Don’t flush: Super Bowl could harm sinkhole

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Fraser — As football fans head to their bathrooms en masse during the Super Bowl halftime — residents in northern Macomb County may want to hold it. Or at least not flush.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller is concerned that thousands of residents flushing their toilets Sunday night could overwhelm a damaged sewer line that caused the massive sinkhole in Fraser. The 300,000 residents in nearly a dozen impacted communities already have been asked to restrict water usage.

“It’s Superbowl Sunday with all the parties,” Miller said. “I hope everybody enjoys themselves and has a great time. Just be cognizant of how much water you’re using. That’s going to be a very high water usage day.”

Miller said additional staff on Sunday will monitor the volume of sewage carried around the Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage District along 15 Mile in Fraser. A 100-foot-wide, 250-foot-long sinkhole emerged on 15 Mile near Eberline on Christmas Eve after the interceptor collapsed.

The goal is to avoid dumping sewage into the Clinton River, Miller said. Crews in December pumped sewage into river, angering some residents. Fraser officials made that decision in consultation with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Miller said she’s been told that when crews repaired a similar sewer line break and sinkhole along 15 Mile in 2004, they noticed an increase in sewage flow during the Super Bowl.

“They learned the hard way everybody flushes the toilet,” she said. “Think about that.”

The affected communities are the cities of Fraser, Sterling Heights, Utica, New Haven as well as Chesterfield, Shelby, Clinton, Harrison, Lenox and Washington townships. Selfridge Air National Guard Base is also impacted, officials said.

“Please think about how much water you’re using,” Miller urged residents. “It’s all going down this interceptor that’s got a small amount of flow that can get through it.”

To reduce some of the sewage volume, officials announced last week that Mount Clemens agreed to allow the county to send some of the flow to its wastewater treatment plant until a temporary bypass is complete in a few weeks.

The diversion would cost about $500,000, an expense Miller said she’s not sure the county wants to pay.

“It’s quite costly do to that,” she said. “Not sure if we’re going to be able to use that or not.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday announced grants of up to $100,000 for local governments affected by the sinkhole.

Municipalities can apply for the grants to help with costs related to addressing the problem such as overtime for public employees and pay for contracts, shelter supplies, gasoline as well as building and road repairs.

“While progress is being made to address the situation, some of the local jurisdiction resources have been depleted,” Snyder said in a Friday statement. “Money from this fund will help cover some of the costs incurred while responding to and recovering from this incident.”

The grants, he said, will come from the state’s Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund.

State law allows the governor to authorize reimbursement from the fund, administered by the Michigan State Police’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, to help counties and communities when federal emergency reimbursement isn’t available.

(313) 222-2311

Staff writer Charles E. Ramirez contributed.