As if residents of Flint, Mich., haven’t endured enough when it comes to the city’s water supply, they now have millions of gallons of raw sewage to contend with.
The city dumped an estimated 2 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Flint River Sunday, Aug. 18, just months after officials warned wastewater infrastructure was fast approaching a “critical point.”
A partial report filed by the city with the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy on Tuesday, Aug. 20, says a “flash flood event” overflowed primary settling tanks at the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Beecher Road, sending raw waste onto the ground and into a storm sewer drain that discharges directly to the river.
The city publicly announced the spill on Aug. 18, but thus far has yet to reveal what protocols were in place prior to the spill or how it will prevent a similar occurrence in the future. Of additional note, the city also failed to disclose the volume of the spill until filing a partial report with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy.
As a result of the discharge, in order to avoid exposure to potentially high levels of bacteria, residents have been advised to stay away from the river.
In order to fund the upgrades necessary for its sewage system, the city is currently seeking a revolving loan of $34 million. That request has become even more urgent in light of this massive spill, which officials warned about months ago.
“We’re going to get to a point where we can’t treat our wastewater and sewage anymore,” Rob Bincsik, Director of the Department of Public Works, said at that time. “We won’t have to talk about drinking water anymore, because we’ll talk about nothing but the raw sewage that gets discharged into the Flint River.”
As to how the spill occurred, Bincsik points the finger at Mother Nature.
“The condition of infrastructure and needed capital investment at the wastewater treatment plant had nothing to do with the recent discharge into the Flint River,” he said in a statement to MLive. “The duration and intensity of the rain event caused an immediate and significant increase in flow, subsequently causing the primary tanks to overflow untreated sewage into the storm sewer and ultimately the river. Wastewater treatment plant staff did everything possible to minimize the discharge event but they are really at the mercy of Mother Nature in situations such as this.”
In response, Twitter users have expressed both frustration and dismay at Flint’s ongoing struggles with clean water:
No word on how the city plans to resolve this matter, but it’s abundantly clear that between this catastrophe and the city’s well-documented issues with drinking water, residents of Flint deserve much better.