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Here's what's in the 1M gallons of 'partially-treated wastewater' spilled in Ann Arbor

Huron River chemical spill
Posted at 2:50 PM, Oct 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-05 18:19:14-04

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — The City of Ann Arbor says 1,375,000 gallons of "untreated wastewater" has flowed into the Huron River.

According to a statement from the city, on Tuesday around 1:30 p.m., workers at the City of Ann Arbor Wastewater Treatment Plant discovered the discharge due to "low water levels in the ultraviolet disinfection channels." The low levels were reportedly caused by "maintenance activities."

7 Action News reached out to the waste-water plant manager, Keith Sanders to learn what the "maintenance activities" were and what's in "partially treated wastewater."

Sanders explained that the water went through every phase of treatment except ultraviolet disinfection which, "reduces your fecal coliforms and other pathogens in the wastewater." According to Sanders, "There's already fecal in the river at some level."

Sanders told 7 Action News he believes there was fecal in the wastewater discharged as well.

Gross, but apparently not that uncommon.

"We discharge 18 million gallons a day and there’s always some fecal coliforms in there," said Sanders.

As far as the "maintenance activities" that caused the spill, Sanders explained that employees were working on a gate and accidentally caused a different flow path for the wastewater.

This is the third spill into the Huron River this year.

In February, river access was shut down after an oil sheen was discovered.

In August it was shut down due to the release of hexavalent chromium from Tribar Technologies.

The spills greatly affected affect businesses on the water like Heavner Canoe Rental in Milford.

The owner Alan Heavner told 7 Action News that his business wasn't even affected by the Tribar spill because of where it's located on the river but he still lost 80% of his business.

"It affected us adversely and ever since then we’ve been way down, not because the river is bad but because people are afraid of pollution," said Heavner.

Heavner is worried people will have the same reaction to this third spill but EGLE says they don't believe any advisories will be issued and there's "no reason for people to take additional precautions."

In addition to this, the Huron River flows SouthWest and Ann Arbor's drinking water intake spot, as well as Heavner Canoe Rental, are upstream of the waste-water discharge location.

Sanders says the waste-water treatment plant is looking into adding additional notification alarms should this type of event happen again.

Heavner says, "There should be something done to prevent these kinds of things in the first place. The hurricanes in Florida, we can’t stop that, but stuff like this we can stop."