2008-05-15 / Front Page

Board Continues To Tackle Sewer Dilemma

Brevort Township
By Paul Gingras

New-York based Frontier Insurance Company, hired to cover the Brevort Township sewer project, has officially denied any compensation for the project it was paid to insure in 1999, the township board learned at its Wednesday, May 7, meeting. Brevort Township will hold a special meeting and seek input from the Mackinac County Board of Commissioners regarding what to do next.

The board also learned from the Department of Environmental Quality that a mechanism to bypass the sewer's damaged lift station near homes on Brevort Lake can continue to operate, with minor alterations.

In recent months, the township had considered expensive methods to address corrosive sewer gas that builds up in the line.

Township attorney Charles Brown sent a letter to Frontier Insurance this January refusing an $8,000 final settlement offer by the company for a claim of more than $400,000.

Several parties have claims, including the township, the county, U.P. Engineers, and several contractors who lost money when Midwest Contractors, hired to build the sewer, quit before the project was finished, left work undone, and later went bankrupt.

A letter from Frontier's claims manager, John Hillman, was read aloud at the township's May meeting.

The company is "at a loss on how to resolve this claim. I will therefore be closing my file on this claim," Mr. Hillman wrote.

"I do not think there is any choice but to file a lawsuit against [Frontier]. The problem, of course, is how to pay for it," said Brevort Township Supervisor Ed Serwach, who also serves as the sewer system administrator.

For several years, the insurance company has been protected from litigation by its "rehabilitation" status in the state of New York. Mr. Brown's attempts to find out how long the status will apply have been unsuccessful.

Before authorizing the discharge of the sewer's water treatment lagoons April 16, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reviewed the sewer system's new bypass mechanism. The DEQ determined that a small component is in danger of being damaged by hydrogen sulfide gas. This is a minor problem compared to earlier assessments of the system this winter, Mr. Serwach said.

The DEQ's judgment means the township will not have to pay for large-scale chemical or mechanical remedies, estimated to cost between $10,000 and $50,0000, Mr. Serwach told the public.

Sewage will not be redirected through the damaged lift station.

A mechanism to bypass the station, installed by Maverick Construction last summer, is working. Odorous hydrogen sulfide gas had built up in the sewer line and caused a smell at the lift station.

Owing to the bypass, the gas now emerges at the water treatment lagoons at the end of the sewer line, distant from residences.

Residential grinders have been sanitized and are in good shape, Mr. Serwach said.

"As far as I'm concerned, the system is fixed," he told The St. Ignace News.

This spring, water levels at the treatment lagoons were at their highest since the system was installed. They had just begun to overflow when the DEQ inspected them, Mr. Serwach said. He attributes the high water level to the heaviest snowfall the area has seen in years, as well as frequent flushing of the sewer line.

In a letter to the board, the DEQ recommended that the township install a meter to monitor sewage flow, pressure gauges to monitor stress on the grinders, and monitor sulfide gas concentrations at the lagoon, and increase its reporting to the department.

The water discharged from the lagoons was clean, the DEQ reported.

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