People favor protecting
water with Proposal 2
54 billion gallons of sewage flowed into Michigan waters
two years ago
Traverse City Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY -On this October afternoon,
West Grand Traverse Bay is mirroring soft, low autumn
clouds, rippling slightly as seagulls fly back and forth.
There’s no reminder here of beach closings, no visible
memory of E. coli testing.
up and down the beach, people vividly recall recent raw
sewage overflows into Great Lakes waters, and that’s why,
they say, they are nearly unanimously in favor of Proposal
2, a ballot question that aims to curtail such contamination.
Voters will be asked Nov. 5 to authorize $1 billion in
state bonds for sewer and water system maintenance and
construction, an effort to reduce sewer overflows, beach
closings and water pollution.
something Traverse City needs,” said Susan Boyd, 47, of
Traverse City. “We’ve grown to such an extent. If you
go down Eighth Street, you can see that the system is
overextended. Just look at the smell.”
is fiddling with a camera on the sands of West End Beach,
as the city’s power plant hums in the background. She’s
taking photos of paramedic Bob Meyer for a calendar that
will raise funds for the Sierra Club. Like other voters
who are working, playing or just enjoying the city’s waterfront
during lunch hour, Boyd plans to vote for Proposal 2.
area is known for water sports and recreation — that’s
what brings people to Traverse City,” the 38-year-old
Traverse City man said. “If we have a heavy rain and raw
sewage dumps into the bay, it takes away from everything
that attracts people to Traverse City. You don’t want
people’s kids getting sick from something like a rainstorm.”
City beaches have been closed four times in four years
following storm-induced sewage overflows. State officials
estimate that 54 billion gallons of improperly treated
sewage flowed into Michigan waters two years ago, causing
beach closings statewide because bacterial counts were
too high to safely allow swimming.
of the state’s sewer-bond issue argue that water pollution
caused by aging, deteriorating or insufficient sewage
systems, like Traverse City’s, is one of the worst environmental
problems facing Michigan.
it? I really don’t know, but I plan to find out,” asked
Susan Carlyon, a 53-year-old financial adviser whose office
overlooks West Grand Traverse Bay. She planned to do some
research on the issue before the election.
need good information to make good decisions,” she said.
driver Robert Smith was delivering office supplies to
a waterfront office. The 26-year-old Gaylord man said
he hasn’t paid attention yet to the issue.
all for clean water, though,” he said.
isn’t? So far, there’s little or no opposition to Proposal
2. If approved, the ballot initiative would add about
$180 million a year for 10 years to the state’s revolving
fund that finances loans to local sewer systems. Now,
about $200 million goes into the fund.
voters have a long history of supporting such clean-environment
proposals. And Rocquel Morrison understands why.
have friends that ask, ‘Why do you live in Michigan?’
I say if you’re already in Utopia, why move?” said Morrison,
who was walking her white toy poodle, Baton Bebe, through
the Open Space, as nearby bulldozers moved earth for a
new marina project.
the same time, she said, something needs to be done about
sewage overflows to keep area waters Utopian.
is dumping into the bay,” said Morrison, a fiftysomething
interior designer. “We have a home right on the bay, and
I think I swam in contaminated water before I knew about
it. This (bond proposal) is something we really need to
the bay, Tom Baker was fishing for trout along the Boardman
River with his dog, Bud, a pit bull and German shepherd
mix. Ducks quacked and paddled, fat salmon swam visibly
underwater, and black willows lined the shore. The water
here, Baker said, is still pretty darned pristine.
it’s going downhill,” he said. “And this sewer thing,
it’s just another example of too many people in too small
an area. Older buildings are dumping roof water into the
system too, so they need to make sure every building is
up to code.”
officials recently tested downtown buildings and discovered
that more than 24 drains feed into the city’s sewage,
rather than the stormwater, system. During heavy rains,
those drains fed an estimated 360,000 gallons of relatively
clean water into the sewage system. The influx of water
forces manhole covers to pop and raw sewage to overflow,
draining into Boardman Lake and then West Grand Traverse
the bridge over the Boardman, Tom Schoemp headed toward
Clinch Park Beach for a smoke after work as a general
laborer. The 52-year-old Traverse City man said something
needs to be done with the city’s sewer system, considering
population growth and recent overflows.
they’re not going to get it by taxes, they’re going to
have to do it some other way,” he said. “Here, look at
this system. It’s outdated. It needs to be upgraded. We
need it. We need it bad.”
at the beach, Bob and Char DeYoung were walking along
the water, on vacation from the Grand Rapids area to celebrate
their 23rd wedding anniversary. Char, 45, thinks that
businesses also should be held accountable — required
to provide holding ponds and treatment facilities for
some of the wastewater they generate.
don’t know enough about this but anything they can do
to clean up the water would be good,” she said.
nodded, and he said: “I’m sure not for pollution.” Ann
Solak and a pal jogged past, along the shoreline, a trip
they take three or more times a week. Other days, Solak
canoes the bay.
an avid water person, and I respect the bay and rivers,”
the 37-year-old Traverse City secretary said. “I am so
tired of hearing about this water being contaminated.”
friend stretched nearby, anxious to resume the run, and
before jogging off toward the Boardman River, said, “If
we don’t take care of it now, it won’t be able to take
care of us. We all rely on it.”
Clinch Park Zoo is open on these fall days, free to local
residents, and it was filled with second-graders on a
field trip from Charlevoix. Behind the zoo, a crane pulled
pilings from the bay, continuing work on a new marina.
A handful of children clustered in front of the otter
tank, watching the playful animals swim a sleek underwater
been to the beaches this summer and they weren’t looking
too good,” said parent-chaperone Bo Eubanks, 30, a building
framer in Charlevoix.” There was algae building up.”
others, he said something needs to be done.
water’s important, especially with Lake Michigan, for
the kids — and for all of us.”