Agreement is ‘important first step’ in upcoming sewer separation project

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 21, 2022

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS — An agreement between Grosse Pointe Farms and the Country Club of Detroit is paving the way for a sewer separation project that officials hope will greatly reduce the chances of future basement flooding and sewage backups.

Following a closed session Sept. 13, the Farms City Council unanimously voted in favor of a memorandum of understanding with the Country Club of Detroit in which the Country Club of Detroit would grant a dedicated utility easement to the city to allow for the construction and maintenance of a 48-inch-diameter forced storm sewer main and related pumps. City Attorney William Burgess said the forced storm sewer main “would be integral for the sewer separation project for our Inland District.”

The Farms separated storm and sanitary sewers in the part of the city it referred to as the Lakeside District in 1999-2000. That portion of the city was easier to separate because it had the advantage of closer proximity to Lake St. Clair and gravity on its side, making it less complicated to send stormwater runoff to the lake. The city now hopes to do the same for the Inland District.

Burgess said nothing is fixed in stone yet, as the city still needs to get more information, including costs, from its engineers with Hubbell, Roth and Clark.

Still, Mayor Louis Theros called the memorandum of understanding with the Country Club of Detroit “a very important first step for us” with regard to sewer separation for the rest of the city.

“We’re very excited we were able to reach an agreement,” Theros said. “There are a lot more steps we need to take. … It’s good news that we got to this point.”

Burgess said the city expects to save about $1.5 million by locating the forced storm sewer main under the Country Club of Detroit property rather than underneath Moross Road.

In addition, Burgess said putting the main underneath the club instead of the road will “minimize disruption” for motorists who use this main thoroughfare, and the city will be able to complete the work over one winter season instead of a longer construction cycle.

“I feel this is the least disruptive and most cost-effective approach, with benefits for both parties,” City Councilman Lev Wood said.

One part of the memorandum of understanding with the Country Club of Detroit includes establishing “a new raw water intake main from Grosse Pointe Farms to the Country Club of Detroit” so that the Country Club of Detroit could use untreated water from Lake St. Clair “for its irrigation purposes at the golf course,” Burgess said. The Farms draws water from the lake for its water treatment plant, which provides clean drinking water to residents and businesses in the Farms and Grosse Pointe City. In addition, the city, and many residents living on or near the lake, use water piped directly from the lake to irrigate their lawns, instead of treated municipal water. This reduces costs — the untreated lake water is essentially free — and also has other advantages.

“The organic composition of the lake water reduces the (need for) fertilizers,” Theros said.

As Burgess pointed out, that translates into “fewer chemicals going into the groundwater.”

While much remains to be hammered out with regard to the sewer separation project, Theros said the city’s goal now would be to start work circa October 2023.