Drivers navigate around the area of a water main break on 14 Mile Road in Farmington Hills Nov. 2.

Drivers navigate around the area of a water main break on 14 Mile Road in Farmington Hills Nov. 2.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


GLWA gives water main break update

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published December 22, 2021

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FARMINGTON HILLS — This past October, a water main break occurred in a 20-foot section of the Great Lakes Water Authority’s 48-inch transmission main that runs along 14 Mile Road, near Drake Road in Farmington Hills.

The GLWA recently provided an update.

According to a press release dated Dec. 9, immediately after isolating the break and dewatering the pipe, the GLWA conducted an extensive physical inspection of the out-of-service segment of pipe.

That inspection identified 18 sections of at-risk pipe within the 1.5 miles that require strengthening, including one section that was in an advanced state of deterioration.

The release states that after extensive discussion with GLWA’s member partner communities directly impacted by the break, it was determined that the most prudent course of action to protect public health and safety would be to extend the timeline for the repair of the original break to include the renewal work identified in the inspection.

GLWA will also install two new valves along the 1.5 mile segment of pipe, which will provide it with additional operational flexibility to help maintain levels of service to member partner communities serviced by the transmission main.

According to the release, the pipe renewal extends the pipe segment’s service life by as much as 50 years.

Construction is expected to be completed by mid-January, “with no anticipated impact on the water quality.”

“Ensuring resiliency in the regional system is one of GLWA’s top priorities,” Suzanne Coffey, interim CEO of the GLWA, stated via the release. “Taking a proactive approach to asset renewal, wherever possible, is always our goal. However, we understand we must balance this with our commitment to maintaining a high level of service to our member partners. The repair and renewal work being done here is the perfect example of this balance. I am thankful for the outstanding collaboration we have had with our member partners, stakeholders and fellow utilities, and appreciate the patience of those residents who have been inconvenienced due to the continuing work. I am especially grateful to our member partners from the City of Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield Township, and the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office for their collaboration and commitment to doing whatever it takes, alongside GLWA, to keep the water flowing for everyone.”

The renewal work will be done with an “innovative” pipe-strengthening technology called V-Wrap, according to the release.

“V-Wrap involves the installation of thin layers of carbon fiber impregnated with an epoxy resin,” Mike Higgins, the business class director of condition assessment and rehabilitation for HDR, GLWA’s contractor for the repair, stated. “Essentially, the repair becomes a pipe within the pipe. The carbon fibers are woven to form a fabric which is impregnated with epoxy. Once it cures, the structure is very strong, and the original pipe is no longer needed to resist the water pressure in the pipe and other loading.”

In addition to the pipe renewal work, the GLWA will also install a structural monitoring system of acoustic fiber optic cable in over 6 miles of the 14 Mile transmission main, including the 1.5-mile segment, in January, the release states.

The cable is expected to provide the GLWA with the ability to “listen” to pipe conditions.

If a section of pipe starts to approach failure, the GLWA will be notified so it can plan proactive pipe repair or replacement, if necessary, according to the release.

The installation of acoustic fiber optic cable is a pilot program that the GLWA may choose to install elsewhere in the system after evaluation.

“The work we are doing to effectuate the repairs to this main break, as well as to extend the service life of the 18 at-risk pipe segments within the 1.5-mile stretch of water main in Farmington Hills is critically important,” Cheryl Porter, the chief operating officer of water and field services for the GLWA, stated. “However, just as important, is the work we are doing simultaneously, as part of GLWA’s Capital Improvement Plan, to construct a seven-mile-long north-south pipeline loop. The 14 Mile Road Transmission Main Loop will drastically improve redundancy to this portion of GLWA’s service area and include a parallel pipeline to the existing 14 Mile Transmission Main between the Authority’s Haggerty Pump Station and Decker Road. This pipeline, which is underway, will be completed in early 2024. It will allow GLWA to serve the area at a normal level of service in case of an interruption caused by a main break or other necessary repair.”

The release states that the GLWA collaborated with all of the impacted member partner communities to develop the resiliency improvement plan, and that “with full alignment and input from the communities, the work received their full support and is currently underway.”

“The work being done at the water main break in Farmington Hills is a testament to regional collaboration at its finest,” Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash stated. “Efforts being put forth by all parties involved demonstrates how important it is to work together on solutions that continuously rehabilitate and improve the water infrastructure throughout Oakland County and Southeast Michigan. Being proactive and identifying areas of opportunity like this is a critical first step.”

According to the release, the GLWA will continue to provide updates and communicate with member partners and the public for the duration of the work.

While additional service disruptions are not expected, “out of an abundance of caution,” the GLWA has put measures in place to mitigate additional risks while repair/renewal work is underway, including adding staff to the Franklin Pump Station and making a system technician available to respond to Haggerty Pump Station; closely monitoring the Franklin, Haggerty, Adams, and Newburgh pump stations to respond immediately from the GLWA Systems Control Center; coordinating with DTE Energy regarding the criticality of the power supply to the three adjacent pump stations; postponing work in water system pumping facilities supplying water to the area; and temporarily delaying three other projects, “all in an effort to reduce potential impacts to water service to this area.”

The release also states that, “It is important to note that throughout this repair process, impacted communities will continue to have water service at the level they have been experiencing since the main broke.”

“A water main break is never an ideal situation, and a break of this magnitude is especially challenging,” Karen Mondora, the director of public services for the city of Farmington Hills, stated. “However, I appreciate the transparency in sharing information in real-time, and the fact that GLWA has sought input from its member partners every step along the way. It is important to know that our concerns and challenges are not only heard, but truly considered. The Authority’s response to this situation is an excellent example of its commitment to shared decision making.” 

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