ELBERTA, Mich. — A broken sewer line under a northwest Michigan bay has been replaced after spewing more than a million gallons of raw sewage over nearly seven weeks.

A report made by Elberta Village officials to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality shows the broken line was identified March 7, but is estimated to have leaked about 1.1 million gallons (4.16 million liters) of sewage since Jan. 19.

The line runs under a bridge where the Betsie River flows into Betsie Bay and connects to two municipalities. It handles sewage from about 280 homes and businesses.

Replacement work began March 12 and finished a week later, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported .

The costs are estimated at about $100,000, according to Chris Pritchard, superintendent of the Elberta Village Department of Public Works.

“We’re back to better than normal now,” Pritchard said.

Betsie Bay has a lot working in its favor, including that the water quickly circulates into Lake Michigan, said Heather Hettinger, a fisheries biologist with the state’s Department of Natural Resources. The spring runoff will also increase that flow.

“The system should be able to flush a lot of that excess nutrient out,” Hettinger said. “Instead of sitting in one body of water for a long time, it will be dispersed into Lake Michigan.”

She said there could be enhanced plant growth and that the water may be cloudier than usual. But Hettinger is confident the leak won’t cause any long-term effects.

Testing found the levels for E. coli, a bacterium found in human and animal intestines, were below acceptable limits, according to Don Brady, an environmental engineer in the Environmental Quality Department’s Water Resources Division. He doesn’t anticipate an E. coli bloom once the weather warms up.

“There is not really a way to recover the sewage,” Brady said. “But nature has a way of reaching equilibrium and going back to normal.”


Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, http://www.record-eagle.com