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Sewer, water connection mandate to remain in Howard

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

HOWARD – Buildings in the village usable for human occupation and fronting streets serviced by sewer and water will still be required to connect to those utilities, but with one exemption added.

The Howard village board voted 7-2 Monday, March 11, to keep that mandate, but exempted the connection requirement for homes located more than 400 feet from a street.

Trustees Craig McAllister and Cathy Hughes opposed the board’s motion with President Burt McIntyre and trustees Ron Bredael, Chris Nielsen, John Muraski, Scott Beyer, Ray Suennen and Adam Lemorande voting in favor.

The matter came before the board at the request of McAllister, who has been critical of thousands of dollars in special assessments being charged to village residents who have existing wells and septic systems, but must connect to sewer and water when those municipal services are extended past their houses.

A village map provided to the board showing possible future assessment parcels indicated there are 162 homes that might be likely to connect to municipal utilities and another 170 homes unlikely to be required to connect.

The village code related to a mandatory water connection states, “A building located adjacent to a street in which there is a public water supply shall be connected to the public water supply unless otherwise approved by the village board.”

A staff report provided to the board by Geoff Farr, director of public works, also pointed out the village code requires connecting to an adjacent sewer system within 30 days of written notice.

Farr, who recommended keeping the mandate in place, said a municipal water supply is better suited to protecting public health than private wells.

“This basically boils down to public health and safety,” he said.

Farr also noted municipal water is tested for the presence of dozens of chemicals, while a sanitary sewer system takes waste away from properties to a treatment plant.

He said eliminating the connection requirement would result in “many, many issues” for the village.

However, McAllister took exception to the information Farr reported to the board, noting he couldn’t find evidence of septic systems causing groundwater contamination.

Instead, McAllister said he found evidence of problems with municipal sewer and water systems being linked to pollution, such as with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District dumping raw sewage into Lake Michigan and when Milwaukee’ water supply was affected by cryptosporidium in 1993.

“If we’re looking for point-source polluters, to say that the public utilities never pollute or they’re always 100 percent foolproof is as foolish as the notion as anything is ever being foolproof,” McAllister said.

When McAllister asked about Farr having a well and septic system at his own home and the effect on the environment, Trustee John Muraski interjected, “This is not about Mr. Farr.”

McIntyre, who noted he didn’t want to do away with the connection requirement, said he would consider an exemption.

“We can’t just simply say, ‘I’m a property owner and I can do any damn thing I want with my property,’” he said. “That’s not true – not in the municipality where we all depend on each other.”

Two members of the public spoke in favor of eliminating the connection mandate.

Kathy McAllister questioned whether it was money instead of public health the village was worried about, because homes not next to sewer and water service still wouldn’t have to connect.

Kathy McAllister also noted chemicals are put into a municipal water supply.

“Our water in our own wells are far superior,” she said.

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