LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — After heavy storms like the ones we saw last weekend it’s common for rivers and creeks to be polluted by sewage.

It’s a problem experts are working on.

In the last few days the city of Lansing has had to dump 9,000 gallons of water into the Grand River. Due to this weekend’s heavy storms the pump stations were unable to keep up and the city says this was a necessary action to prevent peoples basements from flooding.

The trouble comes because the city of Lansing has combined sewer systems, meaning what you flush and storm water runoff end up in the same place.

“During dry weather not an issue. it goes to the plant. it’s all processed. during wet weather events the problem is we do not have sufficient capacity at our plant accept all of that flow,” says Andy Kilpatrick, the director of public service for the City of Lansing.

He says it’s best to stay out of the water after heavy downpours.

“My suggestion would be if you’re going to swim right after rain wait a couple days,” Kilpatrick said.

Cheri Meyer, the Lansing District Supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Water Resources Division says it’s not just an issue here.

“It’s definitely a statewide issue. especially with aging infrastructure. a lot of people don’t even think about our sewers because they’re underground. you don’t see them,” Meyer said. “So it’s not until that you have flooding events or you have health advisories not to go in the water that people realize this is an issue,” she said.

In some cases bodies of water can get contaminated with E.coli. When that happens the health department will issue notices.

For Lansing, a solution may be on the way. One they’ve been working on for years.
“Over the next 15 or so years we’ll be adding another pipe…that will eliminate those combined sewer overflows,” Kilpatrick said.

According to EGLE’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO), Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO), and Retention Treatment Basin (RTB) Discharge 2020 Annual Repot, Michigan communities have eliminated more than 83 percent of the 613 uncontrolled CSO outfalls that existed in 1988, and the remaining 17 percent are scheduled for elimination.