Water and waste management are major health concerns for any household or business. At the Albion City Council meeting Oct. 3, members were updated on ongoing tests that gauge the city’s handling of water and waste.
Albion is in year two of a three-year Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) grant that funds testing to make sure Albion’s management of stormwater and wastewater is cost-effective and up to code.
Jeff Wingard, of the Fleis & Vandenbrink engineering firm and Albion’s SAW project manager, told the council, “We had a smoke testing machine, which is basically a lawnmower with a big fan on the bottom of it, and that gets inserted in the top of a manhole. We pop open the cover, put that in there and turn it on, and it pressurizes the sewer system.”
From there, Wingard and his crew look for smoke coming out of places, which would indicate areas that stormwater could be getting in the sewer system. They found around 30 catch basins (areas in storm drains that prevent debris from entering the pipes) that are allowing smoke to leak out, 14 places where stormwater is draining into sanitary pipes from downspouts or roof gutters and 20 or more homes where the smoke is going into them, which is the most problematic.
If the smoke leaks into houses, there is the potential for sewer gas to leak as well. Wingard mentioned this could be due to code violations or simply that water has not been run through traps, a seal that prevents sewer gas from leaking into the house. Fixing code violations could be a simple repair, such as adding a trap where there isn’t one, or an expensive fix that could involve tearing up floors to reach pipes.
“All and all, it looks like a lot, but I would think for as old as a lot of [the city’s infrastructure] is I think we’ve done quite well,” said Mayor Joe Domingo.
During the meeting, one resident mentioned that according to a 2015 Calhoun County Department report, there is an area just outside of Albion’s city limits where the water has very high iron and manganese levels. The water tested at Ed Haas Trucking has an iron level of 4.0, despite the Health Department’s recommendation that iron levels be no higher than 2.0 in drinking water. High iron levels can cause liver disease, heart conditions, osteoporosis and much more. Besides Ed Haas Trucking, the area also has an estimated 10 residences who cannot even use the water to wash clothes since the high manganese levels discolor clothing.
Multiple members of the council explained since the area is not within city limits, residents who are concerned about it should reach out to their township supervisor. If they desire, the City of Albion can run water pipes out to them at their expense. They also reassured citizens the drinking water in Albion is safe.
The next Albion City Council Meeting will be Oct. 17. Regular City Council meetings are held at City Hall, 112 W. Cass St., the first and third Mondays of each month at 7 p.m.
Photo by Katie Boni