Macomb Township to enforce stricter penalties for water ordinance violations

Image source Wiki Commons, taken by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

by ELENA DURNBAUGH

Watering the lawn will have to wait.

The Macomb Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved an amendment to the code of ordinances regarding limitations of water use that would upgrade violations from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction.

Township General Counsel and Human Resources Director Thomas Esordi made the recommendation in an effort to decrease water usage during peak hours in order to achieve better water rates in the township.

The ordinance states that between May 15 and October 15, Macomb Township residents are not allowed to use automatic lawn and landscaping irrigation during peak water use hours, which the ordinance identifies as between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. The ordinance states the properties with even addresses are allowed to water on even calendar dates, and odd addresses are allowed to water their property on odd calendar dates.

Residents found in violation of the water ordinance can expect to pay a fine between $100 and $500.

“These types of ordinances should be corrective in nature, not necessarily just punitive,” Esordi said. “The idea being you want it corrected. You don’t want to just, necessarily, take money from everyone.”

Esordi said that by upgrading ordinance violations to a civil infraction, the township will feel more comfortable issuing citations and will be able to provide notices prior to writing tickets. He also said that more of the funds from civil infractions go to the township.

The water ordinance was originally adopted in 2009 in an effort to lower water rates set by Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), the company that provides water for Macomb Township.

In 2009, the township signed a 30-year contract with Detroit Water and Sewage, which is now GLWA. Water rates have steadily increased over the last several years, despite less water being used in the township overall.

Last July, the township approved an amended contract with GLWA that will allow the contract to be reopened in 2022.

According to GLWA, three key factors determine how much a municipality is charged for water. In addition to distance and elevation from the water plant, GLWA also analyzes how much water the city uses, particularly on the hottest and highest use days.

At a July 2018 board meeting, township engineer James VanTiflin said the problem was that residents were using water at peak hours.

According to the Department of Water and Sewer, water conservation does not affect water rates. The GLWA water system and rate structure is designed so customers can use as much water as they need, but rates are driven up due to the extra cost of supplying water during peak times. The ordinance is intended to minimize demand during the day, which would have a positive impact on the township’s rates.

“We’re trying our darndest to get the folks to follow this,” Water and Sewer Supervisor Gerry Wangelin said.

According to Wangelin, people initially abided by the ordinance, but in the past few years, things have gotten worse. Now, the department issues eight or nine written ordinance violation notices every day.

“It’s just come to a point where people are just disregarding it,” Wangelin said. “We’re trying really hard to enforce this and it’s time to put a little more teeth to it.”

According to Wangelin, 99% of ordinance violators are homeowners. He’s ordered his staff to turn off the water of commercial violators, but said he didn’t want to go that far for residential properties.

Wangelin said that two notices are sent out to homeowners, and on the third violation someone from the department is sent to visit the home.

“I want to give them every opportunity to do the right thing,” he said.

Violations will be enforced by the township ordinance enforcement officer, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, or others designated by the board.

No immediate cost relief is in sight for Macomb Township. Last September, water rates increased by an average of 2.9%. The current rate for water and sewer is $8.32 per 100 cubic feet of water, or 750 gallons.

Residents who have questions about their water bill can contact the Water and Sewer Department at 586-598-0687.