UPDATED: Saline Settles Wastewater Violation With State

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Brian Marl was the only member of the Saline City Council to vote against a settlement that has been reached between the city and state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, at the September 13 meeting.

The settlement stems over an inspection that EGLE conducted in 2019 of the Wastewater Treatment Plant, where they found that the city was not adequately cleaning the effluent before discharging it back into the environment at the end of the cleansing process.

O’Toole says that she has already reduced the $100,000 fine the city agreed to pay Lansing down to $80,000 by sending a Corrective Action Plan to EGLE ahead of the November 1 deadline.

“We’ve already completed that requirement. We’re just awaiting a response from EGLE that they have accepted [it],” City Manager Colleen O’Toole said.

The problem was that heavy rainstorms overloaded the system in 2019 combined with faulty equipment meant that the wastewater treatment plant wasn’t operating efficiently enough to meet state standards. The city committed tens of millions of dollars to expand and modernize its wastewater treatment plant earlier this year.

When asked, O’Toole said that the decision to expand and modernize the wastewater treatment plant came at least partially from this dispute with EGLE. She also confirmed that at least some of what the State of Michigan is requiring of the city is already covered in the plans to expand anyway.

“The City was not in the process of expanding or modernizing its plant prior to the start of negotiations on the Administrative Consent Order. Paragraph 3.2 B of the ACO outlines requirements for the city to submit a schedule for implementing infrastructure improvements at the wastewater treatment plant,” Scott Dean, EGLE’s Strategic Communications Director, said in an email to the Sun Times News.

The city has until the first of February to install an EGLE approved tracking system to monitor the future performance of the plant and the city has agreed to new reporting standards. If the city fails to meet those standards, fines could range anywhere from $200 to $4,859.

The city will be utilizing two consultant companies in this process. It will be consulting Tetra Tech, as it already is in the remodel, as well as Infrastructure Alternatives Inc.. Tetra Tech has long declined to comment except through their client, the city. IAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Entering a consent order to recognize that things have gone wrong in the past is not a desirable situation to be in. But I view this as a really positive outcome for the city because now we have a clear path. We’ve had great communications with the state on what needs to be done and what the next steps are so we don’t find ourselves in that situation again,” O’Toole said. “From my perspective as an administrator, it’s really going to provide some useful outputs and give our staff an opportunity to get the information to succeed as we move forward.”

Marl declined comment.

Image Credit: The City of Saline.

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