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Sewage leak causes public health advisory

Sewage leak causes public health advisory

GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- A public health advisory is in effect for a small part of Grand Traverse County after over 8,000 gallons of untreated sewage leaked after a force main break.

The sewage spill happened near the intersection of Five Mile and Holiday Road.

With E coli levels in the area way over the limit for any body contact, people are being advised to stay away from this area as well as a small nearby creek that does not have a name, and a small portion of the shoreline on East Grand Traverse Bay.

Around 5:00 pm Tuesday, the Grand Traverse County Department of Public Works got reports of a main break in Acme. Once on scene, they found a force main break spilling thousands of gallons of untreated sewage into the wetland.

“We immediately diverted that flow to a gravity sewer to stop the leaking,” said Grand Traverse County Director of Public Works John Divozzo.

The leak was stopped within 25 minutes but by then, over 8,000 gallons leaked into the wetland. The next morning, the County Director of Environmental Health came out to test the water and discovered the wetland flows into a creek, which then flows into East Grand Traverse Bay.

“Discovered this creek and took some samples before it went out to the bay," said Director of Environmental Health Dan Thorell. "And sure enough, the samples came back positive for E coli. A lot of E coli.”

Dave Dempsey with the organization F.L.O.W., says this is a reminder that more needs to be invested in clean water sewage and drinking systems.

“We’ve got failing systems all over the state that need public dollars to be invested in them," Dempsey said. "And we’re running out of that money.”

The area where the creek spills into the bay is mainly rocky shoreline, and the advisory does not apply to any nearby beaches. As for the wetland, the county does not expect any long term environmental impact, and says the E coli levels will naturally go down.

“The issue will go away on it’s own," Divozzo said. "It is a natural environment and it does dissipate, this type of spill.”

On Thursday morning, testing was done near where the creek flows into East Grand Traverse Bay. Results for E coli tests usually take around 20-22 hours.

In the meantime, the public is still being asked to avoid these three areas.

The cause of the main break is still unknown, but the divozzo says they should know within the next few days.

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