” she said. “It’s a very complicated and intricate process for all of them, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development is one of the biggest grant writers and loaners for rural projects like these. The DEQ has the SAW (sewer and water) grant. There are different things involved. Once an engineer gets involved some of those things can be sought after.”

During the township board’s Dec. 9 meeting, Supervisor Bob North said the township will not simply select the least expensive provider.

“We are not just basically going to go one who’s the cheapest,” he said. “Each of them has proposed different ideas on maintenance. Each of them has proposed how we’re going to get the water from here to there.”

North said the committee and board are trying to get as much accomplished in the process now, even though actually having a water and sewer system in White’s Beach will take some time.

“We’re pushing this as hard as we can, because we know the further ahead it moves, the slower it’s going to get,” he said.

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