2017-04-13 / Front Page

Comparing costs for private, public

By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff


STEVE PATMORE, the Leland Township sewer administrator, explains the process of disc filtration on Friday during a tour of the wastewater treatment facility. Photo: Jay Bushen STEVE PATMORE, the Leland Township sewer administrator, explains the process of disc filtration on Friday during a tour of the wastewater treatment facility. Photo: Jay Bushen Municipal sewers can be expensive, but they have their place. Suttons Bay Village Manager Wally Delamater can’t imagine running his municipality without one.

“You couldn’t even have a marina, because what would you do with the sewage?” asked Delamater. “It allows for a much higher density. You can pack a lot of people into a condo development or a multi-family housing building in the village.”

Tom Fountain, Environmental Health Director with the Benzie- Leelanau District Health Department, said private systems that are operating properly, however, protect the environment as well or even better than municipal systems.

That’s because soils do a better job of neutralizing some of the chemicals people are ingesting such as hormone treatments and antibiotics, he said.

“My personal opinion is it’s going to get into the environment quicker in a municipal system,” Fountain said. “The soil can capture a lot of that. I don’t know if I have science behind me, but that is my gut feeling. All those things we’re taking are getting into the waste stream. Those are the things that become a byproduct of municipal sewer and wastewater.”

However, municipal systems provide communities with opportunities to expand, he added.

“Maybe the commercial part of a village can be served by a system that would allow growth. Empire is a perfect example of an area that a good portion is suitable for on site waste, but a lot of it is not because of small lot sizes,” Fountain said.

“They are expensive things, but they are not a fix-all,” he added.

The Empire Village Council has authorized an engineering study to determine whether a municipal sewer would be viable.

If cost was the only factor, a homeowner whose property has good soils and plenty of space for a septic tank with a drain field would own his system every time.

The numbers are pretty clear.

According to Daryl Couturier of Lake Leelanau Excavating, a typical septic and drain field system in Leelanau County for a three-bedroom home costs about $5,000. Prices vary greatly, though, by soil type, building layout and topography.

That system is designed to operate for many years.

Let’s compare its expense with the costs to hook up and use municipal sewers in Leelanau County.

The upfront cost for the septic and drain field system itself spread over 25 years comes to $200 annually. The septic tank should be pumped about every third year at a cost of about $315, according to a representative of Williams and Bay Pumping in Cedar. That comes to $105 per year.

So the total annual cost is $305 to build and maintain your own septic and drain field over a 25-year window, unless there is some type of breakdown.

Compare that cost with the expense of using municipal systems in Leland, Suttons Bay and Northport:

Leland

Hook-up fee, $6,000

Annual cost over 25 years: $240

Monthly charge times 12: $591.96

Total annual cost: $831.96

Suttons Bay

Hook-up fee, $5,500

Annual cost over 25 years: $220

Monthly charge (One SEU) times 12: $853.08

Total annual cost: $1,073.08

Northport/Leelanau

Hook-up fee, $17,598

Annual cost over 25 years: $1,466.50

Monthly charge times 12: $732

Total annual cost: $2,198.50

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