Heavy Rains Force Millions Of Gallons Of Raw Sewage Into Mich. Waterways
|By John Wisely and Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"As far as the significance of the volumes, this is incredible," said
-- In-depth: Historic rains strand hundreds of cars, flood thousands of homes across metro
DEQ officials are still collecting data to see what happens to E. coli levels in the waterways. Elevated levels are expected and that could prompt beach closures and other public health measures.
Verona said the region's aging infrastructure, including sewer pipes and plants, didn't help matters, but no system could handle the volume of water that fell on
Most places will try to screen out solids and add some disinfecting materials to it but there isn't enough time to treat it to the standards that are used under normal conditions.
"No system is designed to take that amount of water that fast," said Curtrise Garner, spokeswoman for the
The system took in so much water that the pressure in the pipes was enough to lift off manhole covers, said
"I've never heard of that before," he said. "It gives you an idea of how much pressure we're talking about."
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Palombo said the excess water is likely to damage roads by eroding the base they are built upon.
Sewer systems like
Systems that only handle storm water do not run into that problem, he said.
Other local officials defended their systems as well.
"The infrastructure last night worked as it was designed, but it was overwhelmed," said
Covey said local communities, however, must prioritize upkeep and improvements to the systems.
"A rain event like what we had is probably going to overwhelm most systems but that doesn't mean ... we should just shrug our shoulders and say we're good for another 89 years," Covey said.
The huge volume of water brings with it debris that is swept into the system, which can damage gates and other parts of the sewer system as well, Verona said.
Sewage overflows from the city's wastewater treatment system have contributed to
"These overflows carry with them bacteria, viruses, untreated industrial wastes -- a whole host of things that can affect people's health and harm fish and wildlife," he said.
The alliance wants more governmental action to improve stormwater and sewage treatment systems, including the installation of "green infrastructure" -- trees, grass and other coverings capable of absorbing stormwater rather than sending it rushing over paved surfaces into lakes and rivers.
The flood was made worse by a ground that had been saturated by rains last week, she said.
But lawyers who have successfully sued cities on behalf of swamped homeowners say officials can't just blame it on the rain.
"I've never had a case where they didn't say it was an extreme event," said
Liddle said he recently recovered
"If it was an act of God, how come it keeps happening?" Liddle said. "Our phones are ringing off the hook."
Liddle said many sewers in metro
"How is the rainwater getting into the sanitary sewer?" he said. "There isn't supposed to be any rainwater in there."
Poor maintenance and design is to blame in those cases, he said.
Liddle said he also has recovered millions more for homeowners in
Liddle said homeowners should photograph and take written notes on any damage. They also must notify their city in writing within 45 days of the backup to preserve their right to sue, he said.
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