Apartment complex flushed raw sewage into Lake St. Clair for 30 years

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Massive amounts of raw sewage found flowing into Lake St. Clair has been stopped, but officials fear it could have been sending waste into the lake for decades.

A muddy lawn is all the evidence of a messy problem that unknowingly polluted Lake St. Clair for more than 30 years.

Under dirt outside Eastpointe Apartment buildings near 10 Mile and Gratiot are two sets of pipes -- one that leads to sewage treatment and another straight to the lake for rainwater drainage.

Since 1985, the apartment complex has been tapped into the wrong pipe.

Every time a tenant in one of a dozen or so apartments flushes a toilet all that waste was going untreated, and it adds up in a big way.

Officials say nearly 200,000 thousand gallons of raw sewage every year made its way from the apartments in Eastpointe emptying out into Lake St. Clair.

Track that back to when the problem was initially started for a grand total of 6.7 million gallons of raw sewage sent directly to the lake.

This was all discovered thanks to federal and local grants that allowed county and city officials to scan the pipes for improper hook-ups like the one uncovered at the apartments in Eastpointe.

"It's important to support these types of grants - they don't sound too exciting at the time, but you see what the results could be," said Steve Ducharne, city manager of Eastpointe. "Then obviously they are very important.

Candace Miller, Eastpointe mayor and Macomb County public works commissioner, said as soon as they found out about it; they capped the line and stopped the pollution.
As for who is responsible, that could remain a mystery.

"There won't be any way to really charge anybody because there so many options could have happened," Ducharne said.

City officials say it was most likely just a mistake.

The apartments were still getting billed the normal rate so monetarily there was seemingly nothing to gain by the improper hook-up.

The city will continue to use cameras to monitor pipes in an effort to keep the waters in the area clean.