EGLE proposes to reject Macomb County's plan to acquire Lake St. Clair waters for sewage storage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2020
EGLE Media Office, EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov, 517-284-9278

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) today announced that it has proposed to deny Macomb County’s application to modify its discharge permit to allow for an open-air sewage structure at the end of the Chapaton Retention Treatment Basin (RTB). The structure would increase storage of treated combined sewage by using 1,400 feet of protected state waters where Chapaton Canal enters Lake St. Clair and convert the area into an open-air sewage lagoon.

“EGLE believes that the proposed sewage lagoon would operate only to temporarily store additional adequately treated wastewater but take more than a quarter mile of protected state waters to accomplish this objective,” said EGLE Water Resources Division (WRD) Director Teresa Seidel. “This proposed project would also sever the connection between Chapaton Canal and Lake St. Clair, eliminating habitat for fish and wildlife.”

EGLE staff rejected the county’s claim that the proposed sewage lagoon would serve as a wetland, given the residual chlorine present in the treated wastewater, water depth of the canal, limited contact time with plant life, and the fact that it is not connected to the lake.

Seidel also noted EGLE’s concerns about the potential public nuisance created by an open-air sewage lagoon so close to existing residences, boat launches and a marina.

“EGLE appreciates Macomb County’s interest in reducing combined sewer discharges to Lake St. Clair and we are committed to working with them on solutions, but EGLE’s top priority is to protect the public and the Great Lakes,” Seidel said. “We’ve never permitted an open-air sewage lagoon this large and this close to Lake St. Clair, and so close to residences and recreational amenities.”

Permitting and technical staff from EGLE’s Water Resources Division had previously determined that the county’s existing Chapaton retention basin complies with state and federal permit requirements and its wastewater meets water quality standards at the time of discharge. EGLE’s WRD staff also concluded that green stormwater infrastructure upstream of the Chapaton Retention Basin, or expansion of the existing basin, could be viable options to decrease stormwater discharges to Lake St. Clair without taking public waters of the state for an open sewage lagoon.

“We look forward to working with Macomb County to find solutions to the county’s combined sewer outflows and continuing our shared mission of protecting the state’s waters,” Seidel said.

EGLE’s draft denial of the proposed permit modification will be publicly noticed, and public comments will be taken through June 23, 2020.  Comments received during the public notice period will be considered before making a final decision on the proposed permit modification. There will also be a virtual public meeting/hearing starting at 6 p.m. on June 18, 2020.

A letter sent to Macomb County from EGLE informing them of the proposed denial is available on the MiWaters website.

To stay up to date on EGLE news, go to Michigan.gov/MIEnvironment and follow EGLE on Twitter at @MichiganEGLE.

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