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WSU professor addresses lake waste dumping case

Case verdict determines whether city pays for, builds municipal sewer system

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Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 11:24 am, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

Nick Schroeck, an environmental law professor at Wayne State, spoke on The Craig Fahle Show Nov. 10 about the Michigan Supreme Court’s hearing on dumping waste into Lake Huron.

Schroeck not only teaches but is also a licensed Michigan attorney and the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center based in Detroit. He recently filed a case with the state Supreme Court titled “Michigan Department of Environmental Quality v. Township of Worth.”

The verdict of this case will determine whether Worth Township pays for and builds a municipal sewer system for its residents.

Worth, which is just north of Port Huron, is a tourist area where many people own cottages. All of the homes were built before the 1970s and still have private septic systems.

“In that time, the ideology was: 'dilution is a solution of pollution.' You send your pollution into the lakes, and hopefully it'll take care of itself,” Schroek said.

Environmental laws did not come about until after 1970 when the Clean Water Act was passed and the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. Since the private septic systems have been ignored, they have started to age and leak into Lake Huron, affecting Worth and the entire Great Lakes area.

“Whatever water goes in that system has to be treated before we drink it, so if the water quality is impacted ... that affects all of us,” Schroek said.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, a supplier of water to southeast Michigan, has a water intake just downstream from Worth.

Originally, Worth had an agreement with the DEQ that township officials would install a more modern sewer system. However, when Worth found it was costly, it did not believe it had the money to do so. A Circuit Court order directed them to install it. That order was appealed and sent to the state Supreme Court.

“The cost of not putting a sewage system into Worth is going to raise our water bills as they pay to treat the sewage,” Schroek said

According to the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, discharging sewage into a lake is a major violation. Schroek and the DEQ hope this will further their argument in this case.

The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center website, glelc.org, states it was founded to protect the world's greatest freshwater resource and the communities that depend on it.

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