MICHIGAN CITY | To avoid potential hefty fines, Michigan City keeps taking steps to eliminate sources of alleged environmental crimes involving raw sewage being released into Trail Creek and Lake Michigan.
The Michigan City Sanitary District met Wednesday with various contractors to get a major stormwater sewer separation project along the lakefront ready to be put out for bids.
The city also is going ahead with a new Lake Avenue lift station costing $1.9 million that will go up near California Beach.
The failing lift station — also a source of sewage overflows — was among the host of violations uncovered at the Sanitary District in 2010 after agents with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raided the facility looking for evidence of environmental crimes.
The federal government got involved after then-Sanitary District employee Ron Meer informed the state of things like raw sewage overflows going unreported and potentially dangerous chlorine gas leaks at the treatment facility.
Meer then was let go from his position and later reached a $215,000 out-of-court settlement with the city.
He was elected mayor in November 2011.
"These are efforts to get into compliance with state and federal regulatory rules," Meer said.
The lift station also will include public restrooms at the beach access area, a walkway to the beach and a parking lot with green infrastructure.
Spearheading the effort is Michael Kuss, general manager of the Sanitary District since January 2012.
Just more than half of the nearly 100 areas targeted for improvement have been completed.
"Now, we're doing what we should have been doing in the first place," Meer said.
Kuss said the plan is for both projects to occur during the winter and be finished by May 1 to avoid disrupting the summer tourism season.
Kuss, a former environmental engineer with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said he also hopes to be in full compliance with the long list of violations by Sept. 30.
He said the city could face millions of dollars in fines if all of the violations are not corrected.
"We're grabbing by the bull by the horns and trying to get the job done," Kuss said.