www.mybaycity.com May 29, 2011
Local News Article 5954

Shared Bay City-County Water System Urged by Road Commission, Twps

Local Efforts Accelerate to Improve Water, Sewers, Quality of Life

May 29, 2011
By: Dave Rogers

The Bay County Road Commission, meeting with officials from the county and eight townships, has passed a resolution urging a cooperative effort to improve local drinking water supplies.

Adopted unanimously was a resolution proposed by Road Commissioner Richard Gromaski "supporting the unified efforts of the Bay County Department of Water and Sewer, Hampton Township, Essexville and Bay City to secure raw water from the Saginaw-Midland Water Supply System."

The resolution also urged the action "to provide high quality water at stable rates to the entire Bay County/Bay City community."

Among township officials on hand at the meeting were supervisors Terry Watson, Bangor; Ronald Campbell, Frankenlust; George Augustyniak, Fraser; David Schabel, Merritt; Gary Brandt, Monitor; Paul Wasek, Williams; and William Tacey, Hampton treasurer; Mel McNally, Kawkawlin trustee; and Jackie McCarthy, clerk.

Others were Tom Paige, director of the Bay County DWS; Jim Lillo, Road Commission engineer-manager; Ed Carstens, waste water treatment plant supervisor and assistant maintenance supervisor Tim Fitzgerald.

Mr. Paige reported that water source evaluation studies are ongoing and an update meeting is slated in June.

Meanwhile, the Saginaw Bay Regional Initiative that has initiated more than $12 million in projects designed to clean up the watershed and improve local water supplies, is stepping up efforts.

A new revolving loan fund for residential properties administered by Bay County will help support the repair of failing septic systems that are shown to be directly affecting water quality, especially on properties adjacent to rivers, streams and connecting waters to Saginaw Bay.

A $50,000 grant from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN), along with additional support of $14,000 provided by the Bay Area Community Foundation are the initial investments into this fund. These dollars will also be used as match for further grant applications to EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding.

"The effects on water quality from failing sewage systems are a major problem in Bay County and the entire Great Lakes for that matter", said Mike Kelly of The Conservation Fund, which administers the WIN program.

"But, the problems are not just limited only to municipal treatment systems -- residential septic systems are often a culprit as well",he said. "Often, the only thing standing in the way of getting these systems repaired is capital -- the ability of the property owner to finance the repair.

"With this revolving loan fund, we hope to provide an innovative and affordable way to make these repairs, and improve and protect water quality at the same time", said Mr. Kelly.

This project is the first of its kind in Michigan, and among very few in the entire Great Lakes region, Mr. Kelly indicated. The program will be administered by Bay County's Department of Environmental Affairs and Community Development, along with the Bay County Health Department. Low interest loans for property owners are at the core of the program.

"We've struggled with this issue of how to get failing systems repaired or replaced when homeowners are unable to pay for the upgrade" Laura Ogar Director of Bay County Environmental Affairs and Community Development said. "Oftentimes property owners are surprised to learn their system has failed, and oftentimes they don't have the money to immediately fix it. If the septic system isn't fixed it will continue to leak and impair water quality and no one wants that to happen either.

"It's been a struggle because it is certainly not government's role to fix somebody's septic system yet we can't ignore the problem either. We all want clean water to swim or go boating in and the public looks to us to protect the water quality in the rivers and Saginaw Bay.

"This is a creative win-win solution where the funding provides for immediate corrective action of a septic system, via a loan to the homeowner, with a lien recorded and placed on the property for the amount plus a minimum processing fee. As the loans are repaid the funding is reserved in a separate account for future septic upgrades."

Ten area foundations and corporations work together as a network to support WIN projects. This Foundation Network includes: Bay Area Community Foundation, Consumers Energy Foundation, Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation, Midland Area Community Foundation, Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, Saginaw Community Foundation, The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, S.C. Johnson Fund, and the Cook Family Foundation. These foundations and corporations contribute $300,000 per year to support WIN projects.

To date, WIN and its partners have provided more than $4 million to support projects that help to identify the Saginaw Bay Watershed as a sustainable community. Funding is provided for projects that create opportunities to connect people, resources, organizations and programs. Priority is given to projects that are innovative, cross governmental boundaries, and attempt to balance the environment, economy, and the community. WIN grants have been matched by more than $8 million in other funding.

More information about WIN, is available on its website at www.saginawbaywin.org.


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