Valves to reduce water pressure coming into St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 18, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — When water comes into St. Clair Shores from the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), it is being pushed at a pressure that the city’s system can’t contain.

Water comes into St. Clair Shores through four metered water feeds from Great Lakes Water Authority at a pressure that ranges from 70 to 90 pounds per square inch (PSI). The city’s distribution system to businesses and residents can only operate safely at a range of 40-60 psi, so pressure-reducing valves are used to lower the water pressure from GLWA and keep it in a consistent range to prevent water main breaks.

That’s how Department of Public Works Director Bryan Babcock explained the need for pressure-reducing valves.

“It’s supposed to be consistent pressure (from GLWA) but it’s not,” Babcock said at the Sept. 8 City Council meeting.

Entry points at the south end of the city lack pressure-reducing valves, which is why Babcock was asking City Council to approve the $1.179 million project to Pamar Enterprises of New Haven. Along with new pressure-reducing valves at two entry points to the city, the work also includes the installation of a 10-foot diameter vault and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) equipment, a new SCADA system and new SCADA controls at 16 storm water pump stations throughout the city.

All together, Babcock said, the improvements are a “complicated big project with a pretty big price tag.”

“It’s a lot more work than just those pressure reducing valves themselves,” he said.

The SCADA allows the department to remotely communicate with pump stations throughout the city in order to monitor and operate the pump stations and valves throughout the city.

If an alert is sent, “we’re able to hopefully respond in time before it causes any problems,” Babcock said. “We watch the weather through the SCADA so we can see what’s coming and what we need to plan for.”

The city’s current SCADA is 10 years old and needs to be replaced because the technology is getting old, he said.

Mayor Kip Walby stressed the pressure-reducing valves are important to reduce the number of water main breaks in the city.

“Some years we may have 300 breaks or more,” he said.

Babcock said the valves have reduced that number, “but we’re still over 200 a year.”

“I remember (a time when) we had just a record number of water main breaks because of the pressure that was being delivered to us from Great Lakes (Water Authority), which was over what was contracted,” said Councilman Chris Vitale.

City Council members voted unanimously to approve the work.

“We’re going to be getting a better system, (a) safer system, more reliable,” Babcock said.