Kerri Reid, a White Lake Township resident, was running his dog on the open land south of Wise Road and west of Union Lake Road — formerly part of the state-owned Proud Lake Recreation Area — in Commerce Township last week when his dog began to pull him in a different direction.
“You know how dogs are when they find something smelly,” said Reid, who knew right away that what his dog was smelling was sludge, semi-solid material that is precipitated by sewage treatment. “They want to go run in it.”
A retiree of the Pontiac Wastewater Treatment Plant, Reid said he knew exactly what he was looking at.
“I know what sludge is,” he said. “I’ve processed tons of it.”
According to Reid, about four pick-up loads of sludge were dumped on the 201-acre parcel, which was acquired by Commerce Township from the state last year.
The purchase was the first of two the township will make of Proud Lake Recreation Area land, located along either side of Wise Road west of Union Lake Road and non-contiguous to the main portion of the recreation area.
The undeveloped, northern parcel to be purchased in the spring is larger at 301 acres and must be closed on no later than April 15.
Reid said he doubts a licensed sludge hauler dumped the sludge in the area since they would lose their license for hauling.
“My guess is that it’s from a septic tank in this area,” Reid said. “An unscrupulous contractor may have been repairing the tank or maybe a do-it-your-self guy pumped his own septic tank out into a tilt trailer. A regular sewage treatment facility wouldn’t do this.”
The unauthorized dumping of sludge can pose several public health and environmental issues, such as the spread of E. coli, as well as metal pollutants.
Since it’s most likely that the sludge is from a local residence, Reid said he doesn’t believe metals will be a major concern because they tend to be present mainly in industrial-based wastewater. Yet, he said he believes samples should be tested anyway to make sure.
While biosolids can sometimes be used as land fertilizers, they first have to be treated and processed in a treatment facility and must meet the strict regulations and quality standards that are outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they can be applied on land.
“With 36 years working with wastewater treatment, I consider myself somewhat an environmentalist,” Reid said. “And this is an environmental concern. The area is open to the public, and the public should be aware that this sludge is there.”
Commerce Township Supervisor Tom Zoner said the township was just made aware of the issue.
“We’re going to send people out there to check it out,” he said. “We won’t know anything until we send someone out.”