Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller met reporters on the bank of the Red Run Dec. 20 to address the discovery of two E. coli “hot spots” in Warren storm sewers, channeling dangerous bacteria into the county waterway.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller met reporters on the bank of the Red Run Dec. 20 to address the discovery of two E. coli “hot spots” in Warren storm sewers, channeling dangerous bacteria into the county waterway.

Photo by Brian Louwers


County flags two E. coli ‘hot spots’ in Warren drains

By: Brian Louwers | C&G Newspapers | Published December 22, 2017

 A kayaker on the Red Run in late November noticed a “sheen” on the water near 14 Mile and Hoover roads. Stormwater entering the Red Run through municipal drains flows into the Clinton River and eventually into Lake St. Clair.

A kayaker on the Red Run in late November noticed a “sheen” on the water near 14 Mile and Hoover roads. Stormwater entering the Red Run through municipal drains flows into the Clinton River and eventually into Lake St. Clair.

Photo by Brian Louwers

WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS — Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller met reporters on the bank of the Red Run Dec. 20 to address the discovery of two E. coli “hot spots” she said are channeling dangerous bacteria through Warren storm drains.

Standing not far from the location where the Schoenherr Relief Drain empties into the Red Run in Sterling Heights, just north of 14 Mile Road and east of Hoover Road, Miller said a kayaker noticed a “sheen” on the surface of the water in late November. Samples taken by the county and tested in the lab at the Chapaton Pump Station in St. Clair Shores revealed the presence of E. coli bacteria in the water. 

Miller said the investigation that followed isolated two E. coli “hot spots,” from which the bacteria was entering the county drain system through two storm sewer pipes owned by the city of Warren. The pipes are located in a neighborhood between Schoenherr and Bunert roads south of 14 Mile, and along the east side of Schoenherr just north of I-696.

The samples were reportedly accessed by manholes tracking back from the mouth of the Schoenherr Relief Drain.

“To put it in context, if you have E. coli counts of 300 (parts per milliliter) or more, you’re closing beaches,” Miller said. “What we have found at two different spots was 2,400, which is the maximum that the testing will go to, so they were off the charts. I’m sure they were much higher than that. That is very dangerous for human contact.”

Stormwater entering the Red Run flows into the Clinton River and eventually into Lake St. Clair. 

Miller said it’s too early to know the exact source of the bacteria but that the investigation is going to determine if it is the result of an illicit sanitary sewer connection. 

E. coli bacteria is found in human and animal waste. 

According to a press release from the Macomb County Public Works office, the investigation involved the collection and testing of samples taken from 20 locations along the drain, conducted in an attempt to isolate the source of the bacteria.  High E. coli counts were found in a 36-inch city storm sewer near 14 Mile, east of Schoenherr, and in a 72-inch storm pipe near Schoenherr and I-696.

Miller said she had received assurances from Warren officials that the problem will be further investigated and addressed immediately. 

“It’s all hands on deck,” Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said Dec. 20. “We’re working on this 24-7. I want to get this problem solved.”

Fouts said city crews would work overtime despite the holidays to take additional samples, if necessary, to track the source of the bacteria. He suggested it could be the result of a large animal population, such as geese or deer, or an illegal sewer hook-up.

Miller said finding the exact source should now be easier to pinpoint.

According to the county’s press release, the Schoenherr Relief Drain was previously scheduled to undergo a major structural and illicit-connection inspection in early 2018.   

“With these high, high, high counts, it almost always is human waste,” Miller said. “We’ve really narrowed it down. It should be pretty easy to figure out where this is coming from, if there is an illicit connection.

“We’re just going to have zero tolerance for any kind of illicit connection or human sewage going into our water,” Miller said.