GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Georgetown Township Board members voted unanimously to enforce a 1978 Michigan statute that's costing residents thousands of dollars to stop using their septic tanks and switch to their sewer system.
"I'm scared, how am I going to do this?" That's how homeowner Nancy McDuffee says she felt Wednesday when she opened a letter from the township that contained a quote for $10,625 to connect to the township's sewer if she pays in 2017. That doesn't include an additional $8,700 a local contractor quoted her to physically connect her home.
"All of sudden, everybody has to hook up," said McDuffee. "You have 18 months to save what turns out for me to be $19,325. I have one income. I don’t know why they don’t give more time, like five years. That’s a lot of money to come up with. I don’t know if I can do it."
The Georgetown Township Board voted May 8 to enforce part of Michigan Public Health Code Act 378, passed in 1978, which requires home and business owners within 200 feet of a sewer system to connect within 18 months. Until now, that law has not been enforced in Georgetown Township.
McDuffee and her neighbor Carol Huyser say many can't afford this, and years ago when sewer lines were installed, township officials told them the opposite.
"When they laid the original [sewer] pipes they said you don’t have to pay for it, you won’t have to hook up until you sell your house or until your septic system goes bad," said Huyser.
"So then we all went, okay that we can do, because we just had a new septic system put in."
Township Superintendent Daniel Carlton refused to speak on camera with FOX 17 but said he understands the frustration, but some nearby lakes, including Maplewood Lake, are becoming contaminated, some with E. coli. It's hard to determine whose, if any, septic tanks are failing, Carlton said.
McDuffee said her septic systems are working. "We maintain them, we get them pumped," she said. She added that there should be an ordinance that requires residents to pump their septic tanks every three years rather than having to hook up to the sewer system.
According to the township, residents are offered financing plans up to 20 years at an interest rate of 3 percent, changed from a 10-year plan at six percent interest. Still, residents like McDuffee hope at least to be given more than 18 months to hook up in order to save up the money.
"I hope that they would give us more time," she said.
FOX 17 reached out to board members, but as of Thursday evening has not heard back.