Do Not Drink Water Advisory issued in Sylvan Township after water plant break-in

Posted at 12:13 PM, Jul 08, 2024

SYLVAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — A Do Not Drink Water Advisory has been issued for an area of Washtenaw County by the sheriff's office after a break-in at the Sylvan Township water treatment plant.

An official from the township told 7 News Detroit that this is a precautionary measure and that they are investigating exactly what happened during that break-in.

“It's very scary because it’s your water system," said Sylvan Township Department of Public Works Supervisor Robert Scull. "It’s got to be as secure as possible.”

Sylvan Township water treatment plant break-in

For Scull, it was an odd and startling discovery Monday morning when workers at the plant noticed someone had broken into and vandalized the facility. The strange graffiti was the least of their worries.

“The main control panel here... these are all the breakers for the plants. A lot of them were flipped," Scull explained while showing us the breaker. "Equipment that’s offline was switched into auto.”

Sylvan Township Department of Public Works Supervisor Robert Scull

Not only were the controls messed with but so were some water valves and the scale that weighs chemicals added to the water.

"The possibility is he might have adjusted the chemical feed to overfeed chemicals,” Scull said. “We tested the water when they first got here. There was no indication of any problem. The pH was right on the money, the chlorine residual was well within normal operating parameters. There's no indication that anything happened but because of the nature of the threat, you have to take it seriously.”

Michigan State Police say they found the suspect, a 33-year-old Belleville man and arrested him on scene. He cut the cord to the cameras, so it’s unclear when he broke in or why, but there was a makeshift bed found in a loft area.


Out of an abundance of caution, the 300 homes that use the water have been told not to. Boiling the water will not do the trick.

"The only thing they can do with the water is flushing the toilet and laundry," Scull said. "Nothing... that could possibly be consumed. You can't brush your teeth, you can't shower.”

Sylvan Township Department of Public Works Supervisor Robert Scull

Gabrielle Pollock is one of those 300 homeowners who rushed to the store Monday morning for bottled water. The township even dropped off cases of it in her neighborhood, the largest neighborhood affected.

“Usually when they tell you don't use the water, you can still boil it or take a shower or what not, but we’re not even turning on faucets,” Pollock said. "We have bottles at each sink for brushing teeth.”

While initial tests on the water have been good, more tests are needed to confirm it’s safe. After that, security at the plant will need a hard look.

"We're going to have to review that. We obviously need some better options than we have," Scull said of the security. “If he knew what he was doing, it could've been far worse.”

The Chelsea Police Department clarified to us that their city's water plant is a separate facility, and that city water there is safe to drink and use.

This advisory only impacts 300 homes in Sylvan Township.

For additional information, call Sylvan Township offices at 734-475-8890, ext. 112.