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Macomb County takes another step toward goal of zero combined sewer overflows into Lake St. Clair

Macomb County project to reduce CSOs
Macomb County
Macomb County to install two inflatable bladders into pipe to help reduce combined sewer overflows into Lake St. Clair

Macomb County is starting a new project to reduce combined sewer overflows into Lake Saint Clair.

The county will install two massive inflatable dams, or "bladders," inside a sewer interceptor pipe in the 8 ½ Mile Drain Drainage District. The bladder can be inflated during heavy rains to keep a mix of water and sewage from overwhelming the pipe downstream and causing a discharge.

Candice Miller is Macomb County Public Works Commissioner. She said while Macomb County doesn't have "clean hands" itself, it's working hard towards a goal of zero combined sewer overflows. Miller claims other counties that discharge sewage into Lake Saint Clair aren't doing as much to protect it.

"I'm hopeful that as we clean up our act, so to speak in Macomb County, that some of our neighbors will also.  Oakland County discharges about five times what we do, and in Wayne County the numbers are off the charts," she said. "Let's keep in mind, this is our drinking water supply. Come on, in 2022, this is what we're doing? We don't have to live this way. We need to do a better job cleaning up our environment and thinking about water quality — all of us, it's all hands on deck."

Miller said while most combined sewer overflows are treated with chlorine before discharging into the lake, Oakland County has had some releases of raw sewage. Oakland County did not respond to the criticism.

Tiffani Jackson, communications director for Wayne County, said in a statement that Wayne County "has been at the forefront" of combined sewer overflow elimination for more than 30 years.

Jackson said the county is investing $100 million in sewerage improvements. Those include upgrading the Rouge Valley sewage disposal system, working with two cities in Wayne County to address sewer overflows there, and working with Macomb County on major improvements to the Milk River Intercounty Drain.

The Macomb County project is expected to reduce overflows by 15%. Coupled with earlier operational changes inside the Chapaton Pump Station in St. Clair Shores, the county said combined sewer overflows will be reduced by approximately 40%.

The Macomb County project construction cost is $9.9 million, and will be paid for using federal, state and county funding under the American Rescue Plan Act with no anticipation of a sewer rate increase for residents and businesses in Eastpointe and St. Clair Shores.

The 8 ½ Mile Drain Drainage District serves a total of 92,000 people in the two cities.

Construction is expected to be substantially complete by the end of 2023.

Officials say grants and loans from the state are helping Macomb County and other communities on projects that help prevent discharges during storms from combined sewer systems.

In addition to a $72 million grant to Macomb County, CSO projects on the state's FY 23 funding list include:

  • City of Inkster (PF, grant) - ~2 projects, 1st project, $11.5 million (%15 grant), 2nd project $9.7 million (100% of total is grant); 
  • Redford Township (PF, loan) - `$54 million (10% of total is grant); 
  • City of Lansing (CSO separation) - ~$32 million (52% of total is grant);
  • City of St. Joseph (CSO work) - ~21 million (10% of total is grant);
  • City of East Lansing (CSO and WWTP work) - ~13 million (10% of total is grant). 
Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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