Category Archives: Huron River

10,000 gallons of raw sewage dumped into the Huron River on June 27, 2013 after torrential rainstorms

This press release from the City of Ann Arbor was sent to news media on June 28, 2013. As far as I can tell, did not run a story. The Ann Arbor Chronicle did publish information about this discharge as part of its meeting reporting for the July 15, 2013 city council meeting.

UPDATE: story of July 19, 2013 is up now.

A copy of this news release is available on the Ann Arbor Area Government Document Repository (a2docs), but there's no copy to be found on the City of Ann Arbor web site as of this writing.


ANN ARBOR, Mich., June 28, 2013 — On Thursday, June 27, 2013, the Ann Arbor area was deluged with intense rainfall that caused flooding conditions and significantly increased the flow of wastewater to the City of Ann Arbor Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) over a short period of time.  Plant flows more than tripled within a half hour.  As a result of this unprecedented increase in plant flow, approximately 10,000 gallons of untreated wastewater was discharged to the Huron River from 5:20 to 5:30 p.m.  By comparison, the WWTP fully treated approximately 350,000 gallons of wastewater during the 10-minute period over which this incident occurred.

Fortunately, due to a number of factors, the impact of this incident on human health and the environment is minimal.  The flow within the Huron River for the 10 minutes over which the discharge occurred was approximately 11,000,000 gallons, consequently the estimated 10,000 gallons of untreated wastewater was diluted by a factor of 1,000.  Further, mesh filters were already in place over the storm sewer inlets as part of the ongoing major construction project at the plant, which prevented solid material from entering the Huron River.  There are no communities downstream of the plant that withdraw water from the Huron River for drinking purposes.  In addition, the fact that the discharges occurred during extreme rain conditions makes it very unlikely that direct human contact would have occurred, particularly with the significant and immediate dilution of the discharge by the relatively high river flow.

 In accordance with regulatory protocols, the City of Ann Arbor WWTP contacted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Washtenaw County Health Department to inform them of this unfortunate incident.  Plant staff is commended for demonstrating clear thinking and fast action under extreme conditions, which prevented this situation from being much worse.  Additionally, actions to avoid similar circumstances are being evaluated by plant staff.

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Huron River Day is Sunday, July 14, 2013

Press release cut and paste directly from the City of Ann Arbor web site, with links added that go to Arborwiki.

For Immediate Release


ANN ARBOR, Mich., June 7, 2013 — Enjoy the beautiful Huron River and participate in free family river activities during the Huron River Day Celebration at Gallup Park, 3000 Fuller Road in Ann Arbor, on Sunday, July 14.

The 33rd annual event will be kicked off in the morning with the Ann Arbor Track Club Gallup Gallop 5K Run/Fitness Walk at Gallup Park at 8:30 a.m. For online registration, visit Also in the morning at Gallup Park is a naturalist-guided paddling trip from 11 a.m. to noon.

The main Huron River Day activities will be held on Sunday, July 14 at Gallup Park from noon to 4 p.m. Have fun discovering and learning about the Huron River. Paddle a boat with $5/boat canoe and kayak rentals, visit the exhibit tents to learn about the river and enjoy live music all on the banks of the beautiful Huron River. Among the many activities offered will be a children’s tent with art and science activities and the enviro-challenge game; have your picture taken in a canoe photo booth; catch a fish; see a live animal program with the Leslie Science & Nature Center; step into a Butterfly House; and try out stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) on the river.

Enjoy the history of the river with the Classic Small Boat Show. Musical entertainment will be provided by Joe Reilly from noon to 1 p.m., Gemini from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and Wire in the Wood from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. Throughout the afternoon, there will be performances by AuxWerks Dance celebrating the river through dance. Food available will include a hot dog stand, Pilars tamales, Italian Ice, Zingerman’s baked goods and more.  Ride your bike to the event, and your boat rental will be free. Bicycle valet parking will be provided by Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition.

Also on Sunday, July 14, the Washtenaw County Parker Mill County Park will offer tours of the Pioneer Grist Mill from noon to 4 p.m.

This Huron River Day Celebration is sponsored by DTE Energy Foundation. Additional support provided by Toyota, Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation and the City of Ann Arbor.

Huron River Day History
More than 30 years ago, the Huron River Day celebration began as a way to encourage partnerships among government, private and non-profit organizations and to educate citizens about the importance of water quality and Huron River preservation. Each year, this event draws approximately 2,500 people from the Ann Arbor community to celebrate the Huron River. 

For more information about Huron River Day, call (734) 794-6240 or visit  


Erratic water levels on the mighty Huron River, September 2012

This graph measures water levels downstream from Argo Dam. Water levels are not supposed to fluctuate this much – it's not good for the river.

More data at the USGS.


Update: I checked with USGS to make sure that the gauges were working fine, and got back this result:

We're pretty certain everything is working just fine there. I believe we have a hydrologic technician there today making a streamflow measurement and he'll verify the operation of the equipment at the same time. Tom 

Typepad on iPad, edited elsewhere

No support for rich text editing in safari, but otherwise performant. Kind of nice.

I’ll need to really learn markdown for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that it descends from setext.

Ann Arbor

A2B3 lunch is Thursday as always.
Ann Arbor Parks did trick or treat today, Sunday, noon to 4pm on the Huron River.

Arborwiki makes a good companion as you go for errands around town.
Ann Arbor City Council elections and a millage are coming up. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has characteristically thorough coverage of the League of Women Voters forums.
Some project, not yet identified, has North Main torn up at Catherine. A second project has North Division down to a single lane. Expect delays.

