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Michigan rejects Macomb County sewage treatment lagoon plan

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DETROIT – Michigan regulators have rejected a suburban Detroit county's plan to convert state waters into an open-air sewage treatment lagoon.

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said Friday it had denied Macomb County's application to place the structure at the end of the Chapaton Retention Treatment Basin.

The structure would use 1,400 feet of protected state waters where Chapaton Canal enters Lake St. Clair for a lagoon that would temporarily store treated combined sewage overflows during heavy rainstorms.

“We have an obligation to Michiganders to make the most effective use of limited dollars to protect our waterways from sewage releases,” said Teresa Seidel, director of the department's Water Resources Division. “This project, though well-intended, had marginal impact and would have used public waters of the state.”

The county could deal with sewage release problems with more environmentally friendly solutions, Seidel said. Among them: removing illicit sewer connections, addressing failing septic systems and filtering stormwater tributaries to the Chapaton Retention Treatment Basin through upstream green infrastructure projects.

Permitting and technical staff of the Water Resources Division previously determined the county’s existing Chapaton Retention Treatment Basin complies with state and federal permit requirements and its wastewater meets water quality standards at the time of discharge.

“I’m disappointed, not surprised, because they’ve been against us doing this from the beginning,” reads a statement from Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller. “Our focus is on clean water, quality of life and particularly our magnificent Great Lakes. Based on this denial, the state is compelling us to continue to discharge combined sewage overflows. Our position is that continuing to discharge combined sewage overflows, even if they are permitted and treated, is bad for water quality. Their position is, they’re not.”

The department also rejected the county’s claim that the proposed lagoon would serve as a wetland, noting factors such as residual chlorine in treated wastewater and limited contact time with plant life.

Officials said they also had concerns about a potential public nuisance created by an open-air sewage lagoon so close to existing residences, boat launches and a marina.

Read more: Looking for coronavirus (COVID-19) clues in Macomb County’s raw sewage