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 Clinton Township Public Services Director Mary Bednar, surrounded by other local officials, discusses the end of a state-mandated administrative consent order for sewage discharges Aug. 13 at Baker College in Clinton Township.

Clinton Township Public Services Director Mary Bednar, surrounded by other local officials, discusses the end of a state-mandated administrative consent order for sewage discharges Aug. 13 at Baker College in Clinton Township.

Photo by Deb Jacques

No more raw sewage discharges: Clinton Township fulfills state mandate

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published August 20, 2019

 A view of Golden Street off 15 Mile Road, where final modifications are being made.

A view of Golden Street off 15 Mile Road, where final modifications are being made.

Photo by Deb Jacques


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Following a period of nearly 20 years and the spending of approximately $30 million, raw sewage overflows in Clinton Township are hoped to be a thing of the past.

In 2000, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which is now the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, or EGLE, issued a state-mandated administrative consent order, or ACO, to discontinue the release of untreated sewage into waterways during heavy rain events.

This milestone virtually assures local officials and residents that discharges into the Clinton River will cease. Such discharges were necessary for decades, due to the alternative option of sending sewage into the basements of homes in the southeast region of the township.

These homes, most of which were constructed 50 or 60 years ago, had basement footing drains directly connected to the sanitary sewer system. The township said that collection pipes were not large enough, and when significant rain events occurred, excess flows caused basement flooding.

A total of nine sewer overflow pump stations were built in the late 1970s and early 1980s to address that issue. This current project, on Golden and Danbury streets, is the seventh and final emergency bypass overflow pump station.

The final phase of this ACO requires certification from EGLE that all improvements meet the intended design requirements, as well as a project performance certification, or PPC, that is needed from two system locations.

Township Public Services Director Mary Bednar said the township hopes to pass one PPC by the end of this year, and the other by the end of 2020. If successful, the ACO will be officially lifted.

On Aug. 13, in the parking lot of Baker College, about a quarter-mile from the pump location at Golden and Danbury streets, Bednar and Township Supervisor Bob Cannon were accompanied by other local and county officials, including Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller.

The evening before the press conference was mired in major rainfall, leading to water flooding the currently deconstructed street. Bednar estimates that about 0.1 million gallons were discharged.

Bednar said the system is designed to control rain via a relief sanitary sewer, rather than rain going into a storm sewer and being discharged into the Clinton River Spillway. This only happens during wet conditions, she noted, as rainwater mixes with sewage but stays in the sewer before being discharged into the 15 Mile Road interceptor and eventually finding its way to Detroit.

“Last night, Golden Street looked like a river,” Cannon said. “Today (Aug. 13), it looked like nothing happened.”


Looking ahead to fix old problems
The Clinton Township ACO is just one example of other projects in which infrastructural needs are becoming more apparent after decades of neglect.

Cannon described how he inherited his current position right around the time this ACO was instituted, when pump stations took excess sanitary sewage and discharged it into local waterways that eventually ended up in Lake St. Clair.

He described that reality as “an unsustainable solution.” The precipitation on Golden and Danbury streets was a sign that “there’s still more work to do.”

Miller, as she has said in the past, told of how she originally ran for her currently elected position due to the influx of sewage overflows. Mitigation was a top priority, due to preserving quality of life while leading to better economic prosperity.

She noted how progress is occurring even if some people don’t notice, such as how Lake St. Clair Metropark has experienced zero closures this summer.

“Quite frankly, we don’t have to live like this,” Miller said.

The Clinton Township ACO is just a snapshot of what Miller and her Public Works Office team are doing throughout the county.

At the beginning of this year, it was announced that the county received a $3 million grant for the enhancement of water quality in Lake St. Clair, where combined sewer overflows enter from the Chapaton basin, located in St. Clair Shores.

About $30 million is being spent on that specific basin, including the doubling of the facility that is hoped to eliminate around 75% of overflows.

Hackel said these infrastructural fixes involve cooperation from both public officials and county residents, adding that every incident or slow debilitation that occurs — whether it’s a sinkhole or further crumbling of a heavily traversed road — “is going to resonate” in every county community.


The final touches
Many of the trees that once lined Golden Street had to be removed in order to complete this project, which Bednar anticipated will reach substantial completion by mid-September or early October.

Currently, the water main and the reconstructing of the street are the big items remaining on the to-do list. Street lights will reappear at completion as well.

“This project, when we’re done, they’ll have a relief sanitary sewer; they’ll have a brand-new replaced water main,” Bednar said. “DTE came in and is going to have new light poles and electrical lines. Consumer’s (Energy) came in and did gas. … This neighborhood is actually going to have brand-new infrastructure.

“That is something that is fairly new in the last several years, where we are actually partnering with the (Macomb County) Department of Roads, we partnered with the county, to say, ‘If we’re going to be in here, let’s do it all.’ Let’s not just do the relief sewer and then come back in five years or 10 years and say, ‘Oh, let’s now disrupt you again and do a water main.’ This whole neighborhood is going to have a whole new look.”

Township Trustee Ken Pearl, who was elected in 2008 and is a member of the township’s sanitary sewer committee, said numerous aspects went into this ACO.

“I don’t think we knew until we took each district and looked at what needed to be done,” he said. “It took a lot of time to engineer it, bid it out, design and get consultants to look at exactly where the problems were. You don’t want to put a pipe in where it’s not needed, so it’s very important to do the right project. It weighed heavily on the committee and the board, because we wanted to spend the money properly.”

As someone who has spent his life working in the construction industry, Pearl knew firsthand how calculations related to lining and piping — as well as price disagreements for contractors — needed due diligence to result in a satisfactory outcome.

“You’ve got to do it where it’s needed,” Pearl said. “Everybody needs to have water and sewer services in their home. This area just happened to be older and have more infrastructure problems than maybe the northern part (of the township), but still, it had to be done.”