Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller and Chapaton Retention Basin assistant manager Kris Benda stand in the testing lab at the Chapaton Retention Basin in St. Clair Shores.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller and Chapaton Retention Basin assistant manager Kris Benda stand in the testing lab at the Chapaton Retention Basin in St. Clair Shores.

Photo provided by Macomb County Public Works


Public Works uses caution when frozen ground, snow melt and rain collide

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published February 1, 2019

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MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County Public Works employees at the Chapaton and Martin retention basins prevented more than 30 million gallons of combined sewer overflow from spilling into Lake St. Clair Jan. 24 after rain and snow melt combined to fill the basin.

“This is exactly how this system is designed to work. On these wet days, our retention basins are used to keep this flow out of the lake,” said Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller in a statement.

Station operators at the Chapaton and Martin retention basins operated the collection system pumps at capacity over 24 hours Jan. 23-24, collecting stormwater and some sanitary sewage from St. Clair Shores, Eastpointe and Roseville as the pipes that carry the sewage to Detroit for treatment became overwhelmed.

The two basins approached capacity during the event but did not have to discharge sewage into the lake, according to Macomb County Public Works.

In addition to making sure that pumps and gates are operating properly, employees have to test the chlorine level of the sewage just in case it has to be discharged into the lake.

“Too much chlorine would kill fish if we did have a spill,” said Pete Trombley, who has 20 years of experience with the department, in a statement. “We are testing it very closely, every few minutes, during an event, and our guys take a lot of pride staying well below the state limits for the chlorine.”

Dan Heaton, spokesman for the department, said that the warm temperatures meant that snow melted quite quickly during that time.

“When it’s like that, there’s really no absorption by the grass, so even the snow on the grass is running into the drain,” he said.

Heaton said the same thing would likely happen Feb. 3-4, after press time, as the area quickly warms from a deep freeze up to a predicted 40-50 degrees.

The retention basins are staffed 24 hours per day to make sure that levels are safely maintained, he said. Additional manpower is called in if it is needed.

“It’s a really tight range that they’re trying to keep. Not enough, you don’t kill the E. coli. Too much, it goes into the lake, you kill the fish. It’s a 50-year-old (station), so it’s not the most technologically advanced,” he said.

When wet-weather events end, flows are reversed at the basin and sewage is sent back into the pipes to be treated as wastewater.

The office is in the process of awarding contracts for a construction project to expand the capacity of the Chapaton Retention Basin by as much as 30 million gallons.

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