Questions About Sewer Survey

I have received a few calls requesting clarification on the Sewer Survey that was sent to all residents.

To be clear, the only purpose of this survey is to inform the Allegan Township Board about our interest in accurate, updated costs and design.

The Township Board has expressed a willingness to sponsor an updated project plan, their only request was that we help measure the level of interest in the updated information. That is why your response is so important.

I’m sure there will be more questions, but here are some of the questions we have fielded related to this topic:

Q: How much will a sewer system cost me?
A: The simple answer is we do not know for certain. The updated project plan will help determine that answer.

The updated plan will include any options for external funding or grants, but what we do know is that costs are only increasing over time.

Q: Does saying ‘yes’ to this survey mean I’m committed to sewer?
A: No, this survey simply lets Allegan Township know we want to see updated information on the cost and possible plan.

Being more informed will help us all make the best decision with confidence.

Q: Why is a plan update required?
A: There are a few reasons, but I feel the most important reason is for us to understand the estimated cost. The previous project plan was done in 2007, and many of the assumptions and cost estimates are outdated.

Additionally, an updated plan is needed for the various permits, as well as the actual construction effort.

Q: What happens after the Township completes the updated project plan?
A: The updated plan will be made public for all residents to review (late fall 2021 at the earliest). The Township Board will then determine if additional hearings to form a sewer district are needed.

Q: Why is a sewer needed?
A: There are many reasons to support sewer, but we believe the health and quality of Miner Lake is a major factor.

A 2015 study from MSU – the largest watershed study of its kind – presented troubling results about the effectiveness of traditional septic systems:

“All along, we have presumed that on-site wastewater disposal systems, such as septic tanks, were working,” said Rose, Homer Nowlin Endowed Chair in Water Research. “But in this study, sample after sample, bacterial concentrations were highest where there were higher numbers of septic systems in the watershed area.”

Summary Article 8/3/2015
Full Article in National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America – Aug 2015

Additional considerations:

Control of aquatic plants – Nutrients from septic systems contribute to plant growth (Cornell Univ. – Considerations for Shoreline Property Owners)
General human health – Ineffective treatment poses a threat to people both in the water and on land (mLIVE article 1/20/2019)
Limited options going forward – Health Department regulations severely restrict repairs and replacement of existing systems, especially on small lots
Effective use of our properties – Many homeowners report not being able to flush toilets following rain
Decreased maintenance and hassle – Septic systems inherently involve ongoing service as well as the looming concern about their lifespan
Property values – Your investment in a property on Miner Lake will be negatively impacted if your septic system fails or water quality further decreases

Q: Isn’t the state going to mandate (and fund) sewer projects on lakes anyway?
A: There is no indication of that happening. That mistaken opinion has circulated for many decades and we do not see any effort at the state or local level to change that.

In fact, a 2017 Detroit Free Press article points out that “Michigan is the only state in the U.S. that doesn’t regulate septic systems on a statewide basis.”

Q: What about Federal funding?
A: Given our location in Allegan County, and the median income level for Allegan Township, it is very likely we will qualify for limited assistance under one of several USDA Rural Development programs. We plan to apply for these programs, but cannot guarantee funding.

However, it is very common for projects such as ours to receive, at minimum, a 40-year payback loan.

We will also investigate options for funding under the proposed national infrastructure plan. It is possible our local government may receive funds that could be applied.

Q: We are seasonal residents, will our cost be the same as year-round residents?
A: Understandably, this is of concern. In the 2007 project plan, we proposed a few creative ideas to address it.

The exact details need to be updated, but we proposed a mechanism for non-homesteaded properties to receive discounted monthly usage charges.

Actual project costs cannot be discounted as they constitute an improvement to the property – regardless of residency status.

It is important to remember, seasonal residents experience all of the other health, safety, and use benefits a sewer makes possible.

Q: What about those of us who believe our septic system is functioning?
A: Given the soil and age of systems, we have reason for concern about the general effectiveness of on-site septic systems around Miner Lake.

However, we recognize some property owners have made system updates in recent years and the idea of further costs may not be desired.

We welcome hearing your perspective and ideas on how to address these concerns.

Q: What about older residents and/or those on a fixed income?
A: We recognize sewer is a significant investment and it may represent a hardship for some of our residents. We in no way seek to negatively impact our long-term friends and neighbors.

Part of the 2007 project plan explored options to decrease this burden, and we will certainly pursue options as part of this update.

We welcome hearing your perspective and ideas on how to address these concerns.

Q: Will the entire lake be included in the plan?
A: The proposed plan will consider impacts to the entire lake. However, that does not mean the entire lake will be included in a final sewer district.

Consideration will be given to:

• Overall project cost
• Count or density of parcels serviced
• Protection of undeveloped property such as the “East End”

It is our strong desire to only service existing structures and the few remaining buildable empty parcels. All efforts will be made to retain the special and unique benefits we have from acres of undisturbed marshlands and swamp.

Q: What can I do to be more involved and help with this effort?
A: The most important thing is for all of our residents to be informed of the need, costs, and benefits of sewer on Miner Lake.

We cannot do this without support and assistance from our residents. If you wish to volunteer, please contact us.

As we move forward, we may ask for volunteers to assist with additional forums for information sharing and conversation.

One of the best things you can do is to remain engaged and focus on having civil conversations with your friends and neighbors.

As new questions arise, we will update this post or create a separate section of the website with details about the sewer project.

Thank you for your interest and participation in continuing to make Miner Lake a great place to live, play and experience all the great things our area offers!

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