NORTON SHORES (AP) — A leading auto glass company’s
proposal to pipe treated waste water through a sensitive stretch of
Lake Michigan sand dunes has upset residents and state
environmental regulators.

Last week, an administrative law judge recommended that Nugent
Sand Co. be allowed to build a 600-foot wastewater pipeline beneath
the dunes.

“We learned a decision had been rendered when people
started calling,” said Pat Spitzley, spokesman for Department
of Environmental Quality Director Steven Chester.

Nugent plans to use the pipeline to discharge more than 8
million gallons a day of treated wastewater from its Norton Shores
sand mining and processing operation. The company produces
high-grade sand for foundries and the automotive industry.

Nugent and the DEQ agree that the processed wastewater would be
cleaner than Lake Michigan water. The pipeline also would be used
to lower the level of a man-made lake on the company’s
property, site for a proposed multimillion-dollar residential
development.

The DEQ’s district office in Grand Rapids originally
denied Nugent the permits needed to build the pipeline, saying it
would cause too much beach and dune erosion.

Nugent appealed the decision. Following a two-week hearing in
July, Patterson said Wednesday that the pipeline would have minimal
impact.

Chester can accept, reject, modify or return Patterson’s
recommendation to an administrative law judge for a rehearing.

Chester must cite specific legal reasons for rejecting,
modifying or ordering a rehearing, said Administrative Law Judge
Dennis Mack.

Nugent spokeswoman Mary Ann Sabo said the company is taking a
wait-and-see attitude.

“We’re pleased with the recommendation. We
won’t look at alternatives until Chester makes his
decision,” Sabo said.

Spitzley said not to expect a decision soon.

“I suspect this one won’t be decided quickly. The
director will want to look at the entire record once he receives
it,” he told The Muskegon Chronicle for a recent story.

Meanwhile, local opponents are already planning how they will
stop Nugent from building the pipeline.

“We’ll definitely be talking about fund-raising to
pay for a lawyer,” said Darlene DeHudy, vice president of the
local environmental group Save Our Shoreline. “If Chester
approves the pipeline, we’ll have a whole horror story on our
hands. If he says no, we’ll have to counter whatever Nugent
does.”

In June, the Department of Environmental Quality ordered Norton
to give clean water to residents near its facility as a condition
for continuing to let the wastewater it produces drain into the
ground.

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