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Water concerns in road work's wake

August 06, 2014 - As workers continue the Main Street renovation project, Tammie Heazlit of Independence Township is concerned about impact on local water.

Heazlit said fabric currently used to filter sediment through the drains is inadequate in protecting against stormwater pollution because it does not extend around the entire perimeter of the storm drain.

"Not only that, but if you get close, you can see tears in the fabric and how sediment had escaped into the drain," she said.

Heazlit took photos showing MDOT crews and contractors were not using any protective measures to block off slurry from entering the drains.

After work crews in the area were made aware of complaints, the drains were blocked off with a fabric material, and later with sand bags.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, stormwater runoff occurs when rainfall or snowmelt flows across the ground and into drains. Water from city streets in downtown Clarkston flow into storm drains and eventually discharge into waterways.

Stormwater runoff can pollute waterways if debris from construction projects are not properly handled. Material, like concrete particles can harm aquatic life and plants.

Water that flows into storm drains receive no filtration before discharge.

One contractor working along Main Street said protective barriers being used on the job are sufficient, and the only way to completely stop slurry from entering storm drains would be to weld a steel grate into the drains and remove them at the end of the project.

Heazlit said city officials handling any type of project that effect storm drains should be trained, so they can better address issues like these when they come up on projects.

On this projects, MDOT and contractors are in charge of addressing the issue.

The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends construction crews divert any pollutants away from storm drains.

According to MDOT concrete construction crews are in a unique position to help prevent pollution of waterways because they use the moist widely used material in construction.

However, the biggest polluter of waterways are everywhere and include activities like landscaping, agricultural activities, pet waste, construction and many other activities.

Heazlit said the city has an obligation to make sure no illicit water runoff discharges into city waterways and asked Eberhardt why city officials were not inspecting the project.

Eberhardt said the city does not issues permits to either MDOT or the Road Commission for Oakland County because M-15 is a road under the jurisdiction of the state.

"We can't tell them we do or don't want anything done, however we are part of the planning and we do work with the people who are doing the work every day," Eberhardt said.

Eberhardt also said she and City Engineer Gary Tressel meet with MDOT to address concerns and keep the lines of communication open regarding issues.

Also, city DPW workers can be seen keeping an eye on the work every day.

Final decisions on how the project is handled, like protective barriers, are made by MDOT, she said.

"Why anyone thinks I have the power to change MDOT regulations is totally beyond me," said Eberhardt, who added concerned citizens are free to call and make their concerns known.

Heazlit said she has the right to be concerned about protecting water, one of the most valuable resources on Earth. She also filed a complaint with the state of Michigan over the issue.

Small discharges that make their way into lakes, and although local waterways may be considered high quality now, if discharges like slurry keep happening, it will decrease the quality of the waters, she said.

Heazlit also took her concerns to Facebook's Positively Clarkston page to express concerns about the "potential storm water pollutants include cement, sand, aggregates, chemical ad mixtures, fuels and lubricants. Waste concrete washout is highly alkaline and toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms."

The latest issues with the storm drains is not the first time, Heazlit has complained about the way a project in the city has been handled.

In March, she said the way city officials proposed a fix on a pipe behind the Mill's Mall would cause excess sediment buildup and erosion. No city official mentioned her concerns or ideas, and she said nothing has changed this time either.

The way both projects are handled is an "old way of thinking" and there are much better options available to filter sediments before they reach the drains and flow into waterways, she said.

Facebook members criticized Heazlit for being critical one user said her comments were merely an attempt to gain the city as a client. Steve Orasco said he is tired of the same people on Facebook complaining all the time, and Heazlit should leave town. He recommended the two residents offer a package deal on their homes so they can move out.

"Don't you 3 know this is a positive page, do you three not know the word positive," he asked.

After several posts, about five people in the Positively Clarkston group said Heazlit should quit complaining or be removed.

Eberhardt obliged and removed Heazlit.

Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.
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