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Drain commissioner responds to village sewer concerns

by David Fleet

September 18, 2013

Goodrich-During an Aug.12 village council meeting Jeff Wright, Genesee County Drain Commissioner, made comments suggesting a rash of sewage was allegedly discharged into the Kearsley Creek via the village drains.

The comments sparked questions from both village and township officials.

Earlier this month Wright responded to The Citizen seeking to clarify his statements and update the community on the progress of the proposed work on the Wheelock & Watkins Drain.

The context of the discussion, said Wright during the village meeting, was to determine how sewage from mill pond water ends up in the basements of homes. He suggested that e-coli infested water from the mill pond is flowing through a pipe under Ridge Road to the Goodrich Country Club pond overwhelming the Wheelock & Watkins Drain. Shinanguag area, domestic animals and wild animals also contribute," he said. "I was aware one home that was in the village where the sanitary sewer was connected into the storm sewer. In reality that was the only such cross connection that I was aware of with regard to sewers in the village. Because of this determination we are analyzing three documents regarding the sewers in Goodrich."

Wright said data is available from a meter that was installed by the county several years ago to monitor the flow through the sewer interceptor between each community on the system. The flow amount will fluctuate to some extent with rain water represented by some minor spikes in volume thus detecting a greater flow in the system.. Secondly, every seven years a mobile camera is ran through the sewers televising the inside of the pipes thus determining breaks in the system. This information is available for examination and will indicate problems with the hook-ups."

The village sewers were installed in the1980s and completed in 1989—in theory there was no cross connection to the sewers at that time, he added.

Wright also said that Genesee County is under contract to care for the sewer interceptors while the village is responsible for the sewer laterals—the pipes which lead to the homes or businesses from the interceptors.

"We don't want to cross hook-up with the sump pumps going into the sanitary sewer," he added. "The only way we can tell how the property is connected is to inspect each home. That's not our responsibility— they own the system."

Wright said a third method to determine the cause of sewage in the Kearsley Creek is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) which requires every community to identify all pipes, whether private or village drains that flow into a creek or body of water. The Department of Environmental Quality - DEQ's Water Resources Division (WRD) has responsibility for processing the permits of the NPDES.

"Right now we can go back in the archives of the NPDES about 10 years to determine just what pipes are in use," he added. There's a lot of pipes that go into the Kearsley Creek that need to be followed up on."

Wright is concerned with the pipe that runs under Ridge Road from a Goodrich Country Club pond to the mill pond and the repairs made by the village DPW on Sept. 6.

"The pipe is part of the flooding problem," he said. "I'm still concerned that the pipe flowing back to the golf course will pass the water of the Kearsley Creek and the mill pond and inundate the Wheelock & Watkins Drain. They say they have a new valve to close the pipe off in place. What if that breaks? Who is going to be responsible for the valve and accepts liability in the event of failure?"

Pete Morey, village councilperson and street administrator, said repairs were made to the valve in the Mill Pond when the water was lowered earlier this month.

"The valve is opened in the morning and closed at night," he said. "It's open when they (golf course) need water and closed when it's not necessary. The equipment is functional."

The Wheelock & Watkins Drain is an agricultural drain, built in 1897 and which encompasses a large section of the village, impacting about 100 residents. The old drain under the jurisdiction of Genesee County has been one possible cause of flooding of several residents' homes.

Last year petitions were signed and in a special meeting on April 9 at the village offices, a board of determination voted 3-0 to move forward an upgrade to the Wheelock & Watkins Drain. Since then, a study and extensive survey of the impacted drain area to provide possible solutions is ongoing, say county officials. The engineering firm of Fleis and Vandenbrink is currently conducting the study and should be available in about four to five weeks, added Wright.

"At that time they will show potential options and the estimated costs," he said. "A report will be sent to the village and petitioners for review. There will be time for input, questions and final design. They are currently working on the project."

Regarding e.coli and sewage in the mill pond and Kearsley Creek, Wright said several factors are contributing.

"I know there's septic coming from Ortonville, some from the Lake