Melissa Walsh

Shores solidifies ‘understanding’ for lake district overflow

Grosse Pointe News | June 28th, 2018 | News section

Shores solidifies ‘understanding’ for lake district overflow By Melissa Walsh

Grosse Pointe Shores — As older communities like Grosse Pointe Shores correct underground infrastructure installed more than a century ago, Wayne County is removing itself from the sewer business.

Faced with this reality, Shores city council, during its June 19 meeting, approved an agreement with the Southeast Macomb Sanitary District, qualified by a memorandum of understanding to negotiate Shores-specific needs, to manage its lake district, or stormwater, sewage system.

The village’s stormwater and wastewater flow through two separate systems.

“We’ve been dealing with these issues for many, many years actually,” Shores City Engineer Jesse VanDerCreek told city council.

Exceeding the 3-cubic-feet-per-second limit, the village’s storm water currently discharges into the northeast sewer disposal system in a Wayne County collection system.

Since metering lake district water flow for nearly a year, VanDerCreek said, on three occasions the flow soared to 6 cubic feet per second, double the outlet capacity but directly proportional to rainfall.

Flow is measured from the Cook Road Pump Station outlet at Cook and Chalfonte, “where all of the Shores’ sewer collection system is pumped by the Cook Road Pump Station and discharged to the Kerby Road interceptor,” VanDerCreek explained.

Fall 2017 the Shores Finance Committee authorized the installation of four sewer-measuring meters for five districts. District E, the southernmost district, showed high dry-weather flow.

“Dry-weather flow is supposed to be 120 gallons per capita per day,” VanDerCreek said.

“We’re anywhere from double to 10 times that at the south end.

“As far as wet weather, when it rains, we’re 10 times that all over the place and significantly above that at the south end.”

In a video VanDerCreek presented to council — as evidence gathered during the project’s televised monitoring — a gushing sound was heard from the manhole cover over the interceptor in district E, revealing an estimated flow of 80 gallons per minute during dry weather.

“Because we’re close to the lake, we have a high groundwater table system,” VanDerCreek said. “So our sewer system generally is under the hydrostatic pressure of the ground water. We all know the lake level is up and there’s higher pressure on the system than there ever has been, so we’re starting to see this kind of activity.”

Work is underway to correct the system. Technicians are grouting the underground pipe joints and any voids in the pipe.

VanDerCreek said the memorandum of understanding drafted to accompany the agreement with the SEMSD includes language addressing inflow and infiltration issues via adoption of a five-year plan to analyze and correct infrastructure problems leading to overflow.

“We need to come into compliance,” VanDer-Creek said.

Also addressed in the MOU is the fee structure of the agreement, which stipulates charging the village $496,864 for additional flow capacity until the village corrects its infrastructure.

“We looked at it really hard from an engineering perspective, to identify how Grosse Pointe Shores was impacting that cost so that we would have to subsidize every basement in the district,” VanDerCreek said. “In fact, we argued that the only basin we impact or exceed our allowed flow is the Milk River Basin.”

Shores City Attorney Brian Renaud raised this argument to negotiate a reduction in fees prescribed in the agreement, which he described as “boiler plate” language, saving the village approximately $80,000 annually during the period the excess flow fee methodology is in effect.

“The way the memorandum of understanding has been developed is that as we move forward to reduce our excess flow to the system, this agreement and the fees and charges will go away,” VanDerCreek said.

Bruce Bisballe said the village currently pays a sewer bill of approximately $750,000 per year to Wayne County. He said the agreement with the SEMSD will benefit the Shores, “so long as we in good faith go through a remediation plan to reduce the amount of inflow that’s occurring, which we’ve already embarked upon three years ago when we entered the SAW (Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater) Grant.

“This all started when we televised the sewers, we cleaned the sewers and then we looked at what we were filming. We’ve tried to increase our allowable flow for years but with no avail. And remember, we’re the only community in this entire district that’s got a separated system. Our rain water and sewage water are separate.”

“We’ve thought all along that Southeast Macomb Sanitary District — they’re right here in a house on Jefferson just north of Eagle Pointe in St. Clair Shores — they’ll do a better job,” Shores City Manager Mark Wollenweber told the Grosse Pointe News.

The SEMSD will manage the village’s storm water system, not its sanitary system, Wollenweber explained.

“Sanitary systems are a lot tighter than storm water systems,” Wollenweber said. “Some of those, they just put clay pipe together and there’s no sealed joints; there’s no salter underneath. All that’s got to be addressed. And it should be and everyone’s in favor because it saves the environment.”

“We’ve been working on repairs all along,” Shores Department of Public Works Director Brett Smith said. “Back in the early ’90s, we lined all of our sanitary sewers and currently we are completing a SAW Grant project, which cleaned and televised all of our sewers. We just got them, but don’t have all the reports back yet.”

As far as anticipating the Shores’ sewer management changing hands, Smith added, “We’ve always found that it would be better to have someone that’s a little more local to actually spend some time at the pump stations and have a handle on what’s going on. So I think it’s going to work out better for everyone.”