Government, Lakeshore, and Sustainability

Treatment plant hopes to attract potential development

August 28, 2015
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) A new marketing campaign is looking to increase engagement and new business development opportunities at a West Michigan-based wastewater management system.

The Muskegon County Wastewater Management System launched a marketing campaign in early August to not only highlight Wastewater Management System services, but also promote roughly 1,500 to 1,800 acres of available land on the property for development.

Built in 1973 at 698 N. Maple Island Road to address growing environmental concerns, the Muskegon County Wastewater Management System can treat up to 43 million gallons of wastewater per day from 16 municipalities using a biological treatment followed by slow-rate irrigation and rapid sand filtration.

Jonathan Wilson, economic development coordinator for Muskegon County, said the marketing campaign showcases the Wastewater Management System’s services in an easy-to-navigate manner.

“When we looked at the website and the marketing materials, we didn’t have a cohesive message, and the way you navigated the website was not accessible,” said Wilson. “We started with an update to our brochure, which essentially is a physical version of our website. All of the content was there; a great history of the system. I think we just needed to be more engaging and proactive with our target audience.”

The county worked with Revel, a West Michigan branding, marketing and web design company, to update the look and feel of the website. The online platform is compatible with mobile devices and features a promotional video, interactive infographics, social media plug-ins, a blog and a newsletter.

“They created an infographic depicting how wastewater is treated at the system. We did a drone flyover of the property, and they did a promotional video that is hosted on the website, as well,” said Wilson.

“I think, for people of any level — whether you are a waste hauler or someone looking for recreational activities, or a potential developer looking at the property — we have something on the website that is going to suit what you are trying to do.”

The overall investment to develop the brochure and website was roughly $7,000 and took several months to complete. Besides providing educational information for businesses and individuals interested in the Wastewater Management System, the marketing campaign also is intended to target food-processing companies, liquid waste haulers and data center companies.

“We are hoping to attract liquid waste haulers, processing companies that could haul their waste to our system, and companies that may be interested in development opportunities at the property,” said Wilson.

The Wastewater Management System’s land treatment process covers 11,000 acres with its facility, aeration and settling basins, storage lagoons and irrigated cropland at the property in Moorland and Egelston townships. Roughly 1,800 acres of the property is being marketed for lease to industries that may require room to grow and that can take advantage of the power, water and connectivity. Sale terms and parcel availability are negotiable at this time.

“The goal is to create business opportunities. We want to be more engaging, we want to increase the flow out there, and we want the other companies that haul liquid waste to bring their waste here,” said Wilson.

“We are targeting food processors, malt (producers) and data centers. We spoke with some experts in the (data) industry and they looked at all the infrastructure and resources we had on the property and said it would be an ideal site for a data center.”

Muskegon’s Wastewater Management System can provide low wastewater charges and surcharges for high-strength wastes, space for future growth, landfill disposal solutions, and an automatic scale system and sloped discharge allowing six truck haulers to complete deliveries at a time, according to the brochure.

The cost of operation and maintenance for the Wastewater Management System at wholesale rates was roughly $1,096 per million gallons per day in 2011, close to $1,606 per MGD in 2013, and approximately $1,766 per MGD in 2014.

The Wastewater Management System has a capacity of roughly 43 MGD of wastewater, approximately 73 tons per day of suspended solids, and nearly 72 tons per day of biochemical oxygen demand. There are 30 MGD of wastewater, 50 tons per day of suspended solids, and 40 tons per day of biochemical oxygen demand currently available at the site.

“Food processing has been a long-term target industry for the property because of the amount of waste water that a process company creates, and to have direct access to a wastewater facility would be ideal,” said Wilson.

While building a business case for the available property on the site, the county began talking with craft brewers across the state to identify their sources of malt and barley for production. With most of the barley shipped from out of state and only two malt producers in Michigan, Wilson said the county applied for a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development grant to fund a feasibility study to see if barley can be grown on the property.

“(Craft brewers) expressed some interest in buying local or regionally made malt or Michigan-grown barley, so we thought that was a need we could fill at the site,” said Wilson. “If we can grow the barley using some of the property adjacent to the wastewater system, then we are going to malt it and hopefully we create a quality malt people like that we could expand on here.”

The Wastewater Management System provides tours of its facility and offers recreational opportunities such as hunting and trapping, groomed snowmobile trails, a Muskegon Community College Observatory site, and a launch site for the Muskegon Michigan Area Rocketry organization.

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