KeepHealthCare.ORG – UPDATE: Acme sewer main breaks, leaks into swamp | Local News
ACME — More than 8,300 gallons of raw sewage spilled into a swamp after a sewer pipe broke, prompting the Grand Traverse County Health Department to warn people away from parts of East Grand Traverse Bay.
The spill happened at bout 5 p.m. Tuesday from a sewer force main near the Five Mile and Holiday roads intersection, according to a public health advisory. It entered a wetland connected to an unnamed creek that runs behind businesses east of Holiday Road and drains into Grand Traverse Bay near 4630 U.S. 31 North.
Daniel Thorell, environmental health director at the Grand Traverse County Health Department said E. coli levels in the creek topped 2,419 bacteria per 100 milliliters as of Wednesday. They’re beyond the maximum level such tests can detect, and way above Michigan Department of Environmental Quality standards for partial body contact — less than 1,000 per 100 milliliters, department information shows.
The health department warned against going into East Grand Traverse Bay within 1,500 feet of the creek’s mouth, the creek itself and the wetlands north of Holiday Road, west of Five Mile Road and east of the railroad tracks. The advisory is in effect until further notice — Thorell said he’ll know about E. coli levels in the bay by Friday morning.
Thorell said there are no beaches along the bay’s affected stretch, and the closest resorts or condos to the creek’s mouth aren’t impacted by the advisory.
“It’s more or less precautionary, knowing this is coming out of a little creek going into the bay,” he said.
Dilution and UV rays should kill or dissipate any bacteria that do make it from the creek to the bay, Thorell said. But he couldn’t guarantee nearby beaches wouldn’t be impacted.
John Walter, lead ranger at Traverse City State Park, said he was unaware of the recent spill but doesn’t think it will impact operations over the holiday weekend.
John Divozzo, Grand Traverse County Director of Public Works, said he’s unsure why the 15-year-old force main broke. It runs from a pump station near Bunker Hill Road, eventually linking to Traverse City’s wastewater treatment plant.
Acme Township owns the line, township supervisor Jay Zollinger said. Public works crews were able to reroute sewage from the township. He wasn’t sure why the line broke either.
“Once we can get in there with some equipment in the sewer, we’ll probably have to TV it to find out where the break’s at and what the repair is,” he said.
Contractors should start working on the main Tuesday, Divozzo said.
GJ’s Pizza & Market General Manager Jacki Newhouse said she thought she smelled something Monday and Tuesday, and just found out about the break Thursday afternoon. She lives across the road from the store that sits at Five Mile and Holiday roads, and called the DEQ and health department to ensure her water well wouldn’t be hurt.
“I was a little surprised to obviously not hear anything about it,” she said.
Divozzo and Thorell agreed the break likely happened Tuesday, and Thorell confirmed Newhouse’s well and others nearby are fine.
Groundwater nearby won’t be impacted, Thorell said. Plus, groundwater in the area flows away from the intersection toward the bay.
Newhouse said she’s no longer worried about her home’s water.
Department of Environmental Quality personnel were on site Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, said Brian Jankowski, department Water Resource Division Cadillac District supervisor. The spill was reported to the state agency as required, and DEQ employees will monitor the follow-up. They’ll also determine whether any enforcement action is needed.
County employees spread lime where they could as part of clean-up efforts, Divozzo said.
Otherwise, there’s not much else to do, Thorell said. The swamp is too dense to allow for much more, but he expects it should recover.
“Wetlands are pretty resilient and pretty good at filtering out contaminants, and I think that’s ultimately what’s going to happen,” he said.
Visit Record-Eagle.com for continued coverage as more information becomes available.