2017 Sewer Study

Flooding of the Tittabawassee River at the Tridge

During the flooding event on June 22-23, 2017 - which saw the second-highest recorded crest of the Tittabawassee River - thousands of residents within the City of Midland were impacted by surface flooding, flash flooding, and basement sewer back-ups. Although both the sanitary and storm sewer systems performed as designed during this event, they were inundated with water. Residents asked: Could this be prevented or mitigated in the future? The City decided to seek outside help to answer that question.

On October 16, 2017, Midland City Council approved a study of the City's sanitary and storm sewer system to be conducted by a joint venture of engineering firms Hubbell, Roth & Clark (HRC) and OHM Advisors. HRC tackled the sanitary sewer study, while OHM conducted research on the City's storm sewer infrastructure. 

Final drafts of the 2017 Midland Sanitary & Storm Sewer Study were made available to the public on June 11, 2018, with the finalized report to be presented to City Council on Monday, September 10, 2018. You can access both documents and the executive summary, as well as supplementary materials (videos, City Council meeting documents, and more) related to the study below.

 Click to read Volume I: Executive Summary

 Click to read Volume II: Storm Sewer Study

 Click to read Volume III: Sanitary Sewer Study

Public Input Sessions

Public input sessions were held on July 25, 2018 at Midland High School and July 31, 2018 at Dow High School to discuss the results of the 2017 Sanitary & Storm Sewer Study. At each session, we held a detailed discussion of the study results from consultants HRC & OHM, a review of proposed solutions for ALL impacted areas of the community, and a Q&A session for residents to share feedback and ask questions. Both sessions provided the same presentation.

Use the widgets below to watch these sessions or click the button below to download the PowerPoint presentation. You can also watch MGTV Channel 188 (Charter) for replays, visit the City's Facebook and YouTube pages, or share your questions and concerns on the open E-CityHall topic through August 7, 2018.

Watch the July 25 Sewer Study Info Session:

Watch the July 31 Sewer Study Info Session:

Watch: Sewer Study Video Library 

If you prefer to watch your information instead of read it, you're in luck! Check out the sewer study video library below for video updates from City Council meetings, an explanation of sanitary vs. storm sewer systems, tips to keep your basement dry, and more. Videos appear from earliest to most recent beginning in July 2017.

Use the arrows on each side of the video player to scroll through the library. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Following the June 2017 event,  residents had numerous questions about the state of our storm and sanitary sewer systems, the causes of flooding in Midland, and other topics. We've assembled a list of the most frequently asked questions here and will continue to update them as they roll in. (Please note: Some of these questions were submitted prior to the completion of the Storm & Sanitary Sewer Study in June 2018)

Question: Floods vs. Sewer Backups

"What is the difference between floods and backups? Do they overlap and, if so, how?"

A flood occurs when rising levels of surface water are not contained or conveyed within the water’s normal drainage path. A sewer backup occurs when water leaving a structure’s plumbing is restricted from entering the main sewer pipe located in the street. In extended wet conditions, the water is pushed back and enters the structure through “any way possible”, including drains and fixtures.

A flood and a sewer backup can occur at the same time. This is most prevalent in areas where open drainage courses are adjacent to developments where footing drains are connected to the sanitary sewer.

Question: Flooding on Higher Ground

"During the recent flood event, my basement filled with water before Sturgeon Creek crested its banks and spilled into the corner of Sturgeon Creek Parkway and Moorland Dr. where I live. In conversation with neighbors, I learned that we all ended up with approximately the same amount of water in our basements even though they are on higher ground. What happened in our area that apparently didn’t happen to others in the City?"

Many residents across the City experienced water in their basements that were not located next to creeks and rivers. This may have been due to the amount of saturation already in the ground, coupled with the amount of rainfall that was received in a relatively short period of time. (We experienced an 88-year level rain event on June 22-23.) However, the study from our chosen consulting firm will seek to address this question in greater detail.

Question: Any Additional Updates

"Storm and sanitary sewer system improvements were identified and done in 2009 and 2013. Were there any other improvements that were identified but not yet done?"

Following the completion of improvements that were identified after the 1996 flood, several areas were found where additional work could be done. Some of those improvements have since been made, including a sewer line installation on Swede Avenue and a Sugnet pump station; however, the remaining conceptual improvements were intended to be completed as funding was made available or when they could be coordinated with other major infrastructure improvements, such as road reconstruction in the specified areas. In any case, these conceptual improvements were designed to handle 25 to 50-year flooding events and would not have been designed to handle the June 2017 flooding event.

