By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK — The city will work with the Michigan Environmental, Great Lakes and Energy Department to develop a capital improvement plan to lessen sanitary sewage overflow into Ecorse Creek.
In a July 20 online study session, Department of Public Service Director John Kozuh said the city needs to develop a 5- and 20-year capital improvement plan, not only to replace 5 percent of lead service leads annually over the next 20 years, but to replace the city’s aging infrastructure, to help eliminate the need to dump sanitary sewage overflow into nearby waterways.
City Engineer John Hennessey, of Hennessey Engineering, said an overflow discharge basin can help address the need to hold excess capacity during rain events, but cannot solve the problem on its own.
Hennessey said the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency want EGLE to make sure that infrastructure is capable of preventing SSO discharge, which means Lincoln Park needs to develop a long-term financial plan to replace failing portions of its infrastructure.
When Lincoln Park was initially built, storm water runoff and sanitary sewers were combined. The systems were later separated, but Kozuh said some of the sections are now collapsing and need replacement.
Hennessey said the city’s corrective action plan will need to outline its annual investment based on the city’s ability to afford infrastructure replacement.
The plan is specific to pump improvements at the Emmons and Lincoln pump stations, which are each about 60 years old, and have exceeded their life cycle.
“Those are some of the critical infrastructure components that we really need to address within the next three to five years, to prevent a catastrophic condition within our system,” Hennessey said.
He said a financial capability assessment, based upon EPA guidelines, will identify the community’s financial capability to achieve the capital improvements needed for both the collection system and the other infrastructure assets, which include retention basins and pump stations.
“We are looking at what kind of expenditures we need to do in a perfect world,” Hennessey said. “But that will be modified based on our ability to afford it.”
He said that while a bigger catch basin will help alleviate some of the problems, the deficiencies in the infrastructure still must be addressed.
“EGLE understands the complexity of this system,” Hennessey said. “It was a combined system originally, and then it was separated out, and we have bulkheads, where you block a pipe off, where two pipes come together and you block it off with a wall, and some of those are failing.”
Hennessey said in about six months, EGLE may require Michigan cities in a position like Lincoln Park to commit to an administrative court order, which will identify what types of improvements need to be done, so that EGLE has the ability to guarantee that the cities will actually do what they are committing in theory to doing.
“That comes much later on, after our accessibility and our affordability component through there,” Hennessey said. “The advantage to that is it does provide us with a little bit of coverage, that we are working, and the state has accepted our plan, and it does help provide some risk assessment mitigation to us, with basement flooding.”
Council President Donna Breeding asked whether the city will be required to float bonds or ask the state treasury for money to follow through on the infrastructure needs.
“How in the world are we going to finance it, and does it all have to be in this court order, all of the various amounts?” she asked. “Is it outlined and ironclad?”
Hennessey said it will be a “living document,” a court order which will be in place for 20 years, with look-back periods with EGLE.
“If we are doing things, and they are in agreement with our approach, and our ability to afford improvements, then the court order can be modified with both parties in agreement,” Hennessey said. “But what they are afraid of is that communities will not take it seriously, and then the state of Michigan is going to be in violation of the Clean Water Act with the EPA.”