Sewage Spill

A malfunction at the Spring Lake pump station led to an estimated 85,000 gallons of sewage being spilled into the Grand River on Saturday, Nov. 16. 

A length of pipe disconnected from a pump at a wastewater pump station in Spring Lake, resulting in 85,000 gallons of raw sewage being discharged onto the ground and into the nearby Grand River.

Ryan Vredeveld, superintendent of the Grand Haven/Spring Lake Sewer Authority, said an alarm alerted the on-duty supervisor that there was a drop-off in flow at the pump station located at 213 S. Division St., near Tanglefoot Park.

"We got an alarm around 7 a.m. Saturday telling us of a low flow in the process, at which point our on-call supervisor responded to the site," Vredeveld said. "At 7:35, he shut the pump off, he restored the pumping connections and was able to get the pump back online at 7:45 a.m. It appears the service at the station was disrupted from 5 a.m. until 7:35.

"We were able to calculate an estimation of 85,000 gallons spilled," he added.

Vredeveld said that while that sounds like a big number, the pump station pushes around 1.5 million gallons each day.

Following repairs to the pump, Vredeveld reported the spill to the state environmental agency and the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

Kristina Wieghmink, public information officer for the county health department, said the spill was evaluated and a no-contact warning was not issued.

"Based on the amount that was discharged, at the rate at which it would flow into the Grand and dilute, and also given the weather conditions that people most likely would not be in the water, we did not issue an advisory," Wieghmink explained. "It diluted so quickly (that) by the time it was issued it would have been cleared up.

"The time of year certainly comes into play," she added. "It was reported to us and we definitely take it seriously. We looked at all the data, the conditions and all the factors before making a decision."

The Spring Lake pump station is currently under construction as part of a major renovation to the area's wastewater treatment system, which includes a new force main that was recently installed under the river. Vredeveld explained that, during construction, there is some bypassing equipment in place, which is where Saturday's leak occurred.

"This was responded to quickly and the correction was made in a timely fashion," he said. "We did sit down with the construction crew, our engineering staff, and asked, 'Are there things that we could do to avoid this situation again? Are there things we can do to improve this?' We did identify some minor things that have been put into place."

In September 2017, a power outage at the Grand Haven sewage treatment plant led to about 830,000 gallons of sanitary sewage released into the Grand River. In that instance, the county health department issued an advisory for the river from 1 mile east of the U.S. 31 bridge downstream to Lake Michigan.

In February 2017, a leak was discovered in the pipe running under the Grand River. In that situation, it was estimated that 500,000 gallons of sewage had been released daily for more than a week before the leak was capped. A similar incident occurred in 1998, when a barge stabilization system hit the pipe.

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