Van Buren Township

Belleville Lake

Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in partnership with the Michigan Lake and Stream Associations, Inc. (ML&SA), developed the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP) as a cost-effective method for citizens to monitor water quality and to document changes in lake quality over time.

The CLMP provides volunteers with sampling methods, training, workshops, technical support, quality control, and laboratory assistance to monitor lakes for indicators of nutrient enrichment and lake productivity. Constant and long-term monitoring provides important data for recognizing lake water quality changes and trends.

For more information go to the CLMP website 

Eco-friendly Boating

Boaters can impact the water quality through such activities as boat sewage, litter, fish waste disposal, fueling and bilge care, boat repair /maintenance, engine servicing, hull cleaning, painting, and boat operation.  To learn about how to lessen your impact on water quality, visit the MDEQ Eco-Friendly Boating Website,

Middle Huron Initiative (MHI)

MDEQ MHI information
Huron River Watershed Council

Shoreline Management

A property owner with land that is either on or near Belleville Lake has special opportunities and even responsibilities in helping us keep a high level of water quality for the lake. In this section there is information on four topics that can help us reach thisgoal: Lake Safe LawncareShoreline ErosionAquatic Buffer Strips, and Dishwashing Detergent.

Lake Safe Lawncare

Fertilizers can have a big impact on the water quality of Belleville Lake.  This is because  the phosphorus in fertilizers can wash into the lake.  Phosphorus is the limiting nutrient in aquatic systems.  When there is excess phosphorous it causes the algae blooms that we see in the lake.  Just one pound of phosphorous can produce 500 pounds of algae! Conduct a soil test to determine what nutrients are needed for your lawn.  Many soils in this area are already high in phosphorus.

Select slow-release fertilizers to gradually feed plants. These products should contain little or no phosphorus. The numbers on the labels of fertilizers will help you identify which are low in phosphorus. The numbers indicate the percentages of nitrogen-phosphorous-and potassium as potash. Low phosphorous brands have ratings on their labels such as 23-0-6, 30-4-4 or 26-4-4. Fertilizers containing abundant nitrogen (46-0-0, 33-0-0) are not recommended because they are highly soluble and can readily wash away or enter groundwater.

Here are some tips from the Huron River Watershed Council that can help us to keep our lawns green and our lake clean:

Put you lawn to work for you!
Grass clippings are the ideal food source, providing essential nutrients by releasing them slowly over time.  Glass clippings, mulched leaves and compost also provide organic matter, which keeps soils form compacting.

Check yard and garden product labels.
If you decide to use commercial fertilizers, always choose a low-phosphorus fertilizer (indicated by the middle number of the three number series on the bag, such as 34-3-4).  Why? Most soils in this area are already high in phosphorus.

Spread lightly
Most manufacturer’s guidelines are excessive for this area.  One application of low phosphorus fertilizer in the fall is adequate for most lawns.

Make a clean sweep
Fertilizer can be an “asset” to your lawn, but it becomes a “pollutant” if it reaches our water ways.  Keep fertilizers out of storm drains and ditches.  Use a broom to clean up spills on sidewalks and driveways.

Get you soil tested
Learn what your lawn and garden need for optimum health and growth.  Testing services are provided at a low cost through your county MSU Extension Agent.  It’s easy, and agents provide individual recommendations based on your soil test results.

Shoreline Erosion

In terms of erosion control along the lake’s edge, seawalls, rip-rap, and natural vegetation are three popular forms of shoreline design.  Seawalls are the most aggressive form for stopping erosion and are not necessary for the majority of lakeshore sites.  Only where erosion is severe, or where the wave action is very strong should a seawall be considered and even then it should be thought of as the last available option.  Seawalls dramatically change the natural shoreline by removing natural vegetation, natural habitat, and can increase erosion on neighboring properties.

Rip-rap provides good protection from the impact of waves and ice while still providing habitat, shelter, and substrate for aquatic species.  It has less adverse affects on the shoreline than a seawall.  Rip-rap can be combined with natural vegetation to further protect the health of the lake.

Natural vegetation, alone or combined with rip-rap, is the most ideal form of shoreline design because it provides the following benefits:

  • low cost and lower long-term maintenance cost than traditional methods;
  • ow maintenance of live plants after they are established;
  • environmental benefits of wildlife habitat, water quality improvement and aesthetics;
  • improved strength over time as root systems develop and increase structural stability;
  • compatibility with environmentally sensitive sites or sites with limited access.

(source: University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension)Following are links to more detailed information on the causes of shoreline erosion and methods to control it. The emphasis is on natural methods of control, which are called soft engineering or bioengineering.

Links section:

Best Management Practices for Soft Engineering of Shorelines – An online manual that gives an overview and case studies of soft engineering. It looks at river and lake shorelines as well as outlines the cost of different control methods.

Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality – An excellent resource manual for any lake improvement project that can be ordered from the State of Minnesota.  Contains in-dept diagrams and instruction on creating a shoreline that works for the homeowner, for wildlife, and for water quality.

Slope Stabilization and Erosion Control Using Vegetation – A very comprehensive online guide to the techniques and plant types of bioengineering.  Written for landowners of Puget Sound in Washington State but it can easily be applied to the local setting.

Understanding, Living With, and Controlling Shoreline Erosion – A manual produced by the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council that explains in plain english the causes and the remedies for shoreline erosion.

Vegetation Management on Coastal Slopes – A comprehensive online guide on the important role of existing shoreline vegetation.  Written for landowners of Puget Sound in Washington State but it can easily be applied to the local setting.

Aquatic Buffer Strips

What is an Aquatic Buffer?

A buffer zone is a vegetated area adjacent to the shoreline that provides the following benefits:

  • Significantly reduces shoreline erosion due to extensive, stabilizing root systems.
  • Traps fertilizers, lawn chemicals and pet waste from lawn runoff.
  • Discourages nuisance animals, such as Canada geese, that thrive on manicured lawns.  Lawns provide an ideal food source of new green growth for the geese.  Geese droppings are not only a nuisance to the homeowner, but can also contribute to E. coli problems in the lake.  Geese will usually not cross a natural buffer zone area to get to a lawn.
  • Provides habitat that is used for nesting, feeding, brood rearing, perching, sunning and travel for wildlife.

Depending on the particulars of a lake site, a buffer zone is an area that may extend 25 to 100 feet from the water’s edge onto the land and 25 to 50 feet into the lake.  For maximum effectiveness, the zone should include at least 50% of the shoreline, although 75% would be more beneficial to the homeowner and lake water quality.

For examples, specifics of design, and plant lists please contact the Township Environmental Department or order a copy of this manual:

Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality – An excellent resource manual for any lake improvement project that can be ordered from the State of Minnesota. Contains in-dept diagrams and instruction on creating a shoreline that works for the homeowner, for wildlife, and for water quality.

Dishwater Detergents

Here is some useful information from the Huron River Watershed Council on keeping our dishes clean and our lake clean.

Thought phosphorus was banned in cleaning agents? Think again.

The Michigan Cleaning Agents Act stipulates that laundry detergents may not contain more than 0.5% phosphorus by weight. For all other household cleaning agents, the limit is 8.7%.  Dishwater detergents are surprisingly high in phosphates, with an average content of 5.84% phosphorus by weight.

If you use a dishwasher, you may unwittingly be contributing to water pollution.

The average household uses 36 pounds of dishwasher detergent each year, releasing 2 pounds of phosphorus into groundwater supplies (via septic systems) or into wastewater treatment facilities (which have to remove the phosphorus to permitted levels, often at great expense).  Remember, 2 pounds of untreated phosphorus will stimulate 1,000 pounds of algae.  Multiply that by the estimated 150,000 kitchens in the Huron Watershed and you have a real recipe for disaster, which also means you have real potential for improvement.

Check the labels on the cleaning products you purchase for phosphorus levels. Select dishwater detergents that are low in phosphorus. Phosphorus content ranges from 0% (Seventh Generation powder detergent) to 8.7% (Palmolive Triple Action Tabs), the maximum allowable by law.  If the package doesn’t tell you the phosphorus content, be wary.

Background Information

Detroit Edison purchased property along the Huron River and constructed the French Landing Dam in 1924.  The flooding of this property created Belleville Lake, and the dam was used to generate hydroelectric power.  This is a “run of the river” project, which minimizes lake level fluctuation. The water level is maintained by the dam at elevations between 650.40 and 650.80 feet above sea level.

Though the property was flooded, property rights remained with Detroit Edison. Riparian is defined as “of, on or relating to the banks of a natural course of water.”  Traditional riparian rights do not apply because Belleville Lake is an impoundment.

Detroit Edison offered ownership of the dam and other properties to Van Buren Township in 1972.  The offer was brought before the township voters, who formally approved the proposal.  Ownership of these properties was transferred to Van Buren Township at that time.  The Township owns the shoreline below the 655’ contour line or the brow of the hill.

Belleville Lake is a popular site for a variety of outdoor recreational activities.  It is also a highly desirable residential location. Recreational demands and developmental pressures increase each year, yet the total amount of public land and water area remains fixed.  Sound management is necessary to provide optimum use of finite resources.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted a license, FERC No.9951-000-Michigan, to Van Buren Township for the French Landing Hydroelectric Project. The Lake is a seven-mile long, 1,270-acre impoundment with a water storage capacity of 17,780 acre-feet. This license recognizes the Township’s authority to grant permission for certain types of use and occupancy of project lands and waters provided they are consistent with the purpose of protecting and enhancing the scenic, recreational and other environmental values of the FERC project.
It is the desire of Van Buren Township to allow the non-commercial use of township property and Belleville Lake, by adjacent upland property owners, for recreational purposes consistent with zoning regulations.

