DEQ Explains Impact, Suspected Cause of Betsie Bay Sewage Leak

More than 1 million gallons of raw sewage leaked over the course of seven weeks into the Betsie Bay in Benzie County.

The leak went undetected that long from a line that runs under a bridge where the Betsie River meets Betsie Bay.

The wastewater treatment plant originally thought there was a problem with the flow meter when they noticed less flow than normal on January 19.

But on March 7, the village of Elberta did a dye test at a spot under the bridge and realized there was a leak.

“As soon as they found out the line had a leak they stopped the flow and started working on putting in a replacement line,” Don Brady, DEQ environmental engineer said.

We are told the line was in good condition and they think the leak may have been the result of some kind of damage.

“They can’t see the line and so they’re not exactly sure what happened but they speculate when something else was installed that it may have damaged the line somehow,” Brady said.

The DEQ said the sewage leaked is a very small volume, compared to the flow coming out of the Betsie River.

“That’s a lot but these are big lakes and let’s hope it cleans itself out. It’s better late than never I suppose and hopefully the cold water made everything kind of settle and not expand and expose more bacteria,” Michael Banish said.

The DEQ is now waiting on a report from the village, to determine if any fines will be issued.

“Obviously we don’t want any leaks of sewage but moving forward the important thing is that they fixed the line and I don’t think there will be any long term effects,” Brady said.

The village did work with the health department and tested the water for E. coli and the levels were not high enough to issue any kind of health advisory.

The village is working to continually test the line to see if there are any additional improvements they can make.