Sylvania and Whiteford Township are close to an agreement that would permit Ottawa Lake to run a sewer line into the city's municipal sewer system.
Sylvania City Council's environment and utilities committee last week forwarded a recommendation to the full council that it agree in principle to a 40-year contract allowing up to 200 sewer customers in Ottawa Lake to send their effluent to Sylvania's system, from which it then would go to the Lucas County treatment plant in Monclova Township.
The contract has not been drafted, but a go-ahead from council at this point would permit Whiteford Township to apply for a $1.76 million grant and a low-cost loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cover the $2.3 million cost of running a 3.2-mile sewer line with pumps and grinders along Memorial Highway to Sylvania.
Whiteford Township Supervisor Walter Ruhl said he was virtually certain the grant application would be successful. Michigan put the township on notice years ago that it was in violation of the state's Clean Water Act, and successive supervisors have wrestled with the issue.
Sylvania officials emphasized that the project would cost their rate payers nothing. Ottawa Lake customers would pay a surcharge for the service. And while neighborliness and regional cooperation were important, they said the city's environmental health was involved as well: Pollution from Ottawa Lake's leaking septic systems goes into ditches and is carried by rain into the city and Ten Mile Creek.
David Kubiske, the township's engineer, said many Ottawa Lake households have no septic systems; waste runs into a storm sewer that runs into a creek. He noted that a septic system on rock or clay, which is the geology of Ottawa Lake, "drains right into the water table."
Initially, 100 Ottawa Lake customers would be hooked up to the new sewer line. The Whiteford Valley Golf Club would be allotted six tie-ins to the line. Mr. Kubiske said the costs to the township's sewer customers had not yet been calculated.
Councilman Michael Brown, who chairs the environment and utilities committee, expressed concern that a developer could buy golf club property and want to build hundreds of homes to connect to the sewer line. The city could find itself embroiled in litigation if it refused service. "What ability would the city have to control it?" he asked.
Mr. Kubiske replied that the golf course property carried an agriculture zoning designation and would have to be rezoned before it could be developed.
Mayor Craig Stough then asked what safeguards the agreement would contain to prevent expansion of the service area. Alex Drescher, the township's attorney, replied that it would specify a fixed number of customers that could be tied in to the line. He noted that this was the case with Schnipke Drive in the township, which has had Sylvania sewer customers for years.
Sylvania Law Director James Moan said it was settled Ohio law that a municipality has no obligation to provide utility service to customers outside its jurisdiction unless it contractually obliged itself to do so. "So I think the contract would give Sylvania control," he said. "We could have 100 [customers] and this would allow it to grow to 200."
Ottawa Lake wants the ability to send 125,000 gallons of sewage per day to Sylvania. The city contracts with Lucas County to send more than 2 million gallons of sewage per day for treatment and has plenty of unused capacity with its 5,900 customers, said Kevin Aller, the city's service director.