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RedRun overflow via Kuhn Drain

February 14, 2014

Drain overflow alarms Macomb County officials
By Elizabeth A. Katz, Journal Register News Service
Posted: 09/28/08, 12:00 AM EDT

A walk back into history – not that long ago…

The George W. Kuhn Drain in Madison Heights,
Michigan’s largest retention basin and
water treatment center, was expanded in 2005
at a cost of $132 million.
Capacity of the basins was increased to
130 million gallons of storm water and
sewage that could be retained and treated.

But this expansion wasn’t enough to prevent an
overflow discharge of 1.16 million gallons
of a treated combination of sewage and rain water

into the Red Run Drain when rain poured
relentlessly over the area the weekend of Sept. 13-14.

That overflow was then discharged into the
Clinton River watershed and eventually
into Lake St. Clair, the main source of
drinking water for millions in southeastern Michigan.

According to the Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality, however, the amount of
fecal coliform found in that discharge was
compliant with National Pollutant Discharge
Elimination System standards.

“The storm itself was a 25-year storm,” said Tim Prince,
chief engineer for operations and maintenance for
the Oakland County Drain Commission.
“I will say that it’s a significant volume
of water and it’s very unusual.”

The discharge, however, concerns Macomb County officials,
considering that a similar discharge of about
1 billion gallons flowed into
Lake St. Clair in 1994 from what was then the
Twelve Towns Drain, which effectively closed
the entire shoreline for the summer.

The Macomb County Health Department reports that the
discharge from Sept. 13-14 rains coincided with
beach closures at Blossom Heath and Memorial parks
in St. Clair Shores and Burke Park in New Baltimore
from Sept. 15 until Sept. 17.
Stephen Lichota, associate director of environmental
health services for Macomb County, said that New Baltimore
beach remained closed as of Sept. 22 because of the discharge.
Metro Beach in Harrison Township,
the largest public access to the lake, remained open.

Lichota said there is always a concern that exists
when overflows occur, but residents in any county
need to be aware that what they put on the ground,
such as fertilizers, and what they may dump into
street sewer drains ends up in the retention basins.

The Twelve Towns Drain was renamed the George W. Kuhn Drain
in 2006 in honor of the former Oakland County Drain Commissioner.
It serves an area of 24,500 acres within 14 Oakland County communities.

The DEQ noted that total rainfall was almost
five inches over the Sept. 13 weekend
with a total spill duration of 23 hours.

Prince said the Kuhn Drain is a combined sewer
overflow district, meaning that sanitary sewers
and storm water are connected to the drain.
Water and sewage is treated through a
chlorination system that kills the
bacteria and small and large debris is screened out.
It is then released into the Red Run Drain.

“Everything was in compliance”
with the DEQ, Prince said.

Prince said the updated system has eliminated
approximately three overflows per year —
or a total of 12 overflows since updates
were completed in 2005.
Rain several weekends ago overtaxed the system.

Doug Martz, chairman of the Macomb County Water
Quality Board, said he’s glad that improvements
have been made to the Kuhn Drain, but ideally,
he’d like to see the elimination of all overflow discharges.

A Harrison Township resident and St. Clair Channelkeeper,
Martz formed the citizen action group Sludge Busters
in 1994 in reaction to the Macomb County beach closures.
He was then appointed to the Water Quality Board,
which reports to the Macomb County Board of Commissioners.

Martz said the Water Quality Board will hold its
regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 7 with
the Kuhn Drain’s overflow discharge issue on the agenda.

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