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Expert explains wastewater system amid Journeyman, Three Oaks agreement

THREE OAKS, Mich. -- After wastewater issues arose in the Village of Three Oaks, Michigan and meetings were held in June, the Village is looking into ways to find a solution to the problem they say was caused by Journeyman Distillery.

The Village came to an agreement with Journeyman Distillery back in June to haul their wastewater away for 90 days while they come up with a plan. Now, they’re conducting a wastewater characterization study to find out the most cost effective options that will solve the issue once and for all.

“A lagoon is a simpler process and it’s a slow long detention time process,” said Tim Lynch, Plant Manager of St. Joe/Benton Harbor Wastewater Plant.

Lynch explains the difference between a lagoon treatment plant which is what Three Oaks has now, an industrial plant and a conventional wastewater treatment plant.

“Whereas in a conventional wastewater plants, were a class a facility, we treat 15 million gallons a day,” said Lynch.

Back in June, The Village of Three Oaks told ABC 57 News the distillery was discharging three to five times the allowed levels of what’s known as Biological Oxygen Demand. Lynch says one industry can bring an impact from thousands of people on a treatment system and that’s where the problem starts.

“We serve about 58 thousand people here in the Benton Harbor/St. Joe area. A lagoon is typically for a village of maybe a few thousand people. When you do have a different type of waste coming into that lagoon system there needs to be some measures taken to soften the impact of what the industrial waste is going to do to that slow moving biological system,” said Lynch.

“At and individual industry it could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 dollars,” said Lynch.

Lynch says an even bigger conventional treatment plant usually serves largely populated cities like Benton Harbor and St. Joe, Michigan rather than villages like Three Oaks.

“I could see where it would range anywhere from $1 million to $5 million dollars, because anytime you dig in the ground in the wastewater treatment business, you’re spending millions of dollars,” said Lynch.

But it’s a costly task in the end either way.

“So yea it’s very cost intensive and capital intensive. Which is the beauty of a lagoon; it’s a big pond. Has one or two or three cells, the water flows in one end and it breaks down the organic material.. and it’s cheap,” said Lynch.

At this point, Three Oaks has not decided on whether they will update their wastewater treatment. We did reach out to journeyman’ distillery but have not yet heard back.

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