Sewage crisis – punitive action created by Salem’s political leaders

Apr. 8, 2024  PLYMOUTH VOICE.

Plymouth Michigan News



Guest Editorial

By: Kurt Heise


On April 4, more than 700 residents from Plymouth, Canton, Northville, and Salem attended a Public Hearing hosted by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy regarding the proposed Salem Sewer Plant.  I was honored to join with those in attendance representing Plymouth Township and sharing their opposition to this ill-conceived project.

Today, it is not my intention to reiterate the points we have already heard, but to provide some additional information and points that were raised by some of the residents who spoke.  I would also like to make a suggestion on where we go from here, as the proposed Sewage Plant is, in my opinion, dead on arrival.

Preliminary analysis from our Township Engineers indicates that flow in the Fellows Creek in normal rain events would increase by 24 percent if the plant were operating at the discharge rates being permitted by EGLE.  This number would increase another 10 percent in a more significant wet weather event before considering any future infiltration and inflow that many sanitary sewer systems across the State experience today.   This also does not consider how that volume of discharge would impact erosion along the banks of Fellows Creek that are already distressed due to limited maintenance, but we can assume it would be significant.  We all know that Fellows Creek has seen several flood events that have impacted numerous properties.  Adding another 840,000 gallons (or more) to this already overwhelmed waterway is socially and environmentally unacceptable.

Another point I tried to make at the Hearing was that storm water runoff from a completed “Salem Springs USD” will not be addressed by the sewage plant; while I know Washtenaw County has a strong storm water management ordinance, the fact remains that new, additional storm water runoff from the USD zone will continue to impact Canton and Superior Townships. There has been no analysis to my knowledge about the storm water discharge into the creek that would be caused by the overall Salem Springs development.

Another item that came up at the Hearing was the fact that the Salem Sewer Plant, while allegedly employing current technology, will still generate sludge that will have to be taken away by truck to a landfill.   There are few landfills that take sludge, so those trucks will likely be traveling through Plymouth, Canton, and Salem Townships.   Our communities are already burdened with massive trash haulers going to the landfill in Salem, which again is right on our borders.

While a wastewater treatment plant of this magnitude is being proposed, has anyone considered the specialized staffing such a plant would require ensuring that it receives not only routine maintenance but also is able to address mechanical failures in the event of an emergency?  To our knowledge Salem Township does not employ any such expertise and relying on a private organization and/or HOA to maintain such a facility seems questionable especially considering that the consequence for not maintaining properly could lead to untreated wastewater discharges which would not only be an ecological disaster but a social one as well.

With that in mind, I would also like to address the Anti-Degradation element of EGLE’s analysis.  Prior to the Public Hearing, we were told by EGLE, through our legislators, that EGLE would be focusing on environmental, and not social degradation.   While I don’t have hard data at this time to quantify my statements, I am confident that a Sewage Plant across the street from hundreds of homes in Plymouth Township, most valued well over half a million dollars, would see significant diminution of value and overall lowering of our residents’ quality of life.  Hundreds more homes downstream of the plant in Plymouth Township would experience flooding of the Fellows Creek and storm water detention basins, which I am sure were never designed to accept this significant additional flow.

Clearly the proposed siting for this facility (at M-14 and Napier) is punitive to the people of Plymouth Township, designed by politicians, developers, and lobbyists to create a regional crisis while ignoring the real reasons we are here – because Salem wanted to create a city within a quiet rural township, an “Urban Services District” – a city with no water, no sewer, no roads, no Police, no full-time Fire, and no Public Works.

Salem’s political leaders created this crisis that they are now pushing onto Plymouth, Canton, and Northville – not to mention their own residents.

And finally, while I heard a lot last Thursday on ‘cooperation’ and ‘trying to find a regional solution,’ the outrageous, desperate comments and writings of Salem Attorney Ed Plato have poisoned the well between our communities to the point that productive discussions may be fruitless.  To assert that I and/or the Township of Plymouth are the reasons why Salem is proposing a sewage plant is ridiculous. Perhaps Mr. Plato wants to conceal the fact that he lost in Circuit Court twice and in the Court of Appeals on the Superior sewer line fiasco.

While this crisis was not our doing, Plymouth, Canton, and Northville are still expected to fix it. How?  By letting Salem ‘tie in’ to the Western Townships Utilities Authority (WTUA), a sewer system conceived in the 1980’s by Canton, Plymouth and Northville designed to service our three communities.  I serve as the Chairman of WTUA; my two Board colleagues are Supervisor Graham-Hudak of Canton, and Supervisor Abbo of Northville Township. WTUA is valued at $250 million, and it was paid for by our residents.  Our three communities are still growing, and we still have capacity needs of our own.  Under our WTUA bylaws, the three Supervisors must unanimously agree to allow a new community into the system.  Plymouth Township also has a separate ordinance requiring Board of Trustee review and approval of any new entrant, as well as a defined public comment period.

Another item not mentioned last Thursday was the very real possibility of Salem Landfill seeking entry into WTUA to dump more of their landfill leachate into the system.  I am sure the landfill will want a ‘me too’ deal to dump more leachate, and likely more PFAS, through our communities.

There is no secret floodgate or button we can push to allow Salem or any other community into the WTUA system.  Again, I am not an engineer, but what I have been told by our experts is that we do not have the capacity to allow Salem into the system, and that even if it were possible, the cost for Salem and the upgrades necessary would likely be cost prohibitive, would still have to meet stringent EGLE standards, and would still require approval by Canton, Plymouth and Northville.

So, here is what I propose.  We all know that Schostak Brothers Development Company is the proverbial Elephant in the Room.  I would recommend that Schostak get their civil engineers, consultants and experts assembled and meet with our team at WTUA to see what is even feasible, and what it would cost.

We also need to find out once and for all what is going to be built in the Salem USD, the number of buildings, and the estimated number of residents, so we all have real numbers to deal with.  I’m tired of playing a guessing game.

It’s time to get the politicians, lobbyists, and lawyers out of the room and see where the data and engineering take us.  Trust the Science, remember?




Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt L. Heise was first elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020 for a four-year term.  A township resident, Heise, married to Wayne County 3rd Circuit Court Judge Catherine Heise, has two adult daughters.

Heise serves as Chairman of the Michigan International Technology Corridor (MITC), Chairman of the Western Townships Utilities Authority (WTUA), and a member of the 35th District Court Authority.   In 2017 he was appointed by Governor Snyder to the Huron-Clinton Metropark Authority for a four-year term.  He is a ten-year member of the Plymouth Noon Rotary Club and the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce.



The views and opinions expressed in this essay are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the PLYMOUTH VOICE.


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