Schoolcraft studies existing septic systems

An aerial view of a large sewage treatment plant.

By Rob Peterson

Just 61% of septic systems in the Village of Schoolcraft are known to meet requirements of a new septic system, village council members were told by two county representatives at an October meeting.

Vern Johnson and Lucas Pols from the county Health and Community Services joined the virtual meeting to present the information they have at the county level.

They said they do not have current records for over 100 properties in the village, partly because the microfiche created in the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s did not capture the most relevant information. Address changes over time can complicate the records as well.

More recent records may also be inaccurate because homeowners are not required to report when a system is pumped, nor are they required to use the county’s services when a home inspection is completed.

A well-built and properly maintained system, according to Johnson, could last 30 years or more, though 20 years would be more typical.

But the primary concern, according to Johnson, is that 61%. Many homes are serviced by drywells, which do not treat the wastewater as completely as a drain field or trench. “We are learning more every day about how to improve sewage treatment systems for homes and businesses,” said Johnson.

When a drywell fails, the mess that it creates is not as alarming as the potential for contamination of the drinking water supply. Much of the village is in a Wellhead Protection Area, which protects the groundwater that serves the local municipal water system.

“Drywells and septic systems must be designed so that waste is fully treated in order to protect our drinking water supply,” said Johnson. He stated that this can become difficult when working on smaller lots in the village.

When an existing system fails, Johnson and Pols stated that they work with homeowners to create a solution in locations where an appropriate septic system cannot be installed. The worst-case scenario is an in-ground holding tank that requires routine pumping by a licensed hauler. But that is only a short-term solution.

The Village will continue to research the issue as it considers whether to install sewer lines. The South County Sewer Authority, who could provide sewage treatment for the Village, continues to meet virtually.

In other news, the Village Council reviewed a draft audit from the South County Fire Authority. The only material deficiency was caused by the fact that auditors created the financial statements rather than having an independent accountant create them. This is something council members felt could be remedied easily by hiring another firm to complete this task.

Village Manager Cheri Lutz indicated that she will be meeting with the village manager from Vicksburg to learn more about the Mill at Vicksburg project. This $80 million project will encompass over 400,000 square feet of commercial space and will impact the entire region. Lutz’s goal is to be proactive so that Schoolcraft can benefit from the development.

Lutz received approval from the council to implement a program to assist local merchants during the COVID quarantine. Her proposal is to sell gift cards that would be redeemable at local businesses. When a customer purchases a $25 gift card, the Village will match that with an additional $25 gift card to the same business.

Funds for the program will come from a $1,000 allocation in the promotions budget. The Village will promote the program via social media.

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