Van Dyke water main break prompts discussion on infrastructure

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 4, 2017

Things are back to flowing smoothly in Sterling Heights following a disruptive mid-November water main break, and city officials say the incident shows the need for talks about broader infrastructure improvements.

On Nov. 14, city officials announced that a water main had broken along Van Dyke Avenue, between 14 Mile and 15 Mile roads. In order to fix the break, city crews from the Sterling Heights Department of Public Works were called in, and the city had to shut down southbound Van Dyke. City officials said they were in touch with the Great Lakes Water Authority and Macomb County about the incident.

On Nov. 15, city officials announced that the DPW had shut off 14 associated valves. Water was shut off to some local businesses, and crews worked to restore water access to an “isolated” problem of some homes that were affected.

Following talks with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, city officials said that the water was still safe for consumption at that time. If water appeared cloudy, the city urged people to let the water run for several minutes.

On Nov. 16, the city announced that the water main had successfully been shut off for repairs, and repairs were reportedly completed later that day. During the repair process, some lanes on northbound Van Dyke were closed in addition to the southbound lanes.

City officials said a “boil water” advisory had been issued for 12 businesses, but that was lifted on Nov. 18. By Nov. 19, officials declared that Van Dyke was fully reopened for traffic.

During a Nov. 21 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool thanked the DPW for its hard work, along with the city of Warren and Dan’s Excavating.

“As many know, we had a very disruptive water main break last week on Van Dyke, which required around-the-clock work by our DPW personnel for a period of three days straight, including during very inclement weather conditions,” he said.

He added that it’s not uncommon for Sterling Heights to experience water main breaks — around 100 happen a year, he said — and some are very difficult to repair. Environmental factors such as the freeze-thaw cycle can aggravate these problems, he said.

Vanderpool said the city will discuss infrastructure more in its upcoming January strategic planning session.

“This is an illustration that our infrastructure is aging,” he said. “As our city approaches 50 years of age we have to be doing more and continue to do more over the next year — next 10 years or more — in terms of maintaining our infrastructure.”

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