SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — High water levels in South Haven have officials requesting nearly $1.2 million to prevent sewage from overflowing from the wastewater treatment plant into the Black River.

Director of Public Works Bill Hunter told News 8 that emergency purchase orders are already underway to buy two pumps for around $157,000 and rent others until they arrive.

“We’re getting ahead of it,” Hunter said Thursday. “We can’t wait.”

The remaining cash would be used to raise the elevation of pavement around the plant, add a new storm sewer line and build a concrete curb barrier along the river.

“If we can’t do it, we’re going to have sanitary sewer overflows, which affects not just on a wastewater standpoint,” Hunter said. “All the sudden, now I (would) have to put out sanitary sewer overflows and the beaches (would be) no-contact.”

High water levels have already reduced the plant’s capacity by slowing the discharge of treated sewage.

“Imagine actually a garden hose and you pinch it off, the hose builds up and you decrease the flow,” Hunter explained.

The plant saw major flooding in November, with water filling much of the property and touching the outside of several buildings.

“You don’t want to do sanitary sewer overflows unless you absolutely have to,” Hunter said.

Forecasts from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers predict Lake Michigan water levels will rise several more inches by this summer.

“When it comes spring and everything is thawing and then everybody is opening up, meaning all the houses are opening up,” Hunter said, “we need that capacity right away.”

The proposal will be reviewed on March 31 at the South Haven Area Water and Sewer Authority meeting. The meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the DPW building at 1199 8th Ave.