Golden Township: Silver Lake Sanitary Sewer

Welcome to the Golden Township Silver Lake Sanitary Sewer project page! This is a public portal site reserved for future planning of the Silver Lake Area wastewater facility project. Here you can find information about your project and provide input.

(Updated April 16, 2019)

Video recording of the meeting: Click Here

Public Information Meeting – Proposed Public Sewer System for Silver Lake
Date:  Saturday April 13, 10:00am
Location:  Grace Adventures, 2100 N. Ridge Road, Silver Lake, MI  49436

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(Updated April 10, 2019)



Golden Township  

Saturday, April 13, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.


Grace Adventures

2100 N. Ridge Road, Silver Lake, MI  49436

  1. Convene Meeting and Introductions…………….……………………Carl Fuehring, Supervisor Golden Township
  2. Golden Township Board – call to order, roll call and approval of agenda
  3. Presentation by Project Consultants – Proposed Silver Lake Sanitary Sewer

          a. History of Public Sanitary Sewer Efforts ………….……….………………….led by Fleis & VandenBrink

          b. Need for Sanitary Sewer System………………..……….……………………….led by Fleis & VandenBrink

          c. Explanation of Proposed Sewer System ………………..………………….…led by Fleis & VandenBrink

          d. Financial Considerations …….………………………….……led by Robert Bendzinski, Bendzinski & Co.

          e. Legal Considerations;

             Schedule of Events, if approved……………led by Mark Nettleton, Mika Meyers PLC and Edward McNeely,                                                                                      McNeely Law Office Township Attorney

  1. Public Comment
  2. Adjourn


(Updated March 28, 2019)

The 2018 Silver Lake Improvement Feasibility Study and 5-Year Management Plant – Restorative Lake Science has been added to the Prior Silver Lake Environmental Studies and Reports near the bottom of the page.

(Updated March 22, 2019)

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers – Proposed Silver Lake Sewer Project – March 20, 2019

Questions have been raised in letters, e-mails, through the project portal and over social media regarding the proposed project. The following is an updated frequently asked questions document based on recent questions.

What is an R.E.U.?

R.E.U. stands for “residential equivalent unit”.   It is used to establish use units that are based on a typical single-family dwelling.

How are commercial R.E.U.’s determined?

One R.E.U. is equivalent to a single-family home.  Commercial uses are correlated to the typical sewer usage of a single-family home by the assignment of factors which vary based upon the type of use.  These factors have been developed to accurately understand the flows generated by varying types of users and the accuracy of these factors has been verified by actual sewer flows generated by varying types of users.  These factors have been used and upheld in sewer projects throughout the State of Michigan.  Our consultants have researched R.E.U. factors used with sewer projects in a number of communities throughout the state to develop the R.E.U. methodology and the assignment of R.E.U.’s for the proposed Silver Lake sewer project.

When will we receive more detailed information on how R.E.U.’s is calculated and the assignment of R.E.U.’s for our properties in the sewer district?

The proposed R.E.U. methodology and preliminary assignment of R.E.U.’s for the Silver Lake sewer project will be provided with the informational meeting notice letter to be mailed to each property owner in the sewer district.

Why aren’t the commercial businesses, RV parks and campgrounds paying any on-site system costs?

Each commercial business, RV park and campground will be required to upgrade their on-site sewer systems with new systems that will meet effluent discharge standards established by the Township for the project prior to treatment at the new wastewater treatment plant.  The design of these new systems will vary in size and cost based on the varying number of R.E.U.’s assigned to each property and the cost to construct the new on-site system will be paid for by the respective commercial business, RV park and campground.  Each commercial on-site system will be constructed with the public sewer project and will become part of the public sewer system.

What is the cost of a new septic system?

The cost of a new septic system will vary depending on the characteristics of the site.  A new standard system will cost $5,000 on average.  If required isolation distances and depth requirements cannot be achieved with a standard system, an engineered system will be required with an average cost of $15,000.

If I make an improvement to my home, do I have to build a new septic system?

Any home improvement that requires a building permit will need to include the location of the septic system and drain field as part of the site plan review. If the existing septic system is permitted and does not meet current isolation standards, improvements to the existing or a new septic system will need to be built and permitted by Michigan Health Department District #10.  If the Health Department does not have a record of a permit or if a bedroom is added, the existing septic system will need to be inspected by the Health Department for compliance and may need to be upgraded.

The STEP system is not a complete sewer system?  The STEP system is too expensive given available alternatives.

The on-site STEP system components, sewer collection system and centralized wastewater treatment plant constitute a full public collection and treatment system and will meet all MDEQ standards.  All components of this system will be considered part of the public sewer system operated and maintained by a utility authority or similar to be determined if the project moves forward.  A STEP system is commonly used for areas around lake communities, like Silver Lake and has been proven to be reliable and cost effective.  The STEP system has been proposed for use in Silver Lake by various engineers in recent public sewer proposals.

What does the assessment for residential properties cover?  What does the monthly user cost cover?

