Wolverine Lake officials are still trying to get answers from the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office about how 30,000 gallons of raw sewage overflowed into its namesake in late November.
The situation has since been rectified.
Apparently a pump station situated along South Commerce Road in Walled Lake, directly across from Wolverine Lake, failed. It has been determined that of the pair of pumps operating there, only one developed a blockage in a 10-inch force main that carries sewage from the pump station to the Novi-Walled Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“With that obstruction, water couldn’t be pumped out of the tank,” said Mike Powell, the village’s engineering consultant. “Eventually the tank filled up and sewage flowed out of the manhole cover because there was no place else for it to go, and it rolled into the street and into the storm sewers.”
“The alarms didn’t go off when it failed and yet there are a series of backups in case there is a problem, but that didn’t work and that’s why we want to know what happened,” said Village Council President John Magee.
It’s the task of the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office to maintain the sanitary sewer system.
“In my 28 years as village engineer this is the first time this has ever happened,” Powell said.
Water Resources Commissioner’s Office officials are in the process of compiling an internal evaluation of what happened and why.
“The bottom line is it did happen,” Powell said. “Council wants to know what has been done since to prevent this from happening again.”
The magnitude of such an overflow, though disconcerting, was corrected in an efficient manner and could have been much worse, according to Powell.
“The event took place at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 28 and was corrected by 5:25 p.m.,” he said.
The village was not notified immediately and by the time it was, the Oakland County Health Department collected water samplings and deemed there was no immediate problem for full body contact, according to Magee.
“If the lake was being used we would have posted notification, but there was no ice and obviously no one swimming,” Magee said. “Within 24 hours the (bacteria) counts were down to permissible levels, so by the time we could disburse notifications the lake was considered safe.”
Powell praised the efforts of the Water Resources Commissioner’s Office for its efficient management of the spill.
“They did an excellent job to control it,” he said. “If this happened in the summer, it could would have been much worse. With it happening in the winter there was no impact realized. Even though 30,000 gallons of sewage went into the lake, the ‘solution to pollution is dilution’ and it has dissipated.”
He added that contaminate levels are currently negligible and that by spring there will be no lingering impact at all.
“The water has been assessed and is considered clean now,” Powell said. “From what I understand, the engineer cleaned the sewer, fixed the blockage and verified all pumps are operating as designed.”
To date, the Water Resources Commissioner’s Office has collected various water samples and reported findings to the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE). In concert, county personnel continue to apprise Wolverine Lake, Walled Lake and Commerce Township officials of their findings.
In tandem, the Wolverine Lake Water Management Board will be collecting additional water samples from the lake where the spill occurred.
Water Resources Commissioner’s Office representatives couldn’t be reached for comment prior to press time.