Long Beach considers MC sewer service

July 16, 2018

LONG BEACH – Concerned residents packed the Long Beach Community Center Saturday morning to debate the merits of converting from septic to sewer along Lake Shore Drive, and possibly throughout the town.

After the La Porte County Health Board issued a permanent moratorium on septic system permits for properties north of Lake Shore Drive last year, the town of Long Beach approached the Michigan City Sanitary District and Haas & Associates LLC to discuss their options.

Jim Maurer of Haas & Associates discussed two of them at length during Saturday’s meeting.

The first, he said, would be a gravity sewer system, consisting of an 8-inch PVC pipe that runs underneath Lake Shore Drive. Each property required to use the sewer line would have its own individual hookup, to be paid for by the property owner.

Maurer estimates the total project cost of a gravity system for approximately 300 households – 150 on each side of the road – to be $4,253,200.

He said financing would be provided through the MCSD. If the town were to choose the 30-year option of a fixed rate of 2 percent interest, the estimated monthly sewer bill for those living on Lake Shore Drive would be $98.50. If they were to choose the 25-year option at 4.5 percent interest, it would be $147.20 per month.

The second sewer option, according to Maurer, would be to install a pressure system. If the town were to go this route, grinder pumps would need to be installed at each property and hooked up to a 3-inch high-density polyethylene pipe that would run 12,000-feet down Lake Shore Drive and another 400-feet down Moore Road.

Maurer estimates the total project cost of a pressure system for Lake Shore Drive residents to be $2,280,000.

Monthly sewer bills, he said, would cost individual property owners around $70.10 per month if the town chooses 30-year financing or $94.60 per month with the 25-year option.

A third option, a vacuum sewer system, also was considered by engineers, but deemed unsuitable for the unique needs of Long Beach.

According to Maurer, no matter which sewer system the town chooses to use along Lake Shore Drive, installation cost will vary by household depending on the level of difficulty it takes to hook a home up to the main line. He estimated a simple hookup might cost a homeowner $5,000, whereas a more difficult hookup could cost $10,000 or more.

Monthly sewer billing would be dependent on the water usage of each household.

When the meeting was opened for public input, at least two dozen residents asked questions or raised concerns. Some spoke in favor of a new sewer system, others expressed opposition, and several remained neutral on the issue.

Trench excavating versus drilling, setback requirements, and sources of funding were some of the topics discussed.

One resident asked if the town council could apply for grants to fund a new sewer system.

John Kocher of the Long Beach Board of Zoning Appeals said sewer system grants aren’t available to places like Long Beach, where the average household income is higher than $90,000 per year.

Another resident asked how the county board of health could dictate that the town switch from septic to sewer.

Health Department Administrator Tony Mancuso said the board issued the moratorium in the interest of public health and safety after Lake Michigan water levels rose to the point of washing away septic systems. However, he said, it’s outside the board’s jurisdiction to determine the appropriate alternative solution or to consider the economic ramifications for the town or individual residents.

Multiple residents asked for and received reassurance that the only people who would be charged for the installation and use of a sewer system would be those whose homes are connected to the sewer system.

And several people asked that if a sewer system be installed for the 300 residences along Lake Shore Drive, the entire town of 1,100 households convert to it immediately.

Some said making the transition in phases would cost extra time and money. Others offered that the more people who use the sewer system, the lower the cost per user would be.

Steven Stanford, operations manager at the MCSD, said the district has the capacity to service all of Long Beach; and he confirmed the proposed pipe sizes for the Lake Shore Drive sewer project would be sufficient to provide service to the entire town.

Before adjourning the meeting, Kocher said town officials would continue to gather information on the various ways to address the potential sewer system conversion, and would update Long Beach residents as more steps are taken and meetings are scheduled.

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