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Storm water overflow

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The Beverly Hills/Birmingham retention plant, which receives its flow from a combined wastewater, like the George Kuhn retention basin, discharged millions gallons of water in 2014 due to rain or snowmelt. Each of the discharges fell within the facility's permit, according to the MDEQ.

The largest discharges, outside of those connected to the George Kuhn retention basin, occurred in August in Birmingham and Beverly Hills. On August 11, about 5.46 million gallons of partially treated sewage was released from the Birmingham retention treatment basin to the area of Lincoln and Southfield roads. About 11.43 million gallons of partially treated sewage from a combined treatment facility was released the same day from a retention basin to drains near Cranbrook and 14 Mile roads that lead to the Rouge River. That release came on the heels of a similar discharge of 14.06 million gallons of partially treated sewage at Evergreen and Beverly that also went to the Rouge River.

Separate from the one day catastrophic event on August 11, the majority of sanitary sewerage overflows, or SSOs, that occurred in 2014 in Oakland County happened due to malfunctions or failures in the system. For instance, 22,640 gallons of raw sewage was released on September 1 when a syphon, a tube used to convey liquids upwards from a reservoir, under the Clinton River plugged, causing an upstream manhole cover to overflow, spilling raw sewage onto the banks of the river.

While the Kuhn retention basin is the largest contributor of overflows in the Oakland County system, Nigro said work done to the drain over the years has greatly reduced the number of overflows, as well as improved the quality of water being released. The retention basin consists of a two-mile long drainage system that is 60 feet wide, which runs mainly through Madison Heights. The underground basin holds about 124 million gallons.

Nigro said prior to improvements to the George Kuhn retention basin, which receives its flow through a combined sewer system, there would have been roughly 50 discharges into the Red Run drain each year, or basically each time it would rain in southeast Oakland County. Mandates by the state required the county to take action to reduce the number of discharges, and weir structures were installed to allow water to be stored in the system.

"That took discharges down to about 25 a year," Nigro said. "A few years later, the state said, 'you can do better,' and they built this enormous retention basin in the Red Run Drain," he said

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