As the weather warms up after a long, cold winter, thoughts of frolicking at a nearby beach begins to warm the hearts of many Michiganders. For youngsters, that often means spending time not just in the sand and surf, but also at a nearby splash pad.
Splash pads can be found in communities or parks around the state as an amenity for water lovers looking for a way to cool off on hot Michigan summer days. Before the refreshing water can flow, though, planners need to make sure they are properly handling the wastewater that drains from the play area.
Depending on how the play area is designed, the chlorinated water that splashes and sprays to users' delight could require a discharge permit. The facility doesn't need a permit if the drainage is routed to the municipal wastewater treatment plant. A permit may be necessary if the splash pad's water is discharged to the ground.
In a third scenario, a permit is most likely necessary if the splash pad drains directly into a nearby water body. That's because the chlorine in the wastewater could have detrimental effects on the aquatic life and health of the surface water into which it is being discharged. That is the situation Jake Riley of EGLE's Cadillac District Office came across in Ludington, where the city's splash pad was draining into nearby Pere Marquette Lake.
Riley had received a complaint about the splash pad the city was installing and determined that a detailed investigation was necessary. Riley inspected the site and consulted with city's planners and contractor about how to handle the wastewater discharge. Based on his experience and research, Riley concluded that the city would need a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit if it intended to continue sending the splash pad drainage into the lake.
After offering potential options that would protect Pere Marquette Lake, Riley, the city and the contractor worked out a solution that is satisfactory for everyone. Ludington decided to make system improvements that will send the splashpad wastewater to the city's wastewater treatment plant when the splashpad is in use and send storm water to the lake when the splashpad is not in operation.
"This ended up being a great solution for the city and the environment, as Pere Marquette Lake will not see a discharge of chlorinated splash pad water and the wastewater plant will not be overwhelmed with clean stormwater," Riley said. "Overall, the City of Ludington was very responsive and it was great to work with them to find a solution that worked for them and the environment."
Riley's diligence in helping to solve the issue highlights the dedication EGLE employees have to protecting the environment and Michigan's water resources. And Ludington's outdoor enthusiasts will not miss a day at the beach as a result.
Communities that have a splash pad or are considering installing one should consult with their local EGLE District Office on the need for potential discharge permits.
Photo caption: Children enjoy the Ludington Splash Pad on a warm, summer day in 2020.