Aging Sewage System Breeds Record Bacteria in Great Lakes

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Water that provides recreation and drinking water to more than 3 million people is being tainted with human waste from Metro Detroit’s outdated sewage system.

In the last two years, sewer systems in more than three dozen communities dumped a combined 80 billion gallons of raw and partially treated human waste into waterways.

The waste is causing record levels of bacteria in water, forcing bans on fishing, swimming and kayaking in popular spots such as Lake St. Clair as well the Clinton and Rouge rivers.

During a downpour last April, storm water and sewage overwhelmed treatment plants and retention basins in 17 metro Detroit communities.

Workers switched off intake valves, unleashing more than 3.2 billion gallons of raw and partially treated human and industrial waste into popular recreation spots that also provide drinking water to more than 3 million people.

The amount of rain that fell that day causing this breach – 1.2 inches of rain.

Outdated and overwhelmed, sewage systems across Metro Detroit regularly violate the Clean Water Act by dumping raw and partially treated human waste and other pollutants into waterways, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Sewage and storm water contain a toxic cocktail of bacteria, parasites, viruses and chemicals that can make people ill and are a prime cause of beach closures and bans on fishing, swimming and canoeing.

Last summer 205 beaches in Macomb County were closed last summer as a result of dangerous levels of E. Coli, believed to be linked to human waste.

  • Mark Spowart

    A writer and photographer, Spowart has publication credits in Canada, United States, Europe and Norway with such publications as The Globe & Mail, The National Post, Sun Media, Canwest News, and Canada News Wire.

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