The city of Warren is working to address what Macomb County officials are calling two “E. coli hotspots” there, Mayor Jim Fouts reassured residents Wednesday.

In a statement late Wednesday, Fouts said city engineers immediately began addressing the issue after learning about it from Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller.

“It is important to clarify that the detection does not affect drinking water in any way and does not pose any health or environmental hazard,” he said. “The city has the responsibility of monitoring 746 outlets to drains, and we adhere to all Michigan Department of Environmental Quality standards for inspection of these outlets.”

Meanwhile, the city is continuing to sample and monitor storm sewers and working with the Macomb County Public Works office to identify and correct any issues, Fouts said.

E. coli is a bacteria that’s found in mammals’ intestinal tracts. Most strains are harmless, but some can cause rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, infections and other illnesses, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The bacteria can be transmitted through water and food or contact with animals and other people.

Miller reported late last month her office detected the two areas of high E. coli bacteria levels along the Red Run Drain. The drain begins as an underground pipe in Oakland County, flows as an open stream through Warren and Sterling Heights before connecting with the Clinton River in Clinton Township and then ultimately flowing to Lake St. Clair.

She said her office launched in late November an investigation into the high bacteria levels after a resident reported spotting a sheen on the drain near where the Schoenherr relief drain empties into the creek north of 14 Mile.

The E. coli levels were so high, they were off the scale of her office’s testing equipment, according to Miller. The state standard for acceptable levels of E. coli in water is 300 colonies per 100 milliliters.

On Wednesday, the public works commissioner said investigators with her office identified one of the sources as an industrial business near 11 Mile and Bunert roads in Warren.

They found the business’ sanitary sewer line was connected to the county’s storm water system and likely had been for years, she said.

“We have to eliminate this first source before we can re-investigate the storm drain along 11 Mile Road for any other illicit connections,” Miller said in a statement. “If we find more, we will work with Warren to ensure the necessary corrections are made. We appreciate the work by the city of Warren to assist in identifying and correcting this issue.”

The other potential source was found in the 14 Mile and Schoenherr area, but the drain’s low flow there is making it difficult to take samples and pinpoint its exact location, she said. There’s a possibility the source is residential or animal waste, according to Miller.

Fouts agreed. He said Wednesday that “little or no flow was detected” at the Schoenherr location and the conditions “make it difficult to track a problem. Samples taken under these conditions are probably not representative.” He added the area has many backyard drains “which potentially could contribute to fecal material from animals. Based on the information available thus far, it appears that the source may be from animal waste.”

However, the public works office has hired a company to conduct inspections of the entire Schoenherr Relief Drain, which runs along Schoenherr Road between Nine Mile in Warren and just north of 14 Mile in Sterling Heights, officials said. The state has awarded the county a $450,000 grant to conduct the inspections.

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