Bronson considers selling water to Otter Creek

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Some say Bronson has the best water in the state.

And Otter Creek, just a dozen or so miles west with its own water supply tainted, would like its neighbor to share.

Joe Mittauer of the engineering firm Mittauer and Associates Inc. addressed the Bronson council Monday night about a plan Otter Creek is proposing that involves piping up to 108,000 gallons of water per day from Bronson’s pristine water supply.

“They’ve got a very serious water quality issue,” Mittauer said, explaining that Otter Creek is “basically pulling from a swamp.” Organic matter in the water has to be treated with chlorine, which sometimes has the negative effect of creating a byproduct known as trihalomethanes, a cancer-causing chemical. Mittauer said levels of the toxin at Otter Creek are sometimes twice the allowed standard.

To solve the issue, the town is tossing around several ideas, Mittauer said. Installing a 12-mile pipe and pumping water from Bronson, at about $2 million, is one of the more costly options, initially, he said. But, in the long run, it works out better for them. 

“Option one (pumping from Bronson) is actually the most expensive to build,” Mittauer said, “but it’s the least expensive to run.”

Bronson could make some money off the deal by charging for the water, Mittauer said.

But Bronson Council members had some doubts. Council members Berlon Weeks and Jason Kennedy both said they didn’t like the idea that Otter Creek was asking for 108,000 gallons per day when, on average, it only uses 12,600 gallons per day. Bronson is permitted for about 800,000 gpd. The water Otter Creek would potentially use, on average, is about 14 percent of Bronson’s water, according to Mittauer.

“They can sell that water to whoever they want to, as long as they don’t go past the 108, 000,” Weeks said. “Well, that limits what we can do.”

Weeks said it may open a door to where developers can come in and use up to the permitted amount, which, in the future, could have an effect of the development of Bronson.

People have tried to develop Otter Creek before, he said. “But it’s got filthy water.” That might change if all of a sudden it had the “second best” water in the state.

“I don’t mind helping our neighbors in need,” Kennedy said, “but why give them three to four times what they need?”

Kennedy also said the council needed to see more data before it could come to a decision on the matter.

Mayor Beatrice Roberts, agreeing with Weeks on an earlier point, said she was also scared that the town would lose its control of the water and asked if Otter Creek would consider letting Bronson have ownership of part of the pipeline.

Mittauer representative Greg Lang said the issue could be negotiated and spelled out in the agreement, but added that the way it’s structured now, Otter Creek would be purchasing the water and in ownership of the pipeline, as well as the storage facility needed for the water.

Roberts said the council would form a committee to discuss the matter, which is expected to be brought back before the council at a later date.


In other matters:

At a budget meeting earlier in the evening, council members unanimously set a proposed millage rate for the upcoming year at 3.6575 mills, which uses a roll back rate to help offset falling property values.

A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. A property owner with a home valued at $100,000 will pay about $366 in property taxes for the upcoming year in the Town of Bronson.

The new rate, up from last year’s 3.44, doesn’t require property owners to pay more in taxes, but does keep ad valorem (property tax) revenues for the town the same. The town will bring in $125, 789 in property taxes, the same as last year. If the rate had stayed the same, it would have lost about 6 percent.