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In the late 1960s, Wayne County officials proposed a concept for regional wastewater treatment for the Huron River watershed called "SuperSewer," which would include western Wayne County, eastern Washtenaw County, and southern Oakland County. In 1972, officials in Washtenaw County feared a project to stop the pollution of the Huron River would never be built so they proposed building a new Ypsilanti regional wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in order to receive 75% federal funding. The result of these factors was the formation of the Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority in 1974. By combining the water and sewer departments of both the City and Township, economic benefits of eliminating duplication of staff and economies of scale were achieved. The fact that the City is almost completely surrounded by the Township makes the combination of the two systems an obvious economic advantage. The YCUA wastewater plant was opened in 1982 with a capacity of 28.9 million gallons per day (MGD) and an average daily wastewater flow of approximately 13 MGD.
In 1988, YCUA entered into an agreement with the Western Township Utilities Authority (WTUA) to receive up to 8.7 MGD and the right to expand the WWTP in the future. In 2000, WTUA exercised that right and the WWTP underwent an expansion and improvement project that increased the capacity to 45.9 MGD. In addition, some highlights of the project were the ultraviolet disinfection facility that replaced chlorination for disinfecting the wastewater and the original multiple hearth incinerator was replaced with a more efficient fluidized bed incinerator. In 2009, an engineering study was conducted that evaluated the capacity of each of the major treatment processes. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) concurred with the methodology utilized in the engineering study and approved of the YCUA WWTP being rated at 51.2 MGD annual average design (daily) flow.
Deep wells were the original source of the Township of Ypsilanti's drinking water, which was processed and distributed by the Bridge Road Water Treatment Plant (WTP). In 1972, the Township of Ypsilanti contracted with the Detroit Water and Sewer Department (DWSD) to provide water to the Township to supplement the Bridge Road WTP production. This water connection is known as YT01. The Township and DWSD agreed that when DWSD constructed a second water main to the pumping station supplying the Township for redundancy, the Bridge Road WTP would be closed. When the second main was constructed in 1994, water production at the Bridge Road Plant ceased. In 2005, YCUA constructed a second connection to the DWSD water pumping station known as YT02. Shortly after that, a third connection from DWSD was constructed into Superior Township, a customer of YCUA.
Drinking water for the City of Ypsilanti was originally obtained from deep wells and the Huron River. The water was processed and distributed by the Catherine Street Water Treatment Plant (WTP). Due to the economics of maintaining the Catherine Street WTP and the contamination of the City's well field, YCUA constructed a water main that provides water purchased from DWSD to the City of Ypsilanti in 1995 and the Catherine Street WTP was closed in 1996. The meter vault that measures the volume of water flowing into the City of Ypsilanti is located on Tyler Road.
On January 1, 2016, the State of Michigan, the City of Detroit, and Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties officially united to form the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). YCUA is now one of the suburban water customers of the GLWA. This new regional water authority is yet one more piece of the Grand Bargain to not only position an emerging Detroit for long term success but to give suburban water and sewer customers, including YCUA, a powerful voice in the management and direction of one of largest water and wastewater utilities in the nation. GLWA manages and controls the regional suburban water and wastewater services while DWSD controls the water and sewer services within the Detroit city limits.
Today, YCUA provides drinking water to approximately 110,000 people and wastewater services to approximately 250,000 people and the average daily flow of wastewater to the YCUA WWTP is approximately 22.3 MGD.