A Michigan City’s Agenda to Deter Overflow

The city of St. Joseph has made progress in reducing overflow, but there is more work to be done. With sustained and heavy rain, storm water can rush into the combined sewer lines, eventually sending waste and other pollutants into St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan. This condition can generate health hazards, as well as, necessitating the closures of area beaches. Project engineers are requesting low-interest loans from Michigan’s state revolving fund, in order to finance additional improvements to storm water storage lines. The goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate discharge into the river.

St. Joseph, at one time, had 11 permitted sewer overflow sites; now reduced to three. Upon loan approval, the city plans to install seven 42-inch-diameter, 300-foot-long pipes underground near the arboretum. After which, the lines will have a capacity to hold up to 150,000 gallons of storm water overflow. This alternative, referred to as in-line storage, is less expensive than building an off-line storage tank, where water has to be pumped to the wastewater treatment plant. With in-line storage, once the system returns to normal, the excess water will flow back into the wastewater treatment system without ending up in the river. The anticipated funding will also provide for the removal of contaminants, if discovered during construction.

The city can request a maximum loan from the state of $7.8 million, at 2.5 percent interest over 20 years. The remainder of the projected construction cost would come from local funds and bond sales. Sewer rate increases of 7 percent annually, which began several years ago, will likely continue until 2022. This adjustment will provide the city with enough money to repay the loan. The rate increase, over seven years, will costs the average homeowner an additional $18.23 per month.

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