Council OKs Enviro Protection Contracts

The Ann Arbor city council has approved three different contracts related to protection of the local environment.

Two of the contracts include an educational component – one related to the city’s materials recovery facility (MRF), and the other to stormwater management. The third concerned monitoring of the city’s now-closed landfill at Platt and Ellsworth. Action by the council came at its July 15, 2013 meeting.

On the council’s consent agenda was a $43,788 annual contract with the Ecology Center to give tours of the material recovery facility (MRF). The facility sees 4,000 visitors a year. The cost of the contract is split 60-40 between the solid waste fund and the drinking water fund. The drinking water funding is related to a Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources requirement that the city engage in source water protection educational efforts. The authorization is for the contract to be extended annually for five years with a 3% increase each year.

Also related to environmental educational efforts, the council authorized a contract with the Huron River Watershed Council to comply with the requirements of an MS4 stormwater discharge permit that it has through the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality. An MS4 system (short for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) is “a system of drainage (including roads, storm drains, pipes, and ditches, etc.) that is not a combined sewer or part of a sewage treatment plant.” The goal of the MS4 program is to reduce pollution of Michigan’s surface waters. HRWC’s activities are described in the staff memo accompanying the agenda item as: “public education efforts; water quality monitoring; reporting assistance; watershed group facilitation; and, technical assistance.” The HRWC contract is to be funded out of the stormwater operating and maintenance budget.

The approval of the contract with HRWC comes in the context of an incident on June 27, when heavy rains briefly overwhelmed the city’s sanitary sewage system and resulted in 10,000 gallons of untreated sewage flowing into the Huron River. The city has separate sanitary and stormwater sewer systems, but the sanitary system receives stormwater flow from cracks in the system as well as footing drains that were connected to the sanitary system as part of standard construction techniques in the 1970s. Incidents like the one on June 27 led to the creating of the city’s footing drain disconnection (FDD) program in the early 2000s. Parts of that FDD program are currently suspended as the city is conducting a study of wet weather flows in the sanitary system.

From the city’s press release on the incident three weeks ago:

On Thursday, June 27, 2013, the Ann Arbor area was deluged with intense rainfall that caused flooding conditions and significantly increased the flow of wastewater to the City of Ann Arbor Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) over a short period of time. Plant flows more than tripled within a half hour. As a result of this unprecedented increase in plant flow, approximately 10,000 gallons of untreated wastewater was discharged to the Huron River from 5:20 to 5:30 p.m. By comparison, the WWTP fully treated approximately 350,000 gallons of wastewater during the 10minute period over which this incident occurred.

Fortunately, due to a number of factors, the impact of this incident on human health and the environment is minimal. The flow within the Huron River for the 10 minutes over which the discharge occurred was approximately 11,000,000 gallons, consequently the estimated 10,000 gallons of untreated wastewater was diluted by a factor of 1,000.

The third item approved by the council in this category was an amendment to the city’s contract with Tetra Tech Inc. (TTI) to provide additional monitoring services of the city’s now-closed landfill. The $178,596 amendment brings the total amount of the contract to $543,386. Many of the additional services the city is asking Tetra Tech to provide are associated with a plume of 1,4 dioxane and vinyl chloride contamination in Southeast Area Park, which is located northeast of the landfill at Platt and Ellsworth.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]