The Rouge River runs along a path in Booth Park. The city of Birmingham is currently investigating the pollution found in the river.

The Rouge River runs along a path in Booth Park. The city of Birmingham is currently investigating the pollution found in the river.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

The Friends of the Rouge discover discharge in Booth Park

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 17, 2023


BIRMINGHAM — While conducting routine testing on the Rouge River to monitor benthic macroinvertebrates, the Friends of the Rouge and volunteers found a white liquid being discharged into the river from a pipe Oct. 19 in Booth Park.

After investigating and finding a sewage smell, the Friends of the Rouge reported it to the Oakland County Water Resources Commission.

The commission did a followup test and confirmed E. coli in the water, which was then reported to the city of Birmingham, because they do their own operations and maintenance.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” Birmingham’s Assistant Director of Engineering Cory Borton said in an email. “This appears to be an illicit connection from a building within the City to a City owned storm sewer.  The City is investigating the source of the discharge. This may include inspecting upstream sewer manholes, televising the sewer runs, and possibly dye testing potential sources.”

Borton said the city has narrowed down the general area where the discharge is coming from, but they cannot determine an exact source until further investigations are conducted.

“It’s not super common but these things happen,” Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash said.

Borton said that like all watersheds, the Rouge River watershed has illicit connections and discharges discovered every year. However, all southeast Michigan communities are required to monitor the watershed for illicit connections and discharges. This is part of their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit with the state of Michigan.

“We’re always looking to make sure our systems are not being contaminated by sewage. It is one of the things we do for our permits,” Nash said.

Borton said that residents do not have to take extra precautions during this time.

“No additional precautions are necessary other than precautions that residents would normally take when entering a water body,” Borton said via email.

The Friends’ website explains how to spot pollution and illegal discharges, and instructs people to call the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Pollution Emergency Alerting System at (800) 292-4706 if such an incident is suspected. The Friends declined to comment further on the Birmingham incident.

More information on the Friends of the Rouge can be found online at