Cost Increases for South County Sewer Authority

flood 11
Indian Lake at flood stage during the summer of 2016.

By Sue Moore

Who would have speculated that 2016 and 2018 flooding conditions on the shores of Indian and Pickerel Lakes would cause sewer problems and rate increases for residents in 2019?

All the rain and subsequent flooding of the low areas around these two lakes have contributed to a large increase in the flow of clean storm water into the sewer system, said Rich Pierson, director of the South County Sewer and Water Authority (SCSWA).

South County Sewer and Water Authority oversees daily operations of the sewer connections on Indian and Pickerel Lakes that flow to the city of Kalamazoo’s waste treatment plant. The Authority has seen treatment costs increase by an average of approximately $3,000 per month, about 70 percent over normal charges due to the high ground water tables, he said.

The Authority believes a big contributing factor to these costs comes from residential basement sump pumps that are pumping excess groundwater directly into the sanitary sewer system. “If this excessive water cannot be eliminated, usage fees will continue to increase across the board to cover the additional costs,” Pierson pointed out. Such connections to the sanitary sewer are not permitted, as the water should be pumped out into the yard or back to the lake.

To attempt to eliminate the improper connections causing the increase in costs, the Authority plans to inspect every home. A successful inspection will avoid the $300 annual fee that is to be implemented in 2019. The Authority certificate of passing the inspection will need to be verified every five years or upon sale of the home, whichever occurs first.

Residents have until October 1, 2019 to call the Authority to schedule the inspector to meet with them and perform the inspection of the property, both inside and outside the home.

This is called the “Clean Water Infiltration Elimination Program” by the Authority and is focusing specifically on illegal sump pump connections. Per ordinance and State Plumbing Code 1101.3, “clean water” (rainwater/ground water) is forbidden to be discharged into the sewer system. Violations can be viewed as civil infractions with fines up to $75 per day.

“The Authority is committed to execute all cost control measures that will contribute to the long-term viability of its sanitary sewer system,” Pierson said. “Public understanding, suggestions or comments are appreciated as this inspection program is implemented.”

Additional details may be obtained by contacting Cindy Chapman, authority administrator, by phone at 269-321-8925 or email scswa@ctsmail.net.

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