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Ontwa Township sewer plant plan draws protests

The Ontwa Township board has been planning to build a $7.9 million township sewer plant in lieu of continuing to send sewage to the Elkhart treatment plant and to discharge treated water into Cobus Creek which originates on the south end of Garver Lake.


Posted on April 15, 2014 at 8:17 p.m.

EDWARDSBURG — Two Edwardsburg police officers were called to the Ontwa Township Board meeting Monday following many comments and shouting from the audience.

“Why put a sewer here? We don't need it," said Nick Donis, a Garver Lake resident of 25 years and a representative of Save Our Resources and Environment. “I just learned about it three weeks ago. A lot of people didn’t know what was going on.”

The Ontwa Township board has been planning to build a $7.9 million township sewer plant in lieu of continuing to send sewage to the Elkhart treatment plant and to discharge treated water into Cobus Creek, which originates on the south end of Garver Lake. The creek flows into the St. Joseph River south of Old U.S. 20 on Elkhart’s west side. Although the owner of the 20-acre site was not revealed, the property is southwest of the pump station on the other side of Elkhart Road.

Donis said that he visited the Porter Township plant and met with the Elkhart City engineer about sewage problems. He said he learned about the hydrogen sulfide and its odor. He also visited the sewer plant in Marcellus and said it looked like “detergent.”

He was also concerned about harming the wetlands, nature and wildlife.

“It stinks," he said to cheers from the audience. "We live with this hydrogen sulfide. It’s at the lift station,” he said, referring to the pump station on Elkhart Road.

Ontwa Township has a sewage disposal contract with Elkhart.

Several residents voiced objections to the sewer plant proposal, as did representatives from the Elkhart Conservation Club who showed concerned with the warm water discharge into Cobus Creek and its effect on trout who thrive in cold water.

“We are gravely concerned about sending warm water into the creek," said John Harding, a board member of the Elkhart County Parks Dept. and an Elkhart Conservation Club member. “It would take years to recoup.”

Engineer Thomas Deneau of Wightman and Associates of Benton Harbor said that a permit for the proposed sewer plant has been submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and that a decision is expected this week. He said the hydrogen sulfide problems in the present system are being studied and hopefully eliminated.

William Becker, who lives near the lift station, asked where the money will come from to pay for the plant. Deneau said the money comes from the user fees of $36 a month. In answer to a question about people getting a rash from the water in Cobus Creek, he said the plant will eliminate contaminates.

Trustee Jerry Marchetti said the board will consider the issue in light of all the comments, bringing cheers from the audience. The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. May 12 at the Ontwa Township Hall.




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