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Notification of Sanitary Sewer Overflow Near Bird Hills Park

Archived News Release: May 16, 2016 - ​Late in the evening on Friday, May 13, 2016, a report was made to the City of Ann Arbor about a sewage odor in the woods near Updown Circle, close to Bird Hills Park. Crews investigated that night and again on Saturday, but could not locate the source of the odor. Upon further investigation on the morning of May 16, City of Ann Arbor Public Works field crew members discovered a sanitary sewer manhole that was slowly flowing in a wooded area near 2180 Updown Circle, in the woods adjacent to Bird Hills Park. The cause of this overflow was determined to be roots that had grown through the sanitary sewer pipe, blocking flow. Over 60 hours, an estimated 36,000 gallons of sewage overflowed and flowed over land to an unnamed tributary of the Huron River. As soon as the source of the problem was identified, crews worked immediately to remedy the situation, removing the roots from the pipe and cleaning the area affected. 

As a precaution, it is recommended that people using Bird Hills Park for the next seven days stay on the pathways and keep animals on leash. The area will be treated with white powder lime, (a natural substance) to neutralize and accelerate the decomposition of the discharge. The city's Natural Area Preservation group has been informed of the spill and are in contact with the city's water quality manager to understand impacts on the park and collaborate for cleanup efforts. All cleanup activities have been specified for environmental sensitivity and protection.

There are no communities downstream of the overflow that draw water from the Huron River for drinking purposes. In addition, there are no health risks posed by this overflow to those using the Huron River for recreational purposes, due to the dilution effects.

In accordance with regulatory protocols, the City of Ann Arbor Public Services staff contacted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to inform them of this unfortunate incident. City Public Works staff is commended for demonstrating clear thinking and fast action, which prevented this situation from becoming any worse. ​

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Media Contact Information

Jennifer Lawson
Water Quality Manager
[email protected]

Ann Arbor has 123,851 residents, spans 28.97 square miles and is frequently recognized as a foremost place to live, learn, work, thrive and visit. To keep up with City of Ann Arbor information, subscribe for email updates, and follow the city on Twitter and Facebook. The city's mission is to deliver exceptional services that sustain and enhance a vibrant, safe and diverse community.