Between shortly after midnight until 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, about 830,000 gallons of sanitary sewage was released from the sewage treatment plant in Grand Haven, according to the Grand Haven/Spring Lake Sewer Authority.
On Wednesday morning, the Ottawa County Department of Public Health issued the advisory for the river from 1 mile east of the U.S. 31 bridge downstream to Lake Michigan. The advisory remains in effect until testing is completed, officials said.
The release occurred when the plant’s ultraviolet system, the last step of the treatment process, lost power, said Plant Superintendent David Krohn. He said the plant staff began working to correct the problem immediately after being notified of the power outage.
Krohn said it’s unknown why a component on the ultraviolet system failed, and they contacted the manufacturer and an electrician. Although it “took time to get results,” Krohn said it was back to work by 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“We’re back in operation,” he said.
In following protocol, the local health department and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality were notified of the release.
The health department advised residents to avoid contact with the river, “particularly submergence of the head,” until the advisory is lifted. Anyone who comes in contact with the areas of the river under the advisory should immediately shower or wash with soap and water, according to the health department. Before washing, people who were exposed to the water should also avoiding touching their eyes, mouth, nose, face, cuts or open sores.
The advisory shouldn’t affect Saturday’s Grand Haven Salmon Festival fishing contest, said Roger Belter, president of the Grand Haven Steelheaders. Boats have been fishing deeper and haven’t been fishing in the river for the past couple of days, he said.
In February, a no-body contact advisory was also issued following a leak caused by a 2-inch hole in a main sewer pipe in the river. During that leak, officials estimated that slightly less than 2 million gallons of sewage was released.