City of Ishpeming copes with sanitary sewer system overflow

MARQUETTE – Ishpeming Public Works Director Jon Kangas anticipates that after this story appears, he may be getting some more phone calls.

But for now, the worst has passed with an overflow situation involving the sanitary sewer system in the city of Ishpeming.

From Sunday through Friday, city crews were kept busy as the system backed up in two areas of the city.

“Rapid snow melt combined with rainfall was the cause,” Kangas said. “It was spring weather-related.”

The areas impacted were Teal Lake Avenue, where U.S. 41 and Hickory Street meet, and lower Davis Street off of Business Route M-28, he said. The first call came in the afternoon of April 28, with about eight homeowners in total calling, and the pumping ended at about noon Friday.

“Both areas are low on their end of the sewer system,” he said. “The sewers are shallow and when the pipes get full, people’s basements get wet.”

Using three 4-inch pumps, one 3-inch pump and one 1-inch pump, the city crews pumped 7.4 million gallons of runoff from snowmelt in the Teal Lake Avenue area, and 3.8 million gallons in the lower Davis Street area in the five-day period, Kangas said.

“The biggest issue was the runoff groundwater was going into the sanitary sewer system, and that’s not supposed to happen,” he said. “But with the age of the system, the sump pumps and the direct inflow, that’s what happened.”

The city’s sanitary sewer system has not had work done on it since the early 1980s, Kangas said.

“Some areas were much, much longer ago than that,” he said. “Maybe the 1950s.”

When the runoff slowed, things caught up and the city’s pumps were removed from the areas.

Kangas said at the same time the difficulties were reported on Teal Lake Avenue and lower Davis Street, residents in other areas of the city had some problems, including along South Third Street.

“People driving by would have seen many houses with hoses in use, but there was nothing we could do there,” he said. “All the pumps we had were already in use.”

Kangas has contacted both the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Marquette County Health Department to inform them about the situation.

“We haven’t been instructed to sample (water supplies) as of now. I’d say there was a low to medium risk of any problems,” Kangas said. “But if anyone has any concerns, they are welcome to call the department of public works to speak with someone.”

The number to call is 486-9371.

“Any cause for alarm has passed now,” Kangas said. “People have dealt with these problems in the past but this is the first time in the four years I have been here we have had this problem.”

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.