It's a stinky situation, but it does happen sometimes. A number of circumstances could cause it to happen, but nonetheless, it's gross everytime it does.

Yet another sewage incident happened in Kalamazoo last week that resulted in around 100 gallons of raw waste to overflow through a manhole cover. Thankfully it was cleaned up quickly, but it does raise concerns, especially since this is at least the fourth significant sewage spill this year, resulting in more than 4,000 gallons of raw sewage to be released.

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The private manhole where the incident occurred this past week was in the 3000 block of North Burdick Street. It happened at around 8 a.m. last Thursday, and crews were notified almost immediately.

The culprit was a blockage that crews removed within the hour, and allowed the remaining sewage to flow freely down the line. But the damage had been done, and about 100 gallons of raw sewage had already flowed out of the system, and into the streets.

Normal conditions were restored, and the immediate impacted area was cleaned up, though it might still be a bit ripe for a bit.

Are Sewage Spills and Overflows Too Common in Kalamazoo?

While blockages like this happen, and some other conditions could result in sewage spills and overflows, it seems Kalamazoo has this happen more frequently than most other communities. In 2023 alone, at least FOUR overflows now have resultin around 4,150 gallons of raw sewage to be spilled.

Back in February, a contractor caused damage to a sanitary sewer force main, resulting in about 3,000 gallons of raw sewage to be spilled. This overflow, however, happened within areas that had protected wetlands. DPS and the Michigan Department of Environmental, Great Lakes and Energy were called to observe the area for any long term effects of the spill, but none have been reported.

In September, another sewer overflow released almost 900 gallons of raw sewage at Walden Woods Condominiums and Townhomes at Marabella Place. That overflow happened in the area of a walking trail, and residents who frequent the area were asked to wash, and disinfect

Then, in October, another overflow from a sanitary sewer on Tray Lane that released more than 150 gallons of sewage.

This also DOESN'T include an accident that resulted in nearly 1 million gallons of only partially treated wastewater to spill into the Kalamazoo River back in July.

What can be done to fix these spills?

It's easy... be careful about what you put down the drain.

WIth the exception of the February sewage incident, all of the other raw sewage spills were due to blockages in the sewer system. Of course, roots, leaves, sticks, and other garbage will make its way into the system, but for the most part, the sewage systems are made in a way to accomodate for that.

What they can't control is what people flush down the toilet, or put down the sink. Things like tampons, grease, and chemicals will tend to gather and clump on the smallest of objects. After they get stuck, they continue to "grab" and gather other items that might cause further complications, resulting in blockages that will push raw sewage out of manhole covers.

The city is consistently making upgrades, and in fact have a number of street projected going right now dedicated to upgrading sewer and drainage systems. But sometimes, we have to play our part in the system as well.

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