By David Fleet
Brandon Twp.- Dog food and plenty of sunshine.
Two seemingly unrelated components that could now save the district and taxpayers more than a million dollars.
Due to the lack of a sanitary sewer system in the township—the Brandon district’s high school and middle school share a wastewater treatment plant that, for the past years, has been failing to meet Michigan Department of Environmental Quality standards. As a result, the DEQ has mandated the plant be replaced by November 2019. The estimated cost of replacing the plant is $1.5 million.
In August 2016, funding for the new treatment plant was denied by voters when a 2-year, 2-mill proposal on the primary ballot. The sinking fund millage would have garnered $2.2 million enough to fund a new wastewater treatment plant along with a few other projects in the school district.
Since that time other options were explored by the district to find a solution prior to the DEQ deadline.John Thompson, Brandon School director of operations along with Highland, Mich. based—Highland Treatment, Inc. may be on the cusp of a far less costly solution to the wastewater issue.
The team redirected the influent back into the sludge tank and dispersed the waste back into the watertreatment plant. Then by using air diffusers on the influent it allowed the bacteria that breaks down the waste to work more effectively.
“The process allows more time for the denitrification of the schools waste,” said Thompson. “Simply put it allows time for the bacteria to break down the waste faster before discharge.”
The results reduced the TIN or total inorganic nitrate level to .4 milligrams per liter far below the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality requirement of 5 milligrams per liter.
For many years the TIN level has never been below13 milligrams per liter—far exceeding the MDEQ acceptable levels, said Matt Outlaw, district superintendent.
“We thought all the remedies for treatment to reduce the TIN had been exhausted,” he said. “Now for the past five months we have made the state standards—by a lot. It’s very good news for the district.”
Adding to the remedy also includes the introduction of dog food to the system in the summer months when the wastewater treatment is at a low point since the schools are closed, added Thompson.
“The dog food actully keeps the bactria that breaks down the waste active year around,” he said. “In addition, we also covered the waste tanks with plastic in the winter months to increase the temperature inside. So when the sun shines on the tanks it’s warmer prompting bactria to work thus reducing the TIN more effectively.”
The district is required to send montly samples from the wastewater plant to the MDEQ. The district officials will meet with Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in late September to discuss the results.
“If approved we could be looking at a five year extension on our water permit,” said Thompson. “We are not out of the woods yet, however, it’s looking a lot better than a few years ago. It would mean fixing the problem would cost the district less than $200,000 rather than $1.5 million.”
By David Fleet