Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 2, 2013

Sewage backup contaminates city splash pad

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County officials issued a health alert for anyone who used the city’s new water attraction after a sewer backup routed toilet water into the splash pad.

City officials discovered Sunday morning that sewage backed up into the Clinch Park splash pad’s reservoir as five or six children played in and around a waterscape feature that opened last week. County officials extended the health warning for anyone who used the splash pad on either Saturday or Sunday.

The water feature’s installer, Jason Hobson of Lightning Turtle Landscape, arrived within about 20 minutes after the sewer backup was discovered. He noticed water in the reservoir was cloudy, tinted, and contained floating debris.

“My first thought was vandalism because there was no smell,” he said. “That’s because it went into 2,000 gallons of chlorinated water.”

The backup resulted from a failed pump that tripped a circuit breaker at an Open Space pump station. The tripped circuit also knocked out a pump failure alarm.

City officials didn’t learn about the sewer backup until a city employee saw sewage bubbling up from a manhole cover on Sunday at about 10:30 a.m.

”He obviously knew it was a problem and contacted us right away,” said Casey Rose, project manager for CH2M HILL, the contracted operator of the city’s sewage plant and pump stations.

The pump failure allowed sewage water to flow through a pipe intended to funnel overflow water from the splash pad reservoir into the sewer system.

Rose said there’s no way to know when the pump failed. Officials also don’t know how much sewage water entered the reservoir, though he estimated the total amount of lost sewage at less than 2,000 gallons.

CH2M HILL crews and city workers cleaned and disinfected the contaminated area and the splash pad system. Rose said no sewage seeped into Grand Traverse Bay.

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