Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller met with media members on the bank of the Red Run Drain Dec. 20 to address the discovery of two E. coli “hot spots” in Warren storm sewers, which were channeling dangerous bacteria into the county waterway. The problem was corrected on Jan. 18.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller met with media members on the bank of the Red Run Drain Dec. 20 to address the discovery of two E. coli “hot spots” in Warren storm sewers, which were channeling dangerous bacteria into the county waterway. The problem was corrected on Jan. 18.

File photo by Brian Louwers


E. coli source ‘eliminated’ in Warren, more work remains

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published January 26, 2018

WARREN — A “significant source” of E. coli bacteria found in samples taken from the Red Run Drain late last year has been identified and “eliminated” through the cooperative efforts of the county, the city and a business now occupying the property.

According to a press release from the Macomb County Department of Public Works, an illicit sanitary sewer connection was identified at an unnamed industrial business along 11 Mile Road near Schoenherr Road in Warren. The connection apparently allowed untreated sewage to enter the area’s storm drainage system, which spills into the Red Run Drain, flows through the Clinton River system and empties into Lake St. Clair.

E. coli bacteria is found in the waste of warm-blooded animals, including humans, and makes untreated, contaminated water unsafe for human contact or consumption. High levels of E. coli have resulted in numerous beach closures over the years on Lake St. Clair.

Both county and local officials said the business had no prior knowledge about the connection, which was made years ago by a previous occupant of the property.

“The business owner engaged immediately,” Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said. “We’ll never know how, when or why the illicit connection was made, but the bottom line is we found it and we fixed it.”

Warren City Engineer James VanHavermaat said such underground connections made years ago are sometimes discovered by crews when problems arise. He told members of the Warren City Council on Jan. 23 that the identified problem was located in a county sewer and not in the city’s system.

“Nevertheless, the building was in the city of Warren. The property is in the city of Warren,” VanHavermaat said. “Our people went out and identified the problem. They (the county) initially found the chloroform. Our people tracked it down.”

VanHavermaat said the problem was corrected on Jan. 18.

At the meeting, City Councilwoman Kelly Colegio asked for support to invite Miller to appear before the council in order to facilitate a discussion about what can be done to eliminate additional problems going forward. She also sought information about a number of other E. coli “hot spots” thus far identified by the city, but the council stopped short of approving the request.

Previously, Warren Waste Water Treatment Plant Division Head Dave Monette said city workers had identified 228 E. coli hot spots and that 203 sources had been eliminated.

Miller met reporters on the bank of the Red Run Drain in December to announce an inquiry after the discovery of bacteria in two locations. The probe began after a kayaker contacted Miller’s office about a “sheen” on the water in the Red Run Drain, north of 14 Mile Road near Dodge Park, in Sterling Heights, not far from where the storm drains enter the waterway. An investigation ensued, and water quality tests taken at two locations in Warren revealed “off the charts” levels of E. coli bacterial contamination.

Monette said Warren has 746 outlets to drains, which must adhere to standards set by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Both Miller and Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said there are ongoing programs designed to find and correct illicit sanitary sewer connections responsible for bacterial contamination of open waterways.

Additional testing at a second spot initially addressed at Miller’s press conference has been difficult to track due to “little or no flow” at that location.