Approximately 800 gallons of diluted raw sewage was released into Lobdell Lake after a construction accident on Monday, May 11, according to a statement released by the Genesee County Drain Commissioner’s Office.
A private landscaping contractor was installing a seawall on a home-owner’s property on Stages Island on Lobdell Lake and hit a shut-off valve while operating an excavator.
“This caused a break in an underground sewer line, leading to an SSO discharge of 800 gallons of diluted raw sewage,” according to the GCDC. “Not only was the private contractor completely at fault for the SSO (sanitary sewer overflow), the contractor also failed to call Miss Dig prior to construction. A simple routine phone call to Miss Dig would have prevented the sewer line break and associated discharge entirely. The sewer line was adjacent to Lobdell Lake, causing runoff to enter that body of water.”
Kevin Sylvester, deputy drain commissioner, said as soon as they were made aware of the accident, they shut off the valve to the main sewer line to prevent additional sewage from entering the lake. They isolated the impact area with sandbags and are making repairs to the valves.
“Outside of those and other mitigation efforts, there is no way to remove the sewage directly. I should state it is a relatively small amount, and has been diluted and dispersed throughout the lake,” he said.
Sylvester said there is a potential for EGLE (Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) to fine the contractor.
“The contractor was operating without a soil erosion permit, so our office will be doubling those fees per our policy. In addition, we will look to recoup any costs for mitigation and repairs from the contractor,” Sylvester said.
The GCDC-WWS (Division of Water and Waste Services) has worked with municipalities over the years to encourage them to utilize best management practices when checking for underground infrastructure.
“GCDC-WWS adopted the Gold Shovel Standard in September of 2018, establishing criteria for construction involving underground infrastructure and emphasizing the vital need that contractors establish increased safe working conditions and practices. Many communities across Genesee County have adopted the Gold Shovel Standard, based on GCDC-WWS’ recommendation,” according to the statement.
The GCDC encourages all communities to adopt these policies that require private contractors to obtain information prior to any project.
“What was a sewer line impact this week, could easily be a gas line rupture next week, leading to much more serious consequences,” according to the statement.
Jeff Wright, Genesee County Drain Commissioner, said, “Whether it is adopting the Gold Shovel Standard, or issuing other requirements, both local communities and private contractors must work together to ensure agencies like Miss Dig are consulted prior to work being done. The stakes are simply too high, and the public health and people’s lives depend on taking the appropriate precautions.”