When sewage rains down on a new $360,000 splash park for kids, it’s off to a very bad start. Especially when a dozen people who played in the park called local health officials to report gastrointestinal illnesses.
The new waterscape in Traverse City, named to honor former Gov. William G. Milliken, a native son and the state’s longest serving chief executive, was shut down July 1 after being open for only six days. Located in Traverse City’s Clinch Park, the municipality says it will be several weeks before the park reopens.
The city had allowed the splash park to open without requiring operators to obtain necessary state and local permits, a fact that prompted the mayor to call the whole incident “an embarrassment.”
The park opened on June 27 with several persisting problems. No check valves were installed at the waterscape to prevent a sewer backup. Instead, it planned to divert any sewer overflow into stone-lined dry well. In addition, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality permitted the city to open the splash park without a construction permit or a state license to operate. At least some of the blame or credit for that is going to State Rep. Wayne Schmidt (R-Grand Traverse County).
Schmidt, according to local reports, took it upon himself to make some calls to DEQ after city officials learned at the June 25 grand opening that its contractors had not obtained the necessary permits.
On the morning of June 30, Traverse City workers discovered a worsening sewer backup problem caused by a failed pump station sending the raw sewage into the underground reservoir that feeds the sprinklers for the waterscape. The city closed it down at 10:30 a.m. the next day.
“It’s raw sewage, it…can contain all sorts of things,” said Rose Ann Davis, spokeswoman for the Grand Traverse County Health Department. She said local health officials “cannot absolutely positively say they were caused by the splash pad, but all the symptoms are consistent with raw sewage.”© Food Safety News