Underground Hunt: Sump Pump Violators

Posted at 6:31 PM, May 01, 2013

HOWARD CITY, Mich.– Since the recent flooding in West Michigan, service leaders in the Village of Howard City have noticed an increase in the number of homeowners emptying their basement sump pumps into the waste water treatment system.

“They just make a connection via a tap where a sink would go in or a toilet would go in,” explained Howard City Municipal Services Director Michael Van Wagner.

He says putting that extra water in the main system puts a strain on the village plant and is expensive because the water still has to go to the plant and be treated with costly chemicals,  just like regular sewage.

“So that’s basically treating clean water and costing the taxpayers money,” said Van Wagner.

Now, they are on a mission to catch the violators.

“I believe every waste water treatment plant in the country has that problem,” he said.

Howard City has recently been opening up man holes around the village and putting an underground video camera into the waste water pipes.   The robotic camera is able to look around inside the dark tunnels and detect abnormal activity. On Friday, the robot detected a gush of clean water during the check. Crews could quickly tell it was not for normal usage and traced it back to the homeowner. Four different cases turned out to be sump pump violators, which is considered illegal in Michigan.

Howard City plans to give violators a two-week grace period to fix the issue and is willing to work with violators on correcting the issues.  After that, they will be issuing fines including the cost of the video system, which is $700 for every contract day. Repeat offenders could face having their water shut off.

Van Wagner reminds homeowners and businesses that sump pumps should be emptied outside.

If you live in Howard City and know or suspect the sump pump is discharging into the sanitary water system, contact 231-937-4311.