Michigan:Sewage floods lagoon

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Sewage floods lagoon Broken pump sends 105,000 gallons of waste into waterway Source: The Detroit News Publication date: 2000-08-16

FRASER -- Macomb County Health Department officials ordered Metropolitan Beach closed after a broken sewer pump sent 105,000 gallons of raw sewage into a lagoon that feeds into drains leading to Lake St. Clair. Officials were not sure if any sewage reached the swimming area off the beach, but ordered the swimming ban as a precautionary measure.

The ban was to continue until at least today when results of E. coli bacteria tests conducted Tuesday will show if the water is safe.

Fraser City Manager Thomas VanDamme said the sanitary sewer pump at a lift station near Masonic and Kelly broke down about midnight Sunday. That automatically engaged a backup pump that poured raw sewage into a nearby lagoon for 13 hours before the first pump was fixed. The alternative was to let sewage backup into basements of nearby homes.

The lagoon empties into the Sweeny Drain, which is located about 15 miles from Lake St. Clair.

The lagoon was to contain the sewage, but Tuesday's heavy rains sent an undetermined volume of combined storm water and sewage into the Sweeny Drain, VanDamme said.

The health department first learned about the discharge Monday. Thomas Kalkofen, health department director, was miffed that Fraser didn't notify his department about the discharge when it occurred.

"We should have been notified during the event, not after it," Kalkofen said. "We didn't issue the order (to close the beach to swimming) until about 3:30 p.m. Monday.

"This (pollution problem) never goes away. It's always something."

VanDamme said it didn't occur to him to notify the health department earlier. He also said all of the pumps at the lift station recently had been refurbished.

The huge sewage discharge is the latest in a series of environmental mishaps to plague Macomb County this year, said Doug Martz, chairman of the Macomb Water Quality Board, an environmental watchdog group.

Clinton Township, Roseville and Fraser all have disclosed that their municipalities have been illegally discharging sewage into area drains for many years. The illegal pump in Fraser is the one that was used as a backup when the first pumped failed.

And Center Line has an overflow structure that sends combined sewage and rain water into the Lorraine Drain during heavy storms.

Martz said the total amount of waste water discharged into area waterways in Oakland and Macomb counties this year is 2.5 billion gallons. About 25 million gallons was raw sewage, Martz said.

"Do you know how much 2.5 billion gallons is?" Martz said. "We did a calculation and if you let the water keep running from your kitchen faucet it would take 1,760 years to reach 2.5 billion gallons. Or it would take 70 Exxon Valdez tanker loads to hit 2.5 billion gallons."

What's next

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will investigate this week's 105,000-gallon discharge to determine if Fraser will have to pay a fine, said Roy Schrameck, regional supervisor for the state agency. Investigators will look to see if the discharge could have been prevented. Schrameck said it has not been determined if Fraser will have to pay a fine for the illegal pump the city uncovered in April.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 16, 2000

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