Divers fix Grand River sewer pipe after nearly 2M gallon spill

Ottawa County no body contact advisory Grand River
A boat floats on a portion of the Grand River included in a no body contact advisory following a sewage spill. (Feb. 27, 2017)

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) –- Officials estimate nearly 2 million gallons of sanitary sewage spilled into the Grand River in Ottawa County before crews finished fixing the busted pipe Tuesday.

The Grand Haven Spring Lake Sewer Authority said a resident reported seeing water bubbling up in the center of the Grand River Sunday.

Officials said crews couldn’t easily locate the leak during the weekend because of lower flow from the treatment plant.

Monday, a contracted diver found the problem: a 2-inch hole in an underground iron pipe that carries wastewater from Spring Lake Township, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg to the wastewater treatment plant in Grand Haven.

That afternoon, Ottawa County health officials issued an advisory urging visitors to avoid contact with the Grand River until the sewer system was fixed and tested.

The shaded area on the above map shows the area included in the no body contact advisory.
The shaded area on the above map shows the area included in the no body contact advisory.

The authority said divers began the process of repairing the leak at 8:15 a.m. Monday, but ran out of daylight.

Tuesday morning, tanker trucks were brought in to suck up the sanitary sewage that would normally go through the pipe. Divers began actual repairs to the pipe at 7 a.m., clamping off the leak by 9:15 a.m., according to officials.

The Grand Haven Spring Lake Sewer Authority says the 12-inch pipe was built in 1972 but it is specially designed to cross under rivers and is the heaviest-duty class of pipe made.

The authority is still trying to determine what caused the hole in the pipe, including testing nearby soil to see if it caused corrosion.

The group says a similar leak involving the pipe happened in 1998, but at a different location.

The authority is considering several possible solutions to prevent future leaks, including leak detection technology or a portable dam.

While it’s too early to know the exact price, the authority estimates the latest repairs will cost between $50,000 to $90,000.