Ann Arbor’s water pollution issues

The city of Ann Arbor has a long and complicated history of water contamination, leading to the ongoing concern from Ann Arbor residents about the health and environmental threats water pollution poses to cities. 

Recent cases of sewage spills have led to discussions over what actions the city, state and federal government should take to address the problem. There have been four cases of sewage overflows in Ann Arbor in 2021, two of which were caused by a contractor’s sewer-relining efforts

As a result of the overflows, a total of over 10,000 gallons of sewage were released onto Main Street in February and reached Allen Creek, which connects to the Huron River. Other cases transpired within Nichols Arboretum due to root ball blockages — occurring when tree roots pierce a sewer pipe and grow within it. 1,100 gallons of water were released to the ground surface. In both cases, the sewage was treated with lime to counteract the bacteria and no sewage reached the nearby Huron River or any other waterway.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, City Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, stressed the need to fund and regularly test and repair Ann Arbor’s infrastructure to prevent pollution cases like this from occurring.

“You have to fund infrastructure to maintain it, and I would say that for the last two decades, the city has underfunded infrastructure,” Griswold said. “It’s not just funding but it’s (also) having a focus on operational issues.”

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