Last leg of sewer repair project breaks ground at River Bends Park

Repairs unprecedented on worldwide scale, engineer says

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published June 10, 2015


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — On June 2, officials from Oakland and Macomb counties joined together at River Bends Park to announce the final repairs to a $170 million, seven-year sewer rehabilitation project that spans 20 miles from Shelby Township to Detroit.

Repairs began in 2009 after the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor Drain, which serves approximately 833,000 residents in both counties, collapsed at 15 Mile and Dodge Park roads in Sterling Heights in 2004 — a $56 million repair for a couple hundred feet of drain. Officials estimated that the rehabilitation project would prolong the sewer’s life another 50-100 years.

After diagnosing repairs to the aging drain to be around $200 million, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department transferred the OMID system to the newly created OMID Drainage District, which broke the repairs down into six separate contracts.

“Macomb is still in court over the whole thing,” said Sid Lockhart, chief engineer at the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office.

Lockhart said the initial collapse was caused by water leaking through the pipe and wearing away silty soils over time.

The first and second contracts added remote-controlled gates inside the sewer in Sterling Heights and Warren, where the drain widens to 12 feet 9 inches, so workers could work on the inside of the pipe. Lockhart said the operation on such a scale was unprecedented worldwide.

The third and fourth contracts concerned using ground radar to locate leaks where soils were potentially loose and stabilized the pipe by filling holes with grout. They also stopped leaks with another type of sealant and bolstered the tunnel with glass fiber polymer mortar pipe.

The fifth and sixth contracts, on which officials broke ground June 2, deal with intermittent lining and spot repairs in Sterling Heights, Utica and Shelby Township. Crews had to clear-cut paths through 3 miles of wooded areas in River Bends and Holland Ponds parks in late winter to access sewer manholes.

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash said the access roads would be paved and dually serve as walking paths for the public.

Lockhart explained that the state government required the trees to be cut in the winter to avoid disrupting wetlands and to protect native species, such as a species of bat, painted turtles and some plants.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco said OMID rates as the largest wholesale customer of the DWSD, now known as the Great Lakes Water Authority.

“Even though we’ve had our differences along the way, we’ve managed to move forward and complete the project the way it should be done,” Marrocco said. “Contract completion times have been extended and the budgets have suffered somewhat, but overall, the OMID rehab project has been a technological and environmental success.”

The project, originally slated to be around $210 million, ended up costing about $170 million, and approximately $13 million came from grants. Low-interest state loans and OMID ratepayers in Oakland and Macomb counties funded the rest of the costs.

The rehabilitation project is scheduled to conclude in June 2016.