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Federal funds will slow sewage discharges into Lake St. Clair but critics say it’s only a Band-Aid

Posted at 5:09 PM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 18:15:45-04

(WXYZ) — Michigan U. S. Senator Debbie Stabenow announced a total of $10 million in federal infrastructure projects to make major improvements in water systems. The full list is below.

One project is getting scrutiny as only a band-aid approach, slowing sewage discharges into Lake St. Clair that has been a problem for decades.

The picture of the discharges says it all. I don’t think I need to tell you what that is.

The Senator announced $4 ½ million to expand the water retention system at the Chapaton Pump Station in St. Clair Shores to hold sewage overflows. That entire project is $17 million. “This one will receive four and a half million dollars to really jumpstart exactly what needs to happen,” the Senator announced during a news conference.

In several areas of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties, underground sewers are combined storm and sanitary systems. During heavy rain or snow melt, the overflows are held to be sent to Detroit for full sewage treatment, or they get minimal or no treatment and are discharged into the lake.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller says no one has determined how much it would cost to fix all of it, but it would be billions.

Mike Gutow heads up the group Save Lake St. Clair and says this is a band-aid approach but it is better than nothing. He also says Commissioner Miller is doing the best she can with what she has. Gutow says the fix is what Port Huron has done, upgraded the system to eliminate the combined sewer system.

When confronted about this being a band-aid, Senator Stabenow said during the news conference, “If you say we should do nothing until we can do all of it at the same tie, then we’re going to have more pictures like that.”

Here’s her entire list of projects getting federal funds:

  • Chapaton Retention Basin: The Chapaton Retention Basin will receive $4,500,000 to prevent sewage from being pumped in Lake St. Clair to keep our beaches open and water clean for swimming and fishing.
  • Martin Drain System: the Martin Sanitary Diversion Drainage District will receive $1,000,000 to reduce sewage overflows into Lake St. Clair to keep our beaches open and our water clean for swimming and fishing.
  • Great Lakes Water Authority: the Great Lakes Water Authority will receive $2,000,000 to upgrade the Detroit River Interceptor to prevent the flooding of roads and homes during heavy rains.
  • City of St. Clair Water Treatment Plant Improvements: the City of St. Clair will receive $970,000 to upgrade the Shorewell Pumping Station that will allow the city to grow and boost economic development.
  • St. Clair County Clay-Ira Interceptor Project: the Township of Clay will receive $1,000,000 in funding to upgrade aging water infrastructure to protect natural resources and keep our water safe and clean.
  • Pontiac Drinking Water Improvements: the Oakland County Water Resources Commission will receive $800,000 to replace 8,000 lead service lines and failing water mains in Pontiac’s drinking water system. Replacing lead pipes will keep drinking water safe for children in Pontiac.