Leaders Show Support for Sanitary Sewers in Schoolcraft

vix sewer construction
Mike Schwartz from Prein & Newhoff, surveys the underground piping that was installed in the new lift station for Vicksburg on W Avenue this year.

By Sue Moore

Jim MacPhee, retiring CEO of Kalamazoo County State Bank, weighed in on the need for a sanitary sewer system in the Schoolcraft area. Without the system, he said, the village will decline, in part as businesses are forced out.

The process of collecting signatures to authorize financing for a sanitary sewer system in the village of Schoolcraft is being headed up by Sy Spears and Brett Willis, who made a presentation at the November village council meeting.

“It’s been slow going,” Spears said. “The anonymous postcard that was sent out to everyone in the village has been a big deterrent as we go door to door. We have to explain point by point where that information isn’t accurate before people will decide whether they want to sign the petitions. We are not trying to force people to sign up, as we know the costs are a concern for everybody.”

Spears and Willis believe strongly that the village needs sanitary sewer service, even though they will have to pay just like everyone else, Spears said.

They were buoyed by MacPhee’s strong endorsement of the need for the improvements.

“Have you ever wondered where your drinking water comes from?” MacPhee asked.

“In our case it comes from one of the most prolific aquifers in North America which lies under the Schoolcraft prairie. I learned about it 30 years ago, when a meeting was held in Schoolcraft to discuss the possibility of sewers in our community.  Stan Presser was the attorney for the (then) DNR. He told us that what we have underground in our area is, in his words, ‘Somewhat of a national treasure, a massive aquifer that provides us with an abundance of water’,” MacPhee said.

“OK, so we have a lot of water, but what does that have to do with the village of Schoolcraft having a sewer system?

“Look around you. What do you see?  Can you see the aquifer?  No, it is not visible but what it gives us is very evident: abundant farm crops, lush trees and plants, and when we turn on our faucets, there it is!  Fresh abundant water.  Water that we all take for granted every day, because we just assume it will always be there, and that it will always be safe to drink,” MacPhee said.

“So, because we cannot see it, we just go through our daily lives flushing the toilet, putting house cleaning chemicals down the drain, and once it is washed or flushed down the drain, that’s it, right?  It’s gone. No harm, no foul!  Not exactly!” MacPhee exclaimed.

He continued, “Well, that is not the end of the story of ‘why sewers’, because it is not the end of the line for what we flush into the aquifer.  You see, while you have a septic tank and a dry well that accepts what we put into it, all of the polluted water does not stay contained in the system in your yard. Quite the contrary. That is why they set them in porous gravel, so that it can leak out into the ground, porous ground, and will eventually find its way into the aquifer, the only one we have, and a national treasure gets the remnants of our indiscriminately flushing of chemicals down the drain.  You cannot see the pollution, it is underground now, it is out of our sight, and yet it is there, and it is not going away.  So what happens to it?”

“Our aquifer moves from northwest to southeast like an underground river, if you can picture it starting at U Ave. and 8th St, and flowing to XY Ave. and 16th St., you can get somewhat of a visual picture of how it flows right through our village, and moves very slowly.  Its only filter is time and distance, but in between 8th and 16th streets are water wells, lots of them.  Some serve irrigation systems, some serve residential homes and some serve businesses.  All obtain their water from the same aquifer, and as we put contamination into that wonderful national treasurer, each of those wells draws from the aquifer, just as pumping water out of a pool or pond, or a faucet, and whatever is at the base of the well when it starts pumping will be delivered out of each of those objects.  Directly into your pot and ready for the stove, or glass of water.”

“You see, the aquifer only delivers what we give it, it is either clean and fresh unpolluted water, or it is full of the chemicals that we put into it.  And like the national debt, we can either leave it to our children and grandchildren or we can let them worry about it, and leave behind a contaminated water supply that cannot be cleaned, and will cause health issues for generations to come, But if we have a choice, I doubt that is what any of us would do.

“Soon you will be asked to sign a petition allowing the Schoolcraft Village Council to begin the bond process to install sanitary sewers within the Village, a system that would protect the aquifer from future contamination to a great degree.  You will have to decide what makes sense.

“There are really three options to the sewer installation:

1.  Hook up only to the businesses on the US 131 corridor
2.  Hook up to the residential area within the village
3.  Hook up to both

“So it is not a yes or no answer, but rather what those who live here and those who own businesses in the Village want.

“If the businesses are denied sewers, it will not be long before many of them will cease to exist.  The Kalamazoo County Health Department has said that when many of the systems in the Village fail, they will not allow them to continue to use the systems that exist today.  So restaurants and establishments that have been here for decades will no longer be able to operate.  That means tax dollars lost, jobs lost, and we can expect to drive out of the area for commonly needed items.  Sound like a scare tactic?  It is not, it is simply fact.”

“Yes there is a cost, just as pumping and replacing your septic system is a significant cost that will be due at the time of replacement.  The good news is that this process, putting in a sewer system, allows you to pay over time, and once the sewer system is in, it is a long term fix for waste water, and will help protect the water supply for generations to come.”

“I would encourage all of you to think carefully before voting no on this issue, and think of the longer term good as an investment for your future and for the entire community.”

I would ask you to consider a yes vote, for the business sewer hookup on the US 131 corridor at a minimum,” MacPhee said.

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