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1.5 Billion Gallons of Sewage Discharged

Friday, April 26, 2013   (0 Comments)
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CONTACT: Mike Nystrom
 (517) 896-1493

1.5 Billion Gallons of Sewage Dischared
April rains, aging sewers to blame

More than 1.5 billion gallons of sewage, enough to fill nearly 2,300 Olympic size swimming pools, have been discharged into Michigan’s rivers, lakes and streams during April’s historic rainfall, according to a statewide analysis by the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA).

The final April total discharge figure will be substantially higher, because not all areas of the state have reported their full details on discharge for the month of April, according to online data from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Michigan has eight water resource districts, that include multiple counties, and nearly every district reported discharges during the month of April, with the exception of the Lansing district, based on the most current data available. The front-runners are the Southeast Michigan district (1.1 billion gallons of sewage discharged) and Grand Rapids district (364 million gallons of sewage discharged).

“We all can’t help but take notice when our roads and bridges are in bad shape, and usually our aging sewer infrastructure is out of sight and out of mind,” said Mike Nystrom, executive vice president of MITA.  “But this month, during catastrophic flooding, more of us are becoming aware of what is lurking in Michigan’s greatest natural resource after a heavy rainfall – sewage.”

The solution, Nystrom said, is more state funding for municipalities to upgrade their sanitary and storm sewer systems so that they do not overflow during heavy rainfalls.

Governor Snyder included in his budget recommendations $97 million for grants and loans to municipalities for sewer upgrades and $3 million for wetland mitigation banks. Revenue would come from bond issues under Proposal 2 of 2002.

Sewage discharges result when overloaded and aging sewer systems are flooded by heavy rains. Communities are required by law to report discharges to the state DEQ within 24 hours, with a more detailed report to follow.  Historically, state and federal low-interest loans helped communities finance projects that separate combined sewers (sanitary and storm) to avoid overflow during heavy rains.  More recently, dollars for infrastructure have been cut from the state and federal budgets, leaving local communities to fend for themselves.

MITA continues to be a leader in addressing the problem of combined sewer overflows at the legislative level, most notably in 2002 with the passage of the Clean Water Michigan legislation.  In the summer of 2010, recommendations arose from the State Revolving Fund Advisory Group, established by legislation, which MITA supported, that would determine how the state funds long-term water and sewer systems in Michigan. Bills reflecting those recommendations passed the Legislature in 2012 and will open up much needed opportunities for improvements in our underground infrastructure.

            MITA represents a broad spectrum of heavy construction companies and suppliers that help build a better Michigan infrastructure from the bottom up.  For more information, visit


The April 2013 sewage discharge information was collected from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality data, available online at

The information represents a snapshot in time and could contain a lag time between the time of a sewage discharge and when the official discharge report was submitted for inclusion in the online data.

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