Repair and replace on schedule at Fraser sinkhole
By Jameson Cook, The Macomb Daily
Mark Hackel and Candice Miller descended 65 feet into the Fraser sinkhole and found sand. They ascended from the shaft holding sand-filled latex gloves.
“We were literally walking on a beach,” said Miller, the Macomb County Public Works commissioner. “It was a nice beach with sand you would find on any beach.”
The sand most likely was deposited at that site thousands of years ago during the last Ice Age, said Evans Bantios, public works engineer.
It was discovered Friday morning when Hackel, the county executive, and Miller were lowered down the sinkhole shaft to inspect work being completed on the massive project to replace the collapsed main sewer line that caused the sinkhole last Christmas Eve.
Engineers said the sand will not impact the $75-million project to replace the 300 feet of broken pipe under 15 Mile Road and install another 3,700 of liner inside existing pipe east of the sinkhole.
“Sand is not going to be an issue going forward,” Bantios said, as engineers noted that the new pipe will rest on cement encased with metal, with dirt to fill around the pipe.
Miller conducted the media event to demonstrate the repair-and-replace project is going smoothly.
“We are on schedule, and we may even be a little ahead schedule, and we’re also on budget,” Miller said. “Fingers crossed, we might even be a little bit below budget.
“People can feel very good and have a high degree of confidence that the work that we’re doing here is excellent work. They’re getting an excellent product and a very good price. We are never going to have another sinkhole on 15 Mile.”
Progress on the project has gone so well that Miller said she hopes “to have sewage flowing through the pipe by Labor Day,” with the clean-up, take-down and repair of 15 Mile to completed by the end of the year.
All of the 300 feet of broken, collapsed 11-foot pipe has been removed and DPW workers have installed approximately 500 feet of the 9-foot, 2-inch Hobas liner in the existing pipe to protect against a future collapse, DPW spokesman Dan Heaton said. About 136 of the 186 20-foot-long Hobas sections that have been ordered have arrived via flat-bed truck, two at a time from Houston. The Hobas pipe also will be used to replace the collapsed pipe.
Hackel referred to a device being used to transport and install the Hobas pipe as the “Batmobile.”
“It looks like the Batmobile,” he said. “To see what they’re doing down there is incredible.
The collapse between Utica and Hayes roads drastically disrupted sewage flow in a main pipe that services up to 500,000 residents and 40,000 businesses in 11 communities of the Macomb Interceptor Drainage District: Sterling Heights, Fraser, Utica and New Haven, and Clinton, Harrison, Shelby, Macomb, Lenox, Washington and Chesterfield townships along with Selfridge Air Naional Guard Base. A bypass pipe was installed earlier this year to provide sewage flow.
Miller boasted that if this project had been planned and bid out in typical fashion, it would have taken three years to complete.
“When you think about the scope of this project, it is amazing how far we have come in just a few short months,” Miller said. “This is a testament to the skills and the work ethic of our employees and contractors –- along with the assistance of our local communities and the patience of the businesses and residents in that area.”
She noted that during the bypass operation, “We have not had to discharge one piece of raw sewage into he Clinton River.”
She said all of the companies working on the project are local and the products were made in America.
Miller also noted engineers are inspecting the remaining 17 miles of the main line. She said some minor problems have been found.
“There will be some additional work from these inspections,” she said.
After the work is completed, the pipes used in the by-pass will be sold, with any revenues from that sale being returned to the MIDD.
Of the $75-million cost, $70 million is slated to come from bonds that were sold and will be paid back through higher water rates in the effected communities, with $5 million coming from a state grant.
The city of Sterling Heights, has filed a lawsuit seeking to recoup funds from the county, via its insurance company, due to alleged incompetence in maintaining the pipe.
Miller noted at the event none of the other 11 communities have joined in the lawsuit.
She said she is “sympathetic” to the concerns since they are “alleging that my predecessor didn’t do his job.”