The assessment will cover the cost of planning, design and construction of all components of the sewer system as well as the removal of existing septic systems and will also cover all costs of start-up of the new wastewater treatment plant.  The monthly user cost covers all operations and maintenance (O&M) of the wastewater treatment plant, the collection system and the on-site STEP system.  This includes the periodic pumping of on-site tanks, repair or replacement of STEP pumps and electrical system components used in the STEP system.

When there is minimal population during the winter months how will pipe freezes and pump failures be addressed?

The design of the on-site STEP components, collection and treatment system will consider seasonal factors related to freezing as well as seasonal population fluctuations.

Who is responsible for paying off assessments if we sell our property?

The assessment stays with the property.  If a property owner sells the property, the new property owner will continue to pay the special assessment for that property. Although if the new property owner has a mortgage on the property, the mortgage company may require that the special assessment be paid in full at the time of purchase of the property or may require that the unpaid portion be added to the mortgage if there is one.

If vacant properties build in the future will they have to pay the sewer assessment, and will our costs be re-evaluated and lowered? 

A vacant property will pay a connection fee at the time they build on the property. The connection will have to be paid in full and will not be able to be paid over time.  The annual O&M cost will be evaluated on an annual basis.

 How do you propose to pay the engineering firm $1.2m to design the project?  Are you adding this cost to the Phase 1 tax bill?

The engineering costs are included in the overall project cost estimate and are already part of the special assessment district calculation.

 How do I know if my property is included in the sewer district?  The map is too small for me to locate my property. 

Property owners can contact the Township to determine if their property is included in the service district.  The Township will be mailing notices of the upcoming meeting to all properties in the district.

Why isn’t the most recent lake study done in 2018 by RLS not on the Township’s web portal?

As soon as the Township receives this study it will be posted to the web portal.

Public Information Meeting – Proposed Public Sewer System for Silver Lake Area

Date:  Saturday April 13; 10:00am

Location:  Grace Adventures, 2100 N. Ridge Road, Silver Lake, Michigan  49436

Please note that this informational meeting will be held in a webinar format for those who cannot attend the meeting in person.  Details of how to access this meeting by webinar will be provided soon.     

We encourage property owner comments through this portal and will continue to respond individually or through updated frequently asked question response posted to this portal.  Comments and questions received through the portal will also be used to help prepare the April 13 public meeting presentation.

(Updated March 12, 2019)

Attached Prior Silver Lake Environmental Studies and Reports posted at the bottom.

(Updated March 7, 2019)

Proposed Silver Lake Sanitary Sewer – Summary of Special Assessment District Procedures

If the Golden Township Board determines to proceed with the Silver Lake Sewer Project (the “Project”), the Township needs to undertake certain steps in a process before construction can begin on the Project.  This is a brief summary of the steps and parties involved in that process.

  1. The Township will need to enter into a contract with Oceana County (the “Bond Contract”) under the provisions of Act 185 of the Public Acts of Michigan of 1957, as amended (“Act 185”). Pursuant to the Bond Contract, the County will agree to acquire, construct, finance, own, operate and maintain the Project for the period that the County’s bonds issued to finance the Project are outstanding.  By agreement, however, the Township can be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Project during that time as well.

The County’s bonds to finance the cost of the Project will be issued to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency (“Rural Development”) to evidence the long-term, low-interest loan from Rural Development for the financing of the Project.

  1. The Township will need to initiate special assessment proceedings to specially assess the costs of the Project to benefited properties in the Township. Consistent with Act 185, the Bond Contract, and the provisions of Act 188 of the Public Acts of Michigan of 1954, as amended (“Act 188”) (especially Section 15c of Act 188), the Township will proceed to designate the boundaries of the special assessment district (the “District”) and prepare a special assessment roll (the “Roll”) setting forth the properties to be assessed for the costs of the Project and the amount of the special assessment.
  1. Following notice by mail and by publication in a newspaper, the Township Board will conduct a public hearing on the Roll. After conducting the public hearing, the Township Board may adopt a resolution to confirm the Roll and set forth the payment terms for the special assessment.
  1. The Township will mail a written notice of special assessment to property owners in the District that are subject to special assessment following confirmation of the Roll.

In accordance with state law, property owners that are included in the District may appeal all or a portion of the special assessment imposed on their property by filing a challenge of the special assessment with the Michigan Tax Tribunal within 30 days of the confirmation of the Roll by the Township.

  1. The engineer then finalizes the design of the Project.
  1. Following design of the Project and approval from Rural Development, the Project engineer publicly advertises and receives competitive bids for the construction of the Project.
  1. Once bids for the construction of the Project are received, the County can then proceed to close on the issuance and delivery of the County’s bonds to Rural Development for the financing of the Project.
  1. Once the County has issued the bonds, construction of the Project may commence.

