LOWELL, Mich. (WOOD) - As the floodwaters continue to recede around West Michigan, one city is deciding what to do with the sandbags that were distributed.
If the hundreds of volunteers who showed up to fill them in Grand Rapids, Grandville and Lowell are the soldiers, sandbags were one of the most important weapons in the fight to keep the floodwaters at bay.
"The football team, the Boy Scouts helped some houses where there were problems. It was great. The community really did well," Lowell plumber Greg Canfield said.
The building housing his plumbing business in downtown Lowell was spared, thanks in part to those sandbags.
"We would have had wet product inside the building, so we were very fortunate," Canfield said.
As the Grand River continued to rise last week, the town came together to protect it. The effort likely spared more widespread damage.
"I am in awe of this community. I am in awe of the people and the way they came together," Lowell City Manager Mark Howe said.
But as the begin the cleanup effort, city officials are left to decide what to do with piles and piles of sandbags.
Grand Rapids and Grandville are facing the same dilemma. Grandville officials say they may store some of their bags for future floods. Grand Rapids officials are still dealing with some bigger issues and will decide what to do with their sandbags later.
Howe says Lowell has a plan.
"We'll have a beach party," Howe said.
He was only half joking.
Howe said officials first needed to separate the dirty sandbags soaked in potentially contaminated floodwaters that could pose a health risk from the clean sandbags untouched by those waters.
Officials with the Department of Public Works has already picked up all of the non-contaminated sandbags. Howe told 24 Hour News 8 the bags that did not get wet are being stored. Eventually, he says, the plan is to ask volunteers to come together and have "a great big bag-emptying party." Some of the clean sand may be spread along the beach at Lowell's Stoney Park.
It is still too early to retrieve bags that have been contacted with the floodwaters. City officials are concerned that those sandbags may have been contaminated with E. coli and should only be handled once they are dry. They'll consult with the Kent County Health Department on how to get rid of the contaminated bags.
It took a lot of effort to fill 25,000 bags. It may take that same effort to dump them out.
"I'm sure people will step forward and want to be a part of it. That's just the way Lowell is," Howe said.
A man is in police custody following an hours-long standoff in Grand Rapids.
A gallon of unleaded gasoline is being sold for less than $3 at some stations in West Michigan.
Temperatures in West Michigan are expected to drop dramatically over the course of the next few days.