- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - Nearly 10 billion gallons of sewer overflows were released into rivers and lakes in southeastern Michigan after a tremendous August storm that flooded the region, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The waste came from sanitary sewers that couldn’t handle the rain, systems that combine storm water and sewage and detention basins. The Detroit Free Press said (https://on.freep.com/1FOR4T4 ) the number comes from local reports to state regulators.

“It’s not really a good idea to dump 10 billion gallons,” said Carl Freeman, a biological sciences professor at Wayne State University in Detroit.

More than 6 inches of rain fell on parts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, Aug. 11-13. The federal government last week said more than $110 million has been approved to help people recover.

Untreated waste carries contaminants that can spoil Lake St. Clair beaches in Macomb County and put drinking water at risk. The Free Press said 10 billion gallons would equal about 20 million, 50-gallon baths.

The Detroit water department said it’s not safe to swim in the Detroit River or the Rouge River after a big storm.

Melissa Force, 49, of Harrison Township remembers whitecaps along her Lake St. Clair seawall years ago. Now she sees a stagnant swamp.

“This is as bad as it’s ever been,” Force said. “It’s dangerous. It makes us sick.”

Doug Martz, former chairman of the disbanded Macomb County Water Quality Board, said the region’s sewer system simply can’t handle heavy rainfall.

“If you don’t build a system that can handle a 3-inch rainstorm, you’re not dealing with the problem. You’ve got to fix the infrastructure,” said Martz, a proponent of separated sewers.

In February, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments reported that at least 60 percent of the region’s sewer system was built before 1970s and is worn out.


Information from: Detroit Free Press, https://www.freep.com

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