Question: Drainage Study

"Will the study look at the drains?"

As part of the consultant selection process, City staff is working to develop the scope of the upcoming study. We anticipate that the study will consider sanitary and storm sewer networks and open drains in its assessment.

Question: Footing Drain Connections

"What is the percentage of homes that do not have footing drain separation compared to all homes in the City?"

According to a survey conducted in 1996, approximately 9,100 homes in Midland had footing drains connected to the sanitary sewer system. The City has approximately 16,000 residential homes. Assuming that none of those who were still connected in 1996 have disconnected, the percentage of homes remaining connected to the sanitary sewer system is approximately 57%; however, the upcoming study will seek to verify and update this information. Since 1987, City ordinance has prohibited newly-constructed homes from connecting footing drains to the sanitary sewer system.

If you own a home that was built after 1987, it is highly unlikely that your footing drain remains connected to the sanitary sewer system. If you are unsure how your footing drain connects to the City’s sewer systems, please contact the City Engineering Department at 989-837-3348.

Question: Disconnecting the Footing Drain

"If I want to disconnect my footing drains from the sanitary sewer system, what do I do?"

This process can be complex and may require acquiring permits and working with a licensed plumber. Each home’s requirement may differ based on age, location, structure, etc., so please contact the Engineering Department at 989-837-3348 for more information.

Question: Backflow Valves in Drains

"Are backflow valves worthwhile to install in my home?"

Backflow valves installed on the sanitary discharge pipe of your home are permitted and can be an effective solution to prevent sewage from entering your home due to a surcharged public sewer main. However, if you install one without disconnecting your footing drains from the sanitary sewer, you may still be at risk of backing up from your own water use activities and from your footing drain contributions. Always seek the advice from qualified professionals before implementing any changes to your plumbing.

Question: Study Consultants

"What is the criteria for consultant selection?"

The City is looking to find a reputable engineering firm with experience in municipal storm and sanitary sewer infrastructures and improvement programs. Institutional knowledge with the City of Midland is preferred, but not required. An ability to complete the designated task in an acceptable and timely manner, and at an acceptable price, is critical. The firm’s experience with footing drain separation programs will be evaluated.

Question: Sewage Pumping

"Do we pump all of the sewage to the plant?"

Yes, all sewage is pumped to the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Bay City Road, where the flow is treated before being discharged back into the Tittabawassee River. For more information on the WWTP and how the process works, please visit the Wastewater Treatment Department page.

Question: Pumping Stations

"Where are the pumping stations pumping to?"

All pumping stations throughout the City collect and push directly to the Wastewater Treatment Plant for treatment.

Question: Sturgeon Creek

"Sturgeon Creek has damming. Should it be cleaned up?"

Open drains are maintained to remove over-growth and debris that could impede water flow. The City anticipates that the upcoming study will provide a clearer picture as to any additional maintenance that might be undertaken to improve water flow through our waterways. With significant events such as this one, rising creek levels were due to the creeks’ inability to discharge into the elevated Tittabawassee River.

Question: Sanford Dam

"What impact did the opening of the Sanford Dam have on the citizens of Midland?"

The Sanford Dam is routinely “opened”, or spilled, at night. Spilling the Sanford Dam causes river water upstream of Sanford Lake to pass through to Midland. The Sanford Dam is a federally-regulated structure and is not used as a flood control dam. Ideally, the operators of the dam pass river water through it in a similar manner as would happen if the dam was not there; however, as more water enters Sanford Lake from the north, the dam will need to release more water as well. The operators of the dam have certain protocols that they must follow to regulate the flow of the water leaving the lake. Unfortunately for Midland, these protocols have very little to do with controlling the flow of water that heads downstream to Midland. Emergency Services and Central Dispatch are notified when Sanford Dam begins spilling and when those spills increase and decrease.

Please remember: if Sanford Dam was not there, this water would still reach Midland and the river levels would be elevated.

Question: Expansion in the City

"Will the City’s expansion since 1986 be included in the study?"

For the upcoming study, our consultant and City staff will use the previous 1996 study, which did include expansion from 1986 to 1996, as a baseline. The new study will update any previous data to include all new housing and commercial developments that have been built as well as additions or changes to the sanitary and storm systems.