Van Buren Township Permission/Permits

No improvements, modifications or structure of any kind, shall be constructed, installed or made on township property (defined as the 655’contour line or brow of the hill) before having first requested permission from the Township.  This shall include but is not limited to, docks, boat hoists, boat houses, boardwalks, piers, seawalls, decks, stairs, cluster mooring facilities, marinas or other similar facilities.  This also applies to any launching ramp or fuel dispensing system for boats. Permission to remove trees, vegetation, and/or make topographical modifications is also required.

Upon applying for permission from the Township, please submit the following:

  • A cover letter, which summarizes proposed improvements and/or modifications,
  • A site plan which shows the boundaries of the adjacent upland lot, the location of the proposed installation and the location of the shoreline.  A copy of a mortgage survey from the upland lot should also be included
  • Plans, drawn to scale, showing the height, length, width and configuration of the proposed installation.
  • Whether covered or uncovered (enclosed or open).
  • Specified materials for use in construction or installation.
  • Water depth at the farthest point of projection.
  • Distance from the farthest point of projection to the opposite shore (This is necessary only when this distance is less than 500 feet).

Any structure on the land (e.g. boardwalk, deck, etc.) will require a building permit from the Township Building Department.

Please keep in mind when designing your shoreline project that the Township very strongly encourages minimum impact to the natural vegetation and contour of the shoreline.  Please refer to the Shoreline Management section of this website when considering your design.

MDEQ Permits

Any alterations at or below the water’s edge or in wetlands will require also require MDEQ approval.  Please note that you must first receive permission from the Township before you receive a permit from the MDEQ.  Visit the MDEQ Land and Water Resource Division to learn more and to download application forms: Land and Water Management Division’s Joint Permit Application or they can be reached at (734) 953-1482.

Soil Erosion Permit

Any earth change/disturbance over one (1) acre in size and/or within 500 feet of a water of the state, (lake, stream, wetland, drain) within Wayne County needs a Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control (S.E.S.C.) Permit.  Visit the Wayne County Department of Environment, Land Resource Management Division site to find out more information and to download an application or they can be reached at (734) 326-3936

Nuisance Aquatic Species

Zebra Mussel/Nuisance Aquatic Species Information (Michigan Sea Grant)

Invasion Species in the Great Lakes Region (Great Lakes Information Network)

Michigan BeachGuard System
Explanation of Monitoring Results

Water Quality Testing

Intro to testing

Every summer the Wayne County Department of Environmental Health monitors the concentrations of Esherichia Coli (E. coli) bacteria at seven locations in Belleville Lake, including 3 sample points at the Van Buren Park Beach.   The County samples at these locations to protect the health of those that enjoy full body recreational contact with the water.

What is E. coli?
E. coli is bacteria that lives in the intestinal tract of warm blooded animals (e.g. humans, raccoons and geese).  Because of this, it is a good indicator of sewage in our waterways.   E. coli themselves is not harmful but serves as an indicator of potential disease carrying pathogens in sewage.  So why doesn’t Wayne County test for the pathogens rather than E. coli? There are two reasons: (1) Test for E. coli are much quicker and less expensive than test for pathogens.  (2) Because of the shorter time required to test for E. coli, if there is a problem officials can declare the water unsafe before anyone gets sick.

Sources of E. coli

E. coli comes from both point and non-point sources.  Point sources include combined sewer overflow, sanitary sewer overflows, and illicit connections to the storm system.  An illicit connection occurs when a pipe that should be connected to the sanitary system is connected to the storm system.  Non-point sources include failing septic tanks and animal waste from agricultural sources or storm water runoff.

Water Quality Standards for E. coli

The Michigan Water Quality Standards and Public Health Code limits the concentration of E. coli in surface waters of the state. For total body contact recreation the limit is 130 E. coli per 100 milliliters (ml) of water for a 30-day geometric mean and 300 E. coli for a one day geometric mean.  The limit for partial body contact is 1000 E. coli per 100 ml of water.
How often is the water tested?

Wayne County samples weekly at seven locations from the middle of May to till the end of August.  The samples are sent to a private lab and analyzed using standard analytical methods.

What if we exceed the levels?

If the levels are exceeded Wayne County will issue a notice to Van Buren Township to close the beach at Van Buren Park.  The County will then continue to monitor the beach water quality until the E. coli levels fall below the standards.  Usually this is less than 48 hours since wind, wave action, and ultraviolet light from the sun helps to reduce bacteria levels.

How are the sample results so far this year?
The first sample was taken on May 10, 2001 and has been sampled every week since then.  As of August 1st, the lake has been sampled 13 times and in every case the samples showed that the lake is safe for all recreational activities.  During the summer of 2000, the lake was sampled a total of 14 times from mid-May till the end of August by Wayne County and in all cases the samples showed that the lake was safe for recreation.