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Nuts & Bolts

July 9, 2013

Sewage-contaminated splash pad prompts illness complaints

(Continued)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. —

Miller said she went over other possible causes for her son's illness with health department officials and none of them fit.

But health department officials don't include Miller's son in their log of illnesses related to raw sewage contamination.

"We have no issues with the water on (June 27)," Davis said. "The water was tested (June 26) and (June 28) and there was no reason to believe it turned bad, then got good again."

City officials turned off the water feature after Clinch Park's grand reopening on June 25 because they'd obtained neither a construction permit nor a license to operate the splash pad. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality requires those approvals before such a facility may operate.

But DEQ officials informed city officials on June 27 they could reopen the water feature while they worked through the licensing and permit process. The DEQ's change of heart came after a telephone call from state Rep. Wayne Schmidt, a Traverse City Republican, a city official told the Traverse City Record-Eagle last week.

Lauren Vaughn, Traverse City's parks and recreation superintendent, said the splash pad's chlorine level tested a bit low when officials restarted the system on June 27, but proper chlorine levels quickly rebounded.

Vaughn said city officials test the chlorine level three times each day, and there was no indication of sewage contamination before the backup was discovered on June 30.

"There's just so many other possible avenues for these illnesses, it's hard to say what caused all of it," Vaughn said.

Miller contends city officials should have alerted the public to problems with permitting and when they realized contamination concerns had surfaced.

"Some kind of notice would have been nice to let the residents know there might be a problem with it," Miller said.

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