A sewage backup at the newly opened splash pad in Traverse City has some questioning whether the multimillion dollar revitalization of Clinch park was rushed. The Grand Traverse County health department says they have seen several sick children in the last few days, but they won't say whether or not those cases are related to the splash pad.
"We were trying to get the park open as fast as we could. We could have used a couple more weeks in hindsight," said Traverse City planning director Russ Soyring.
While a little more time would have been nice, Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes says shortcuts were not taken. "City officials didn't rush anything. Elected officials (city commissioners) didn't rush anything. And to the best of my knowledge, no elected officials pushed anything to happen faster than was appropriate."
Regardless, a problem still existed. According the mayor, a plumbing problem lead to untreated sewage being pumped through the water feature. But he says the city handled the situation well. "We shut down the system immediately. We called the health officials and everybody in the city responded as promptly as they could to ensure every thing was working perfectly.
Despite the setbacks, in its brief time, the splash pad has already been a big hit. "Every time we've had it open, even for temporary periods, it's been a magnet for young people... and even for those who aren't so young," says Mayor Estes.
The city fixed the drainage problem with a double correction: they corrected the backup and made sure the area was safe and clean in addition to ensuring that no more issues can arise.
"To prevent any further backups ever again, we're going to cut and cap that line and send the water to a dry well," says Soyring, meaning the splash pad is no longer connected to any pipes that could contaminate the play spaces.
Now city leaders are waiting for the official okay from the Department of Environmental Quality as well as the local health department to reopen. The mayor expects that notification within the next two weeks. He's excited to have the structure back in use. "This was a huge undertaking that took ten years in planning."
Rerouting the drainage to the dry well cost around six thousand dollars, according to Soyring. The money is taken from the main project fund.