November 1, 2014

Tests uncover possible sources of E. coli at Whitney Drain

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WHITNEY TOWNSHIP — After receiving a report by the Central Michigan District Health Department, drainage officials said the sources of high levels of E. coli near the mouth of the Whitney Drain have been discovered.

In a meeting held Thursday, Aug. 26, at the Whitney Township Hall, the Whitney Intercounty Drainage Board was given details from the tests that started in May.

Arenac County Drain Commissioner Larry Davis said more testing will need to be done.

“The health department and the DNRE have located sources of high levels of E. coli in the drain,” he said. “There is a good possibility that the source has been singled out.”

Arenac County District 3 Commissioner Michael Snyder said there are three primary hot spots that spike during “rain event situations.”

Snyder said tests are being done to find out if waste causing the E. coli is human or animal.

“We don’t know what it is yet.” he said. “We are very unsure.”

Snyder said that the tests are expensive and cost around $150 dollars per sample.

“We are very fortunate that the Whitney Intercounty Drainage Board gave us $3,000. He said. “They are interested in where the problem is coming from and the quality of the water.”

Snyder said when the final results from the tests are received, a public meeting will be held to inform people of the findings.

He added that the E. coli levels have been high, and he would suggest not swimming there.

“Let’s put it this way, I would not be bathing there,” he said. “I also would not take my family swimming there.”

Joan Voelker lives near the Whitney Drain, in a home she has lived in for 16 years — long before the Whitney Drain project was completed in 2008.

“I have lived on the water most of my adult life,” she said. “The best part of living on the water is the beauty and all the things available to do, like fishing, swimming, and skiing.”

Voelker said part of the reason she moved to the area was so her children and grandchildren could come enjoy Lake Huron.

“This problem affects those of us who live by the drain,” Voelker said. “This has been two years of living in fear of my grandkids getting sick.”

She added that she would like to see progress on the E. coli removal move faster.

“This pollution is going into one of the five Great Lakes of the entire world,” Voelker said.

She said she feels the process of getting the water clean is taking too long.

“I am beginning to lose faith that (the cleaning) will be done soon,” Voelker said. “I understand that money is tight, but I don’t think I am being unreasonable.”

She said that most people are uninformed about the situation.

“Right now I see four (children) playing out on a sandbar, but (E. coli) readings are low, so I am sure they are fine,” Voleker said. “But people should not have to worry.”

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