by ANDREW NEAL
Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis took time at the beginning of Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting to address cost concerns related to the damaged Macomb Interceptor Drainage District (MIDD), the 11-foot diameter sewer pipe that collapsed at 15 & Utica late last year.
He disputes a report by the Macomb Daily that residents in the 11 communities affected by the pipe, which include Shelby Township, Utica, and Macomb Township, could see repair costs on their water bills as early as July.
“This is wrong in that water bills are unaffected. What could possibly rise to cover these costs are sewer rates,” Stathakis said. He added that he expects the fixed cost figures from Macomb County Director of Public Works Candice Miller by mid-March.
While cost estimates of $100-140 million are still rough, and any state and federal funding could help offset the final bill, “the ratepayers in the MIDD of the 11 communities… really are on the hook for this,” Miller said in a public service announcement.
Candice Miller is encouraging people to think about the history of this issue and the long term solution that may be required to fix it. “This is the third time in this immediate stretch of sewer that we’ve had a situation like this.”
Citing the three previous sinkholes caused by the MIDD, Miller says there is talk of adding a “very expensive” polymer lining along the entire length of the pipe, which would reinforce and extend its life by hundreds of years.
“We’re also contemplating just lining that and being done with this thing.” But she says, the final decision will be made with the leaders of the 11 communities in the MIDD. “We’re all going to decide collectively whether or not we want to do the rest of this.”
Miller summed up the two major issues at play, saying, “We’re trying to be as cost-efficient as we possibly can, understanding we are in an emergency mode… as we try to make sure that we do not have to discharge raw sewage into the Clinton River and/or into people’s basements, and that’s the reality of having an emergency like this.”
Second Environmental Crisis Narrowly Averted Tuesday
Crews are working on a temporary bypass system to relieve the damaged section of pipe and hope to have it completed by March 1. But until then, new reports show the MIDD reaching dangerously high levels, threatening a second sewage discharge.
Tuesday’s one inch of rain nearly spelled disaster. A statement released Wednesday by the Macomb County Office of Public Works said engineers “turned on the sewage discharge pumps on Tuesday night… but never had to open the valves that would release that sewage into the river and ultimately into Lake St. Clair.”
Engineers turned on the pumps when the level in the sewer line passed 566.5 feet of elevation – “567 is the danger line at which sewage must be discharged or it will enter thousands of basements in Clinton and Harrison Townships.”
The department credited the water conservation efforts of residents on Super Bowl Sunday. “Those efforts resulted in total lower than normal sewer volumes on Sunday, meaning there was extra capacity in the pipes to hold Tuesday’s rain.”
At its peak Tuesday, levels in the sewer hit 566.8 feet, less than 2.5 inches from capacity, before it began to subside around 11 p.m.
Both Stathakis and Miller urged residents to continue to restrict their water usage as much as possible in hopes of avoiding a second environmental catastrophe.
“I cannot express my gratitude enough to the people who were working on Tuesday night and really, all of the people who have been reducing their water usage. People ask, ‘has it really made a difference?’ Tuesday night, it was all the difference,” Miller said.