More City Water Repairs Flagged; TC Could Apply For Millions From State For Upgrades

After a March study highlighting millions of dollars in recommended fixes for Traverse City’s water system, city commissioners will be discussing a new report on repairs at the sewage treatment plant tonight (Monday). The pipelines in the facility are “heavily loaded” and, according to the report, could cause “catastrophic flooding” in the lower level of the facility if not addressed soon. City officials plan to apply for low-interest government loans this summer that could cover millions of dollars for upgrades to both the city’s drinking and sewer / rainwater systems.

The Hubbell, Roth & Clark advisory group is responsible for the wastewater treatment plant’s report and for the March study on the Traverse City water distribution system. The state of Michigan requires municipalities to conduct a reliability study of their water infrastructure every five years. At the wastewater treatment plant, the company found that the plant’s primary inflow distribution lines had serious leaks, one of which in recent years “has resulted in an almost catastrophic failure of the entire pipeline system”.

This catastrophe was narrowly avoided by the quick measures taken by the plant personnel. According to Art Krueger, director of the public utility company, the leak “occurred on a smaller 3-inch pipe connected to the main distribution pipe in the building. It was basically a joint failure and it was leaking into the basement. We had to bring emergency pumps on board and keep flooding to a minimum to avoid further damage to the basement. “If there had been severe flooding then – or if it did happen in the future, as Hubble, Roth & Clark warns, it is possible – electrical equipment and other controls in the basement could be at risk, according to Krüger. “Part of the plant’s operation could be at risk,” he says. “Part of the (wastewater) treatment process could be hindered until it is repaired.”

According to the report, repairing the distribution lines alone would likely cost around $ 1 million. However, other repairs are recommended at the factory – particularly the installation of new tanks, pumps, and sand removal equipment – which should be coordinated along with replacing the pipes, the consultants said. Overall, Hubbell, Roth & Clark recommended wastewater treatment plant improvements of $ 14.5 million, a price that includes engineering and emergency costs.

The next step for the city’s staff and commissioners is figuring out how to prioritize, what to fix first – and how to fund it. The wastewater treatment plant is not the only urgent area of ​​infrastructure that needs to be addressed. Millions of upgrades have been recommended for the city’s water distribution system across the city, and repairing a section of the Boardman River retaining wall to avoid a future catastrophic canal failure in downtown Traverse City could cost $ 2.4 million north costs. City administrator Marty Colburn admitted to the commissioners in March that all of these projects cannot be carried out at the same time and that the city’s job will be to achieve the most important projects as quickly as possible. “We’re not going to try to solve all of these in a year,” he said.

According to Krueger, the city has the potential to secure millions of dollars in government funding this year through two revolving loan funds: the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which focuses on sewage / stormwater projects to reduce water pollution, and the Drinking Water Revolving Fund, which focuses on sewage / stormwater projects on drinking water projects. The loans usually have a term of 20 to 30 years and an average interest rate of around two percent. Loan applications are due June 1st for the Clean Water Fund and July 1st for the Drinking Water Fund. The city will come up with a project plan or list of repairs that it would like to tackle – similar to a capital improvement plan – and would know in the fall what loan financing it might qualify for.

“The project plan is a report that summarizes the needs of all projects that we currently want to build, and possibly five years from now,” says Krueger. “You don’t get all the money at once, but you can program it (annually) if you are selected. It’s a competitive points system, but our needs are quite large and the environment may be harmed if we don’t do these projects. I think we have a good shot at it. “

According to Krueger, the city will hold the required public hearings on the project plans in May and June before loan applications are submitted. The city commissioners also give contributions to the projects that are to be included. Repairs to wastewater treatment plants are among the projects that employees are planning, he says. According to Krueger, certain projects may be eligible for grants in addition to government loans. The city is pursuing several avenues to provide resources for aging infrastructure in the community. “It is definitely a balancing act to meet the most urgent needs and secure funding,” says Krueger.

Photo credit: Jacobs (operator of the Traverse City sewage treatment plant)

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