Pittsfield Applies For EGLE Revolving Fund Loan

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Pittsfield Township took the next step to drastically rearrange its sewage arrangements, Wednesday evening, by approving an application to fund the $31 million project through a state revolving fund. Pittsfield Township has been working for months to drastically rearrange its aging mainline sewer and avoid a potential nightmare situation under US23.

The township’s mainline sewer runs under Michigan Avenue, and dips very deep to go underneath US23. The current arrangement has been eroding alarmingly due to gas buildups in the current design, leading township officials to fear the possibility of the sewer under US23 to collapse, creating a dangerous and very difficult cleanup situation that could be ruinously expensive.

Spencer Cain is an employee of Stantec, an engineering consultancy that secured a $1.7 million contract earlier this year to assist with the planning and application on this project. He told the Board of Trustees that the threat of the 96 inch wide main sewer collapsing could be dire.

“Especially if it collapses under US23,” Cain said.

The township has already had at least two tunnel collapses on less important lines elsewhere. These are created when hydrogen sulfide gas rises off the sewage corrodes the concrete, resulting in erosion and eventual collapse.

The plan the Board of Trustees approved plans to seal off and abandon the 11,450 foot stretch of sewers underneath US23 and to create a newer, longer line underneath Textile Road. Township engineers and experts from the design consultancy firm Stantec, which Pittsfield has hired, say that this would be a lot easier to work on since it wouldn’t have to go as deep to go underneath US23.

Image Credit - Stantec. This is the current map, as presented by Stantec to the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees.

And besides, the Michigan Department of Transportation is already planning on spending around $80 million in a separate project to remove and replace the bridge carrying Michigan Avenue over US23. Getting the sewer project out of the state governments way is part of Pittsfield town to improve and maintain infrastructure while working in concert with Lansing.

Pittsfield’s sewage redesign project is planned to be done in two phases. The $24.7 million first phase will construct 21,850 feet of new sewage lines, ranging from 12 inches to 36 inches wide, as well as the abandonment of the section of sewer under US23. Phase two is expected to cost $6.3 million, rehabilitating another 18,200 feet of sewer lines.

The plan also would add a protective coating to parts of the sewer to prevent further corrosion and eliminates three of the sewer’s lift stations – mechanical stations in the sewer that lift material from a lower pipe to a higher one – in favor of gravity fed alternatives. Mechanical lift stations only have a life span of 10 to 15 years, according to one township official, and are vulnerable to power outages and dangers during operating.

User costs are still being calculated. But Stantec’s current estimate, based on 2017 figures, is that the project would result in an increase of $7.43 per month for the average Pittsfield Township residence. That number is subject to change as the project evolves.

“We anticipate it to be closer to $6 per month, per resident. It depends on how it shakes out for cost and bonds we’re pursuing,” Pittsfield's Utilities Superintendent Billy Weirich said.

If the project goes through, Stantec expects that the resulting system would have an operating life of between 80 to 100 years.

“I think this is highly needed. I think we’re on borrowed time and this is a disaster waiting to happen,” Pittsfield resident Christina Lirones said during the public comment section of the May 26 Public Hearing. “I’m extremely happy we’re eliminating lift stations because they’re so problematic.”

Another resident asked the township if he would be obligated to hook up to the new sewer and freshwater lines from his house, which is along the planned new mainline sewer route. Township officials told him that he would not. 

“We’re not going to obligate residents to tie into it, but we will be offering them the opportunity to,” Weirich said.

According to township attorney James A. Fink, the resolution will now go to review by the Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Energy for review. Funding for this $31 million program would come partially through a loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which is run by EGLE. Fink told the Trustees that the state department charged with protecting the environment and energy in Michigan will likely approve it. Once they do, the township will have to take no further action, as they have already voted unanimously to support it.

The submission to EGLE will be reviewed by Fink, as part of his normal duties as the township attorney. The submission must be completed by June 1, according to Stantec. If all goes well, the project could be wrapped up by as soon as fall 2023.

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