The Rouge River flows near Shiawassee Park. The three projects announced by the Great Lakes Water Authority will eliminate 48 million gallons of untreated wet weather discharge from flowing into the Rouge each year.

The Rouge River flows near Shiawassee Park. The three projects announced by the Great Lakes Water Authority will eliminate 48 million gallons of untreated wet weather discharge from flowing into the Rouge each year.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Local groups announce three projects to preserve the Rouge

‘This is truly a unique solution to reduce untreated overflows in Oakland County’

By: Zachary Manning | C&G Newspapers | Published March 9, 2021


OAKLAND COUNTY — The Great Lakes Water Authority will be collaborating with Oakland County and the city of Detroit on three projects that they say will protect public health by reducing wet water discharges into regional waterways.

The collaboration came together during GLWA’s wastewater master plan planning process, as discussions were being conducted about the need for a regional focus on reducing combined sewer and sanitary sewer discharges into waterways during wet weather events.

“Preserving safe, reliable water, sewer and storm drain systems is extremely important for our region,” Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner and drainage district Chair Jim Nash said in a press release. “We are now thinking differently and working together to protect the public health and natural resources of all our residents. The Evergreen-Farmington Sanitary Drain project is a lasting example of regional collaboration at its finest. The (memorandum of understanding) shows that we’re working across county lines to discover a single solution to address multiple regional concerns.”

Among the projects, the Evergreen-Farmington Sanitary Drain Drainage District will secure additional wet weather flow capacity in the regional wastewater system to complete its 30-year plan for improving the water quality of the Rouge River.

This will result in system reliability, and will also avoid the cost of constructing a new wet weather treatment facility, as well as costs from long-term operations and maintenance.

Along with the EFSD’s plan, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will be implementing its Far West Detroit Stormwater Improvement Project.

The project will improve sewer flow and capacity by removing stormwater within the right-of-way from the combined sewer pipes. New sewers will be installed that move stormwater through two new green stormwater infrastructure projects in Rouge Park. The water will discharge directly into the Rouge River instead of flowing to the Water Resource Recovery Facility.

The outcomes are expected to improve the DWSD’s service delivery, as well as reduce street flooding and the potential for basement backups in the far west Detroit neighborhood.

Finally, the GLWA will accelerate the undertaking of a two-part improvement project at its West Warren combined sewer outfall location in Detroit. This will correct wet weather discharges from the location and bring it into compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

The project includes the construction of a new diversion weir chamber  — a low dam built across a river to raise the level of water upstream or regulate its flow — west of the Rouge River and increasing the size of an existing 18-inch diameter pipe to a 54-inch pipe east of the river.

“The (memorandums of understanding) between GLWA, EFSD and DWSD bring to life the regional thinking that was so prominent in our Wastewater Master Plan,” Suzanne Coffey, the chief planning officer of the GLWA, said in a press release. “This is truly a unique solution to reduce untreated overflows in Oakland County and in the city of Detroit. This opportunity has rightfully given way to our new motto ‘cleaner water, faster and cheaper,’ and is a direct result of unprecedented regional collaboration.”

According to a press release, these projects will prevent an estimated 48 million gallons of wet weather flow per year from making its way into the Rouge River untreated.

When completed, the three projects will provide an environmental benefit across county lines for the $68 million total investment.

The DWSD’s project will begin in this summer, following the selection and approval of a contractor. The GLWA’s project will start after the completion of the DWSD’s project. Oakland County’s project has a planned start of summer next year.

“We have been planning the Far West Detroit Stormwater Improvement Project for three years in an effort to continue our work in reducing untreated combined sewer overflows to our rivers,” Palencia Mobley, the deputy director and chief engineer of the DWSD, said via a release. “The partnership with GLWA and Oakland County is beneficial for the city and region at large. And, like we have been doing the last five years under our current leadership, we will continue engaging and gathering input from the community in all phases of the project.”