As the water crisis continues to grip Flint, Michigan, now the city must contend with the millions of gallons of sewage water that has spilled out into the city’s namesake river.
The city, which sits 66 miles northwest of Detroit, has been plagued for years with water contamination issues stemming from the lead leaching from old pipes after Flint’s water source had been switched to a cheaper option.
In the years since the crisis broke in 2014, however, officials have insisted the water is safe to drink, but residents have maintained that is not the case.
But now residents have to deal with around 2 million gallons of untreated sewage water that have been dumped into the Flint River, MLive reported. The dumping occurred Sunday, August 18, due to a “flash flood event” that flooded primary settling tanks at Flint’s wastewater treatment plant, which the news outlet reported was according to a partial report filed Tuesday by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. As a result, raw waste spilled out onto the ground and into a storm drain sending water straight into the river.
The city did not disclose the exact amount of sewage water that poured out until the EGLE’s partial report and as of August 21, there had been no indication of what actions were taken to help lessen the spill’s impact or what the plans are to prevent such an issue from happening again.
Meanwhile, an advisory was issued Sunday that urged residents against making contact with the river since there are potentially high bacteria levels related to the spill. The advisory has appeared to remain in effect.
While the spillage appears to have worsened Flint’s ongoing water woes, it comes nearly two months after the City Council approved a $114 million plan to pay for 16 projects that will improve water pollution control facilities. Phase 1 of the effort will include $4.2 million dedicated to upgrading the northwest pump station and bypass sewer.
As for how the spill occurred, a statement issued from the city’s Director of Department of Public Works Rob Bincsik blamed the elements.
“The duration and intensity of the rain event caused an immediate and significant increase in flow, subsequently causing the primary tanks to overflow untreated sewage into the storm sewer and ultimately the river,” Bencsik told MLive Thursday. “Wastewater treatment plant staff did everything possible to minimize the discharge event but they are really at the mercy of Mother Nature in situations such as this.”
He also noted, “the condition of infrastructure and needed capital investment at the wastewater treatment plant had nothing to do with the recent discharge into the Flint River.”
It’s the latest fallout stemming from the water crisis that has now waged into its fifth year. This summer, criminal charges were dropped for several officials who had been indicted in the public health calamity. However, Attorney General Dana Nesse’s office hopes to launch a new and expanded probe into the incident.
The Flint River, the source of the corrosive water that leached lead from pipes and precipitated the crisis, is not the source of the city’s water supply. In October 2015, as the extent of the crisis became clear and dominated news coverage, the city of Flint switched away from the Flint River after some 26 months of using as the city’s water source. By then, damage to old lead-soldered pipes across the city had been done.