Putting waste in its place: Townships approve uniform septage control ordinance

GT CO./LEELANAU CO. – It’s a messy affair that most of us prefer not to think about, but the proper disposal of waste and sewage is extremely important for a healthy community and a clean environment.

This idea was a guiding principle when all the townships in Grand Traverse County and Elmwood Township in Leelanau County passed the Uniform Septage Control Ordinance of 2004, banning the land application of septage, holding tank and grease trap waste. The ordinances were passed individually at various times, but all 15 townships approved the ordinance by mid-November.

In addition to prohibiting the land application of septage, holding tank and grease trap waste, the ordinance also requires use of the planned septage treatment facility and provides a sensible, logical and environmentally responsible process for disposal of such waste.

Local discussion of the septage treatment issue began after the State of Michigan passed legislation, Public Act 181 of 1986, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed changes in regulations (40CFR503).

A septage treatment plan was arrived at after 10 years of study, over 60 public meetings, and numerous township meetings, county board meetings and various committee meetings. The plan was approved in August 2002 by the Grand Traverse County Board of Public Works and its Water and Sewer Committee.

Christopher Buday, Director, Grand Traverse County Board of Public Works, says that the approved Septage Treatment Plan is a program to construct a septage treatment plant to treat waste from septic tanks and holding tanks in Grand Traverse County and Elmwood Township. The purpose of the treatment plant is to process septage and holding tank waste brought in by local septage haulers. Plant fluids will be discharged into a sewer pipeline and processed at the regional sewage treatment plant. Plant solids, called biosolids, will be treated to remove disease-causing organisms and distributed to local gardeners, landscapers and other soil experts.

Increasing development and more restrictive regulations were causing growing concern about the use of land for the disposal of human waste.

“In addition,” Buday said, “the need to protect the environment calls for reduction in the amount of human waste left untreated. Treatment of septage and holding tank waste at the septage plant and finally at the upgraded regional wastewater treatment plant will greatly reduce the threat to human health created by disease-bearing organisms in the untreated human waste.”

The plant will be located at 1717 Ahlberg Road, just West of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission facility on Lafranier, and adjacent to the Cherryland Humane Society. The plant is slated to be in service next summer and will be able to treat 95,000 gallons per day of holding tank, septage and grease trap waste.

The estimated cost of treatment is 12 cents per gallon or about $150 for a 1,200-gallon load of septage delivered to the plant. Holding tank users will pay 4 cents per gallon or $116 for a 3,000-gallon holding tank. Grease trap waste users will pay 18 cents per gallon or $566 for a 1,200 gallon grease trap. Hauler charges will be in addition to the treatment cost. This fee includes cost of plant operation, maintenance, repair and replacement. It is estimated that the plant will require repairs within ten years.

Buday says it’s also expected that the cost of installing a new septic tank will increase from $191 to $376 for residential customers and from $235 to $420 for small commercial customers and $270 to $525 for large commercial customers. This fee is a capital fund set aside for future expansion. BN