*Social Media Awareness Campaign Strategy, below post*

What is in your water? Genoa Township Responds to a sodium chloride crisis with a $6,000,000 investment~

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Figure 1) The Mill Pond, a favorite for families in the area, and ducks, too.

In recent months, Genoa Township has been the target of criticism for spending $6Million on a project to fix local water systems.  However, some think this project is long overdue. Two years ago,  private water well owning residents in Genoa Township, Michigan began to experience heavy sodium chloride residues in their drinking water. This lead to the discovery of contaminated water from an antiquated water filtration system in the local community well. Additionally, the low-quality water including runoff from nearby landfills, caused a large sodium plume which is migrating through the groundwater. In an interview, Genoa Township water authority Director, Greg Tatara, said the private well owners that had experienced the problem including foul smell, taste, and residue on household items such a dishes, tubs, and toilets, received complimentary reverse-osmosis systems to help reduce the problem until a larger solution could be implemented (G. Tatara, personal communication, June 29, 2015).

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Figure 2) Watershed Table Note. Genoa Twp gets water from the Lake Huron watershed. Click Image to find YOUR local watershed~ Source: EPA.gov

History

Genoa Township is a small community located north of Ann Arbor, Michigan in Livingston county and is serviced by the Huron Watershed-04090005 (Watershed). Livingston county was a lightly populated, agriculturally based town with orchards and small farms, for more than a century before increased population in the Detroit metro area and the resulting urban sprawl caused it to be a very popular area for young families to live, now boasting about 65,000 residents (Genoa).

As the area grew rapidly during the 1990’s changes were needed to the water supply to support the rapidly growing populations. Thus, MHOG (Marion-Howell-Oceola-Genoa) Water Authority was created to provide water to the four townships. The Genoa Township web authority manages the day to day operations, planning, and operations of the municipal water systems for Genoa and Oceola Townships, while Howell manages its own (Genoa).

Oak Pointe Painting 003
Figure 3) Water storage tanks. Photo compliments of Genoa Twp water engineering department.

According to the department report, included in the Genoa Township management program are: “3 wastewater treatment plants, a sanitary collection system with over 500,000 linear feet of pipe and 56 pump stations, 2 water treatment plants, and a water distribution system with over 750,000 linear feet of pipe, 7 water towers, and 4 booster stations (Genoa).

The Genoa Township area is serviced by the community well and water tower system housed in the Oak Pointe subdivision, adjacent to both Big Crooked Lake and Little Crooked Lake. Oak Pointe water services both the Oak Pointe golf resort and community, as well as North Shore Village residential community on the North Side of Big Crooked Lake. A full list of serviced communities within MHOG can be seen here  (Genoa): http://genoa.org/articles/article/watersewerdistricts

Water System Overhaul: Oak Pointe Project

In 2014, MHOG proposed an overhaul of the water system for Oak Pointe to replace the antiquated systems and provide cleaner water to residence. The oversight team decided it needed to act based on: continuing numerous regulatory violations associated with sodium and chloride (1) (see notes for current regulations), as well as that the existing plant discharges to groundwater which has increasing environmental regulations and could be a potential liability for existing and future residents.

According to the Oak Pointe project report, the  scope of the Oak Pointe project will be to consolidate two wastewater treatment plants into one (recommended by the state guidelines) and will reduce energy and chemical usage and expenditure. As an additional benefit to residents, they will no longer have to use potassium chloride for water softeners (in lieu of sodium) and they therefore will see a savings in their family budgets.

The project further entails converting the Oak Point waste water treatment plant to a pump station, and other modifications. The included three phases of construction, which include:

1) Upgrades to the existing Genoa Oceola Wastewater treatment plant to accept flow from Oak Pointe.

2) Installation of 5 miles of force main along Chilson Road

3) Conversion of the existing Oak Pointe Wastewater Treatment Plant to a pump station.

Oak Pointe Tower
Figure 4) Oak Pointe Tower seen prior to restoration. Metal exposure is seen upon close inspection, with cracks and minor leakage.

To fund this project, the township sold Capital Improvement Bonds for $6Million in July of 2014. Debt repayments will occur by way of additional taxes added to the quarterly tax bills of the residence. According to a letter from Genoa Township to Oak Pointe water customers, the metered water rate increased from $3.08 to $3.12 per 1,000 gallons. The additional monies would contribute to expand the capital improvement reserve transfers from $5,000 to $20,000 annually and allow for self-funding of future maintenance projects (Genoa.org Oak Pointe Project Report 2014)

Further, the Oak Pointe water tower, which had not been painted since its original construction in 1992 and now has rust eating through the metal, would cost $300,000 including encapsulation to protect the community from airborne toxic pollutants during sand blast. This project was not originally  included in the larger water overhaul project and thus requires a separate debt charge program (Genoa).

Local Perspectives:

Aside from a few naysayers, residents of the areas affected by this water issue do not seem phased by the additional cost. Some locals, as reported by city meeting documents (Marion) are more concerned about water quality and dealing with the associated inconvenience, than investment costs. In 2014, concerned residents, who showed up in droves to local township meetings with complaints about their wells and local water quality, expressed their alarm with statements about what they had heard from the county representatives.

