Detroit's water department kicks off neighborhood water, sewer upgrades

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News
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Detroit — The city's water department on Wednesday kicked off a $44 million project that will upgrade water infrastructure in two city neighborhoods as part of a five-year effort to rejuvenate the aging water system.

The effort — leading off in the Cornerstone Village and North Rosedale Park neighborhoods — is the first by the city's Water and Sewerage Department to both the water and sewer systems, officials announced at a groundbreaking convened on the city's east side. 

Mayor Mike Duggan discusses a $44.3 million water and sewer project Wednesday. The two-year project in Cornerstone Village and North Rosedale Park is part of an overall five-year capital program that will sink $500 million into water main, lead service line and hydrant replacements as well as stormwater infrastructure improvements.

Duggan said the effort is the latest moving ahead to invest in Detroit neighborhoods and residents. 

"This is a different day in Detroit," the mayor said during a news conference on Hillcrest Street, noting broken fire hydrants, water main breaks and sinkholes that have long plagued the city. "Things have changed. Now we're progressing to what a professionally run city does, which is take an entire area at once, replace the water and sewer systems at the same time."

The city's Civil Rights, Inclusion & Opportunity department, he added, will be monitoring the replacement projects to ensure contractors are hiring at least 51% Detroit residents. If they are unable to meet those requirements, he said they will be contributing to Detroit's workforce training fund. 

The two city communities, officials said, have had water and sewer system condition assessments completed within the past two years. The two-year project in Cornerstone Village and North Rosedale Park is part of an overall five-year capital program that will sink $500 million into water main, lead service line and hydrant replacements as well as stormwater infrastructure improvements. 

Ric-Man Construction of Sterling Heights and LGC Global of Detroit are the firms selected for work on the neighborhood projects. 

Construction will begin this month and continue through December 2021. Contractors are expected to restore any disrupted sidewalks, driveways, yards and fences during the April to October construction season. 

The water department on Wednesday noted it's able to make the investments due to the $50 million annual lease payment for the regional water and sewer system operated by the Great Lakes Water Authority, which was set up as a component of the city's bankruptcy.

Palencia Mobley, the water department's deputy director and chief engineer, said the two neighborhoods chosen for the first projects have infrastructure needs that were identified in a master plan from the early 2000s.

“We decided to take a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach, starting with assessing the water and sewer systems, then designing an upgrade strategy based upon that data, the probability of failure and the consequence of failure in the pipes," said Mobley, whose team is managing the capital improvement program along with the national construction firm AECOM. 

Glenn Fenderson, 62, who has experienced multiple basement floods due to backups, said if officials come through on the project, it'll be a "godsend."

"He said they were doing a complete overhaul this time, not like before. I think he's sincere" said Fenderson, a 27-year resident, of Duggan. "If they do what they say they are going to do, it's beautiful. It'll make you feel good about your neighborhood."

But Dwayne Harris said he isn't buying it. He said he's been frustrated over the years with a lack of response from the city and Detroit's elected officials. Water infrastructure work in his area about five years ago, he said, hasn't helped much. 

"I'm not impressed at all. You've got to jump through hoops in order to talk to someone," he said. "Talk is cheap."

The water department also has completed condition assessments in 10 other neighborhoods. Approximately 76 miles of water main and 198 miles of sewer were assessed over the last two years by the water department and its contractors.  

Other areas evaluated include Brewster Douglass, Brightmoor, Jefferson Chalmers, Miller Grove, Minock Park, New Center Commons, Piety Hill, Rosedale Park (south), Riverdale and Virginia Park.

The results of the assessments are being reviewed and designs are underway for the infrastructure that needs rehabilitation, officials noted in a news release. 

The water department said that it upgraded 43 miles of water main, lined 40 miles of sewer collection piping and replaced 559 lead services lines in the 2018 and 2019 calendar years. 

cferretti@detroitnews.com 

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