Failure of a sanitary sewage water main in South Haven Township forced the temporary closure of a small portion of 76th St. near 12th Avenue in South Haven Township on Monday, Feb. 13.

South Haven Department of Public Works staff members discovered raw sewage bubbling up near 12th Avenue and 76th Street early Monday morning in South Haven Township and closed off the intersection area to traffic to fix the problem, according to Quentin Clark, water, sewer and streets superintendent for the Department of Public Works.

By early afternoon, DPW crews identified the culprit – a failure in the 4-inch PVC force main – and made necessary repairs to re-open the intersection.

“It is estimated the amount of raw sewage discharge from this incident to be around 15,000 gallons,” Clark reported.

The sanitary sewage overflow at 76th Street and 12th Avenue comes on the heels of a sanitary sewer overflow that occurred Feb. 9 on County Road 689, between 8th and 10th avenues.

In that instance, a lift station, operated by the South Haven Area Water and Sewer Authority (SHAWSA), which serves the city of South Haven and portions of South Haven and Casco Townships, discharged approximately 2,000-2,500 gallons of raw wastewater into the ground.

A month earlier, on Jan. 6, a sanitary sewer force main break at the lift station near Phoenix Street and CR 689 discharged raw wastewater, totaling about 1,100 gallons.

Repairs were made to that lift station within several hours, according to Clark. Department of Public Works staff, which are contracted through SHAWSA, also were able to make the repairs following the overflow that occurred on CR 689 on Feb. 9.

“This was caused by a massive inflow of storm water and snow melt though two broken sewer laterals that staff repaired that evening,” said Bill Hunter, Department of Public Works director for South Haven and director of SHAWSA.

The relatively mild winter weather during January and February has been met with quite a bit of rain and unseasonably warm temperatures. With the ground still half-frozen in a number of spots from colder weather in November and December, storm water runoff is creating an issue for portions of the SHAWSA water and sewer system, according to Clark and Hunter.

Although there have been three instances since January of raw sewage discharge in South Haven Township, Clark said he doesn’t think there is a cause for concern.

“The three discharge events are very small in volume and have been met with a lot of snow melt and wet weather,” Clark said. “The water is absorbed and filtered through the ground the same way that septic drain fields are, so there is no more risk posed than a private septic field.”

However, whenever a sanitary sewage overflow occurs, SHAWSA is required to inform the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy of the incident within 24 hours, and report steps being taken to remediate the issue.

Hunter also stressed that the DPW staff regularly checks all lift stations in the SHAWSA service area to determine if there are problems with sewage overflows, especially during heavy rain and snowfall situations.