Schoolcraft eyes replacing lead water lines

By Rob Peterson

Schoolcraft Village has until 2025 to complete an inventory of its water service lines and develop a plan for replacing them if they’re lead pipes, one of several requirements under a 2018 Michigan law. The law also gives communities 20 years starting from this year to replace all lead lines, at the municipalities’ expense.

The topic was raised at a Village Council discussion of infrastructure with Tom Wheat, an engineer from the consulting firm of Prein & Newhof.

“There is a mandate, and the clock is ticking,” said Wheat.

While the water in homes is testing free of lead, Wheat said that replacing lead pipes should be a priority after what happened in Flint, where a lead water crisis reached national news and prompted the 2018 legislation.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has published a chart showing numbers of water service lines in the state’s communities and the proportion of those lines which may contain lead. It indicates that 51% of Schoolcraft’s 635 service lines may need replacement. That proportion is slightly lower in Vicksburg, where an estimated 46% of its 1,403 lines may need replacement. Separately, the state agency has published results of lead testing of municipal water supplies. It shows that Schoolcraft measured no lead in sampling conducted in 2018. Vicksburg measured 2 parts per billion in 2019 testing.

Wheat said the village needs a second well for its the water system. While the current well is not unsafe, it’s not where one would put a well today. “There is always a risk when you put a water source in the middle of the village, especially next to a railroad.”

His suggestion was to put a new well north or northwest of the village, away from potential contamination sources.

Wheat said he had reviewed a 1969 sewer study and noted that not much has changed since then. If the village chooses to build a sewer system, he recommended it install sewer lines under the streets rather than through back yards. The process for taking property through eminent domain has become more difficult, he said.

Asked about grants for a sewer project, Wheat indicated that there are none. The best option, in his opinion, is a rural development loan with a low interest rate, a 40-year term and no early payoff penalty.

In other discussion, village resident Jennifer Doorn presented a proposal to allow chickens within the village limits. She indicated that chickens are quieter than dogs typically. The potential for odor is entirely based on how well they are cared for.

Doorn recommended that the number of chickens be limited to four per household, and that roosters not be allowed. She suggested a requirement that the chickens be kept in a coop, and that the coop be kept 10 to 20 feet from property lines.

Council president Keith Gunnett wants to see if there is enough interest before the village spend time and money on an ordinance change. The issue will be taken up again in July.

Gunnett noted for the council that the Department of Public Works has recently lost a temporary employee. It has a full plate with right-of-way code enforcement and the inventory of the water system. The two existing staff members are struggling to keep up, and a third employee is needed. The Village will be posting a new position in July, according to Village Manager Cheri Lutz.

Ken Hoving of Waste Not Recycling described a new transfer station proposed in Kalamazoo Township which would handle trash as well as recycling, construction and demolition debris. According to Hoving, this is a rare capability. If approved, would be the only such facility within two and a half hours of Kalamazoo.

It requires approval from two-thirds of the governmental units in the County; Kalamazoo Township, has already provided its approval. The Village Council voted to support the facility.

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