No one was hurt in last week's fire on Harpst.
I'm trying a neighborhood LinkedIn group to see what kind of density I need to get enough people to make a group worthwhile; it might make sense to grab people closest first and then out by distance.

Metro Detroit

Tigers lost in the ALCS, and I’m looking forward to spring training.

Power outages from the Saturday windstorms were worst in Warren.


Occupy Chicago has had a lot of protest, via the Chicago Tribune which was on the scene.

Occupy Wall Street took over Times Square.


I am tracking steps with a pedometer again, thanks to Paul Resnick and a research group at UMSI.
Statler and Waldorf have taken over the Muppets twitter account. New movie due for Thanksgiving. Cue the Muppets.


The wind on Saturday made farmers market blustery. Squash of all sizes and varieties were there, and there’s nothing like a big old Hubbard squash to keep the corner of a table down. A farmer was doing the frost dance but said they had none at the last full moon. Traditionally, it’s said that the best way to open a Hubbard is to take an axe to it, or to throw it down into the cellar.


It’s hard to have great weird ideas when you are closing trouble tickets.
My new employer Nutshell has an office where my former employer Pure Visibility used to have it's offices.


Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie, Einar Steffrud.


Books moved recently include Kawabata’s, Snow Country, to be shelved on the Heikki Lunta shelf to prepare me for winter.


Pinboard now supports Gopher urls in bookmarks.


Michigan football lost to State. It was as good an excuse as any to call my aunt who went to East Lansing.


Wow, I have a lot of categories. – collaborative analysis of storm impact is an online system which has been collecting storm reports from the May 2011 flooding in Ann Arbor, as well as having in it previous information from past flood events and other incidents in Ann Arbor where there was widespread problems.

Crowdmap is a tool that allows you to crowdsource information and visualize it on a map and timeline.

I've typed in a bunch of these, but if you notice a news report of flooding, sewer spills, landslides, closed roads or fish flopping around on the road please add in a dot on the map with a link.

Picture 20

The image shows storm-to-date stormwater related incidents in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area – I will leave it to the world to decide how far away "surrounding" is, but certainly the Huron River watershed is in scope, and I suspect that the area to watch is roughly the size of the Arborwiki catchment basin.

More about Crowdmap at Tech Cocktail.  A 2009 Business Insider story covers eBay founder Pierre Omidyar's investment in Ushahidi, the system that Crowdmap was built out of. 

Huron River: May 25, 2011 flooding

The river is high. Will it flood? That's a very good question to ask in the morning before a storm; and the answer today turned out to be yes. Roads were inundated, Lake Barracuda emerged from its stormwater geyser, Depot Street filled with water, Mullholland Creek popped a manhole cover, and S. Main Street near Michigan Stadium filled. West Park's new water features get a workout.

Basements have taken on water, and the full extent of storm damage is unknown yet until we get the May 26 predicted rains.

Media coverage: Detroit News, noting that this is the 6th worst flood to date;, collecting more flood photos, including those of Lake Fingerle.  

A few photos, with photo credits:

Lake Barracuda, captured at Depot Street by photographer Chris Dzombak. Photo used with permission, all rights reserved. The lake is named after Barracuda Networks, which occupies the new stilt-built stay-dry construction at 201 Depot St. More photos from Chris in the Flickr set Flooding at Depot/4th.

The river seen from above, taken by Kai Petainen, used with permission. His set Huron River Flood has photos and some short video taken from Island Park downstream to the Arboretum.  Kai writes for Forbes with the weblog Sisu Investor.

Map of total rainfall storm to date for this storm, from the Weather Underground, as of 1:05 a.m. Thursday. Pick "total precipitation" from the radar screen, or pop out the "1 hr precipitation" from the side in the Weather Underground Classic user interface and animate to watch storms come in.


If you're looking for data, you'll find the specific current and recent historical information from these sources.

The USGS  Water Data Discovery page describes the National Water Information System which has reat time, predictive, and historical data for use.

USGS National Water Information System real-time water data for gauges in the area is measured every 15 minutes and reported with 60-90 minutes delay. Look at the gauges for the Huron River at Ann Arbor, and you'll see a graph showing current levels. It's also possible to go back and get the data as data going back as far as 120 days, and to retrieve prior years data on a daily basis. 

There is also a gauge on Allen Creek which has collected data from some storms, but which is not in the National Water Information System and not always online. Allen Creek empties into the Huron River just downstream of Argo Dam, and at peak flow it can dump at least 1500 cubic feet per second into the river. I have seen data from one storm, and it looks like this can turn into 600 cubic feet per second at the next gauge, though that's only one data point.

You can look yourself at the tabular data for the river rating of the Huron River at Wall Street, which shows a level by level matching of flow vs water height. If the river is very low (300 cfs), then a sudden burst of 600 cfs will raise the level of the river by about a foot, and a burst of 1500 cfs will raise the level of the river by about two feet.

River forecasts come out routinely between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. and if needed a second forecast goes out between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., according to National Weather Service meteorologist Danny Costello

For more media information about products provided by the NWS, here's a slide deck I found on the Grand Rapids NOAA site as a media briefing. It explains in one of the slides a key aspect of predictions: the weather service changes from "watch" to "warning" when a forecast probability goes up to 80% likelihood of the event occurring.

Noaa 2011 hydro_media_seminar

More river watching tomorrow.