A Lucy Road resident at a Marion Township meeting expressed his concern saying,  “The Chilson Road Genoa-Olceola plant had a problem with the sodium that was being discharged into groundwater, which resulted in a plume of sodium migrating over to Lucy Road. Now, there are several homes along Lucy Road that have elevated sodium levels in their well water and they’ve been on bottled water for months (cite)”.  This citizen said further, that they were willing to pay the fees to hook up to a new water source, which at the time were approximately $4,000.  Marion township officials then offered to fund the expense for the homeowners, and  the motion carried 5-0.

Although maybe long overdue, the Genoa Township water authority seems to have taken the right steps to remediate and improve water supply. In fact, aside from this plant process issue, where other elements of water quality are concerned, the township has fared quiet well. In review of the most recent water quality report, Genoa Township is within guidelines for all monitored contaminants. To see the 2014 Water Quality Report for the Genoa Charter Township-Oak Pointe Water System, click here and search for the .pdf in the right column.

What about fluoride?

Also, during my interview with Greg Tatara, I posed some of my own concerns regarding adding toxic fluoride to our drinking water, and asked if he was aware of the new EPA guidelines that reduced the maximum level of fluoride to 4.0 parts per million (EPA).  Not only did Greg confirm his awareness of this information, but acknowledged that Genoa Township does not add fluoride to the water…that Genoa is “minimally treated plant”, and that I should have no concern about them adding fluoride, going forward. Greg added, that regarding the Oak Pointe project, it was in its second stage of completion, the tower has been painted, and everything is going well and right on budget (2). Thanks to Greg and the township staff for taking care of our community water health.

Helpful Links:

Genoa Township Offices

For local water emergencies & water info

Article about toxic fluoride in drinking water, by the New England Journal of Medicine

Current Contaminants watched for with EPA

EPA 6 Year Water Review standards

Notes:

(1) Enrolled House Bill No. 4768 Sponsors: Reps. Crawford, Denby, Kowall and Rogers. Sec. 3109e (1) : “…the department shall not establish or enforce a limitation for sodium or chloride in a groundwater discharge permit that is more restrictive than the following: (a) 400milligrams of sodium per liter (b) 500 milligrams of chloride per liter.

(2) On a separate but related topic, Greg mentioned his larger concern about our clean water supply is that they are seeing a far faster drainage of groundwater due to “big agriculture” in the region. He claims they are drawing water out before it is able to complete the natural filtering process.

References:

Beller, Michael. M.D., Gessner, Bradford. M.D., Middaugh, John. M.D., & Whitford, Gary. PH.D. D.M.D. 1994. Acute Flouride Poisoning From a Public Water System. New England Journal of Medicine. Vol 330. No 2. 95-99. DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199401133300203

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Drinking Water in Your State. Retrieved from http://epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo.mi.htm

Genoa Township. 2014 Water Quality Report for the Genoa Charter Township-Oak Pointe Water System. 2015. Retrieved from http://genoa.org/departments/utilities/watersewer. External link.pdf

Genoa Township. History of Genoa Township. 2015. Retrieved from http://genoa.org/history

Genoa Township. 2014 Oak Pointe Water Adjustment. 18 Mar 2014. http://genoa.org/water. External link .pdf.

State of Michigan. House of Representatives. 97th Legislature. Enrolled House Bill No. 4768. 2013.

Watershed Image: http://www.globalgreatlakes.org/static/gglws/images/lakes/LGL/Great%20Lakes%20Watersheds_Ohio%20DNR.gif

 

Social Media & Campaign Strategy

 

Format:

This essay has been prepared in blog post format and includes references, links, and images to support the information as presented. The target audience is the citizens of Genoa Township, Michigan and any others interested in local policy and water quality issues.

Objective:

The objective of this campaign is to highlight the accomplishments of the local water authority in correcting an unhealthy and damaging, ongoing, water quality issue. The approach is through a thorough explanation of the situation and the clear directives of the municipality to create a thoughtful solution. The hope is to eliminate or at least mitigate the criticism heard with regard to the township management, mostly from those whom seek to run for county offices and/or earn paid positions within township management. As always, the overriding goal is to create a feeling of goodness and care for all citizens and the environment within our community.

Platforms:

The social media platforms used in this instance is a blog post commentary, written in a lightly persuasive style intended for general audiences. Plenty of links are offered to hard data sources, including the most recent local water quality reports. Some additional information regarding fluoride has been mentioned, as a teaser to future articles, as this is a popular topic of discussion within our community. The blog post will be shared with the public on several forums, which will include, but are not limited to:

*Facebook community pages/environmentally conscious pages/personal timelines of citizens

*Twitter feeds with the title and lead snippet and link back to the blog post. This will trigger not only for the main post, but also will share comments to keep the presence alive.

*Email option is available for those wishing to follow the blog, as well as personal share links that each may use to transfer the blog post page to their own personal accounts.

*Additionally, a social media management system such as “SproutSocialOnline” will be used to transfer original post and any updates or comments across multiple media platforms, simultaneously.

Timing:

The goal is to share with a minimum of 5% of the community within the first 30 days of publication, which will typically translate to a 25% communication within a few month’s time.

Access:

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