Analysis: Aging Sewer Systems to Blame for Tainting of Detroit-Area Waterways

Jan. 19, 2010
Report shows repeated dumping of untreated human waste leading to bacteria-ridden waters

According to a Detroit Free Press analysis, aging sewage systems are at the source of a proliferation of bacteria in Detroit’s waterways.

The analysis of state records showed repeat violations by the sewage systems, dumping contaminated or entirely raw human waste into rivers, lakes and streams: About one-fourth of communities in the Detroit metropolitan area dumped hazardous materials in the past two years. That adds up to more than 80 billion gal.

The waterways affected by the violations reach more than 3 million people through drinking and recreational uses, the report said. Thus, numerous bodies of water are continually banned for activities such as fishing and swimming.

The obvious solution would be to update the old sewer systems, however, the communities simply do not have the money. But Detroit’s water department officials told the newspaper that their sewage issues are not unlike those in other old, large cities.

But another unfortunate point cited by the report was the fact that violators are rarely punished for their illegal actions.

"It's unfortunate that we are at this stage, but we don't want to be swooping down and levying fines because it hurts the problem," Robert McCann, Department of Environmental Quality spokesman, told the Detroit Free Press. "We want to work with communities to make it affordable to fix the problems."

Source: Detroit Free Press