(Updated February 5, 2019)

Golden Township – Silver Lake Sanitary Sewer System Project
Preliminary User Assessment/Monthly Cost Distribution

Assessment* – approximately $850/year (total assessment cost of approximately $19,500)
(Covers each property owners share of collection system, treatment plant and on-lot costs.
Monthly User Charges – approximately $30/month  
(Covers operations and maintenance of the system including collection system, treatment plant and on-lot system)

Vacant Parcels:
Assessment* – approximately $360/year (total assessment cost of approximately $8,500)
(Covers each property owners share of collection system and treatment plant, no on-lot improvement costs – unimproved property only)

Assessment* – approximately $360/year per REU (total assessment cost is approximately $8,500 times the number of REU’s for that commercial site)
(Covers each property owners share of collection system and treatment plant, on-lot improvements separate)
On-Site Improvement Cost – Varies, costs to be paid by property owner either directly or by connection fee based on actual on-site improvements needed to meet established public sewer specifications.
Monthly User Charges – approximately $30/month per REU
(Covers operations and maintenance of the system including collection system, treatment plant and on-lot system).

*all assessment costs are per REU (residential equivalent unit).  All residential and vacant parcels have 1 REU.  Commercial property total REU’s vary by use and business size.  Yearly assessment cost is based on a low interest 40-year assessment payback.  Estimated yearly costs are for year 1, following years will decrease as assessment interest is paid off. 

The Township has met with USDA-Rural Development and gathered information on grant programs that are available to help low and fixed-income residents.  Details of these programs will be provided at the public information meeting.   

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is this project needed?

All sanitary waste around Silver Lake is discharged to onsite treatment systems, composed of septic tanks with drain fields and many have aged beyond their design life. Proper maintenance and/or system replacement is more difficult due to high water tables and limited available land. Due to the close proximity of the septic systems to the lake, high ground water table and highly permeable soils nutrient loading into the lake has been an ongoing problem. Numerous studies have recommended a centralized sanitary sewer system to solve this problem. With increased growth will come increased nutrient loading to the detriment of the Silver Lake water quality. The need for a centralized collection and treatment system is great.

2. How was the sewer service district determined? Why was Upper Silver Lake not included in the sewer project? When will sanitary sewers be extended to Upper Silver Lake?  

The current sewer service district and proposed project construction will serve only those parcels who are directly tributary to Silver Lake (i.e. surface water flows directly to Silver Lake or via Hunter Creek). The Upper Silver Lake area is not included in this project.  That said, the project has been planned so that Upper Silver Lake can be added as a future service area through expansion of the collection system and wastewater treatment plant at a later time.

3. What are the estimated costs per user for the project?  

The Township is currently working with our consultants to determine preliminary user costs for businesses and residential users. It is the intent of the Township to provide these costs to users ahead of the public information meeting, so they can be further discussed at the meeting.

4. What methodology is proposed for user costs?

The Township Board has been discussing a combination of a Special Assessment that can be paid over 40 years and a monthly user cost that can be adjusted up or down based on actual operation and maintenance cost of the sewer system.

5. How will low or fixed-income residents afford to pay for their share of the project?

The Township has met with USDA-Rural Development and gathered information on grant programs that are available to help low and fixed-income residents. Details of these programs will be provided at the public information meeting.

6. Who will maintain the sewer system once it is constructed?

The new sewer system including on-site holding tank, pump, discharge line and electrical control panel on your property, sewer mains in the streets and the wastewater treatment plant will be owned and maintained by Golden Township, or a Utility Authority that may be set up to own/maintain the system. The Township will need to secure an easement from you for the sewer improvements on your property. The piping from your home or business that connects to the new holding tank and pump will still be owned/maintained by you as the property owner. The holding tank on your property will be periodically pumped by the Township at no additional cost to the property owners.

7. What is a STEP system and why is it being planned instead of other more conventional methods?

A septic tank effluent pump system (STEP) allows the solids to remain in the holding tank and the liquids to be pumped and treated at the wastewater treatment plant. The STEP system has been shown to be the most economical way of handling sewer waste in a lake area such as Silver Lake.

8. Will new septic systems be allowed to remain in place and re-used as part of the new sewer system?

The Township Board is grappling with this issue now and will have more information at the public information meeting as to how this will be addressed. The Board is aware that there are newer septic systems in place and that permit applications for new or modified systems are frequently submitted through the County Health Department (CHD) for approval. Some issues behind this question include the need to build a uniform system to allow cost-effective future maintenance; how to objectively determine what an acceptable system is based on condition or age. These and other factors impact the decision to allow existing septic systems to remain in place and utilized with the new public sewer system. Another issue being discussed is how will the CHD permit septic systems to new homes or renovations in the interim, until the new sewer system is constructed and operational. These are some of the issues that the Board is addressing with its consultants ahead of the public meeting.

9. Why not enforce maintenance for existing septic systems?

The Township has no permitting or enforcement authority of septic systems. They are permitted and inspected through the County Health Department. The County has limited staff for enforcement and even if they had the staff the cost of enforcement would likely be significant. Also, a properly working septic system still discharges its untreated liquids into the ground /groundwater, which makes its way into Silver Lake.

10. Is the State Park on Silver Lake included in the service district?

Yes, the State Park is included in the Assessment District and will be connected to the new sewer system.

11. Will the roads be torn up for construction during the summer months?

Much of the piping for the project will utilize an underground directional drilling construction method, avoiding impactful open cut construction. We anticipate minimal road disruption during the summer months.

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