The Chapaton Retention Basin is undergoing construction to widen the storage area and add new gates.

The Chapaton Retention Basin is undergoing construction to widen the storage area and add new gates.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Chapaton Retention Basin project ahead of schedule

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 12, 2024


ST. CLAIR SHORES — According to Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, the project at the Chapaton Retention Basin is ahead of schedule and construction is going well.

Miller said the project, which started Aug. 1, 2023, is way ahead of schedule. There is a possibility that the project could be done this year instead of the scheduled date in 2025. The company working on the project is Z Contractors Inc.

“These guys are doing really good work very fast,” Miller said. “So it’s all good.”

The project shut down the Nine Mile boat ramp and the dog park near the public works building. The cost is around $27 million. According to a press release, $25 million comes from the American Rescue Plan Act funds from the state and $2 million was allocated by the state in 2022.

The basin was originally built in 1968.

“There’s no impact financially on our ratepayers that are serviced by this pump station either. They’re not paying for this, the state is paying for it,” Miller said.

Miller said they worked hard to get the funds from the state, and it took around three to four years to convince those at the state level to fund this project.

One of the project’s main goals is to reduce combined sewer overflows. Such events occur when combined sewer systems become overwhelmed with rainwater and sewage, and the untreated water flows into nearby lakes and rivers.

Miller said for decades, when water fills the basin during heavy rain events, they’ve treated it and sent it back out to the lake. The water produced by the rain events includes sanitary sewage, which, Miller said, they don’t want to go to the lake anymore. The project will add more storage to the basin, around 13 million gallons, and improve aging infrastructure.

“This particular project will help reduce combined sewer overflows, CSOs, you know 35 (or) 40% perhaps,” Miller said. “So it’s a real big project for this pump station.”

Miller also said this will help prevent basements from flooding.

“I don’t know if it’s climate change or something’s happening to the weather,” Miller said. “So everywhere, right, we’re getting a lot more rain and the intensity of the rainfalls are astounding. So we’re doing a number of things here, changing elevations etc., so that we position ourselves much better not to have basements flood, either.”

Construction includes building the new basin, casting concrete walls surrounding the basin and building new gates that use a bladder system to operate. Miller said the new gates help reduce operation costs.

Vince Astorino, operations manager for Macomb County Public Works, said it reduces costs by giving the basin more storage and allows them to take only what they need instead of filling the entire canal with lake water.

“What we did early on as part of this job is we buried a pipe underneath the ground so we can just pull what we need and only what we need,” Astorino said. “That’s our big cost saver. That’s over $200,000 a year in savings right there.”

The old gates took around 10 minutes to open, Astorino said.

“Every time we opened them, we had to open them early,” Astorino said. “The lake would actually come back and we would lose storage.”

The air bladders have a metal plate on top, Astorino said, and they’ll fully inflate them in a heavy rain event.

“And we’ll keep it fully inflated to maximize all the storage within here and then once that storage is full, then we’ll just let the air out and let it go if we have to spill,” Astorino said. “If we don’t have to spill, it just contains it in this area, and we send it down to Detroit after the event.”

Miller said the St. Clair Shores Zoning Board of Appeals approved a request that allows them to build a fence to 8 feet. Miller said they had a few complaints from the neighbors on the side the gate is facing due to the noise from the construction, which she acknowledged is loud.

“We’re putting in a higher fence and a much nicer fence than we certainly would have had to, but we want to accommodate them, right,” Miller said. “They’re living here with this thing, and we always want to be good neighbors.”

Astorino said days are worked into the construction contract to account for heavy rain events that occur before the completion date.

“We’ve had those days in the past and they (the workers) continue working,” Astorino said. “There’s work above ground that they can work on, and it hasn’t really stopped them.”

Astorino also said this was a little different from the underground work the county has worked on in the past.

“Z’s is doing a really good job,” Astorino said.

Around the early 2000s, Z’s built the original gates to the basin when the company went by a different name.

Miller said they’ve had a great reaction from the community including environmental groups, the county and other entities when it comes to the project.

“I think I can speak on (behalf of) practically everybody in Macomb County, they are all onboard with these projects,” Miller said. “I mean, we got a unanimous vote out of the county Board of Commissioners for some ARPA money for some other CSO projects and some of the things that we’re doing.”

She also said this is a generational project as it is going to help improve the lake water for generations to come.

Michael Droogleever, a member of the St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee, said CSOs are the greatest polluters of Lake St. Clair and that water processing facilities all over the state cannot handle large amounts of rainfall. He said the project is designed to hold more water and that it’s a good thing.

He said Macomb County and Miller are those to thank for the project.

“While it is here in St. Clair Shores, it’s much bigger than the city,” Droogleever said. “We are grateful for the county, for Candice finally making this happen.”