Sewers flush with problems

Those who maintain the Tri-Cities' sewer system are flush with stories about all the oddities they've seen coming down the pipes.
Marie Havenga
Sep 21, 2013

“Laundry is not uncommon,” Spring Lake Public Works Director Roger Belknap said. “We've seen towels and washcloths, and you get those loofas from time to time.”

Lift stations typically have two pumps so, if one gets clogged by a foreign object, the other can continue to move sewage without the system backing up. An alarm notifies maintenance workers on their cellphones if there is an issue.

“We've had broom handles in our lift station and large industrial mops that kind of look like rugs,” Belknap said. “I don't know how they got there. Maybe they were sent down floor drains somehow.”

Grand Haven Township Public Services Director Mark VerBerkmoes said he's mopped up a lot of mop heads, too.

“They seem to be a common occurrence,” he said. “I have no clue where they come from. We've done some digging to try and locate them, but the sewer system is so vast it's hard to find where they're coming from.”

VerBerkmoes said adult diapers are another frequent pump stopper.

“They don't disintegrate and they're getting to be a real problem,” he said.

Spring Lake Township Manager Gordon Gallagher said the strangest thing he's heard of that was stuck in a sewer pipe was a volleyball.

“Somebody probably put it in a manhole to hide it or something. I don't think it was flushed down a toilet,” he said.

All the toilets and drains in the Village of Spring Lake, cities of Grand Haven and Ferrysburg, and Spring Lake and Grand Haven townships flow to the Grand Haven/Spring Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant at the east end of Washington Avenue in Grand Haven. The facility handles 3 million gallons of wastewater per day, according to plant Superintendent John Stuparits.

What doesn't get hung up in the lift stations eventually flows through to the treatment plant. A slowly rotating 4-by-8-foot screen traps debris and sends it on a conveyer belt to a dumpster, which is then hauled to a landfill.

Stuparits said his employees have found some keepers over the years — everything from dollar bills to rubber ducks.

To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

 

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