Life stinks around Fraser sinkhole

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Fraser — Life inside the massive sinkhole here is muddy, stinky and noisy.

Life around the sinkhole perimeter, where most local businesses remain open and dozens of residents remain in their homes, is a mix of hope, frustration and empathy for those displaced.

Some residents, such as Mariann Cotey, are abiding by a request by the city of Fraser for homeowners to conserve daily water use as work crews enter their second week of closing a 100-foot-wide, 250-foot-long sinkhole that appeared Dec. 24 along 15 Mile.

So for her, that means every day she tries to use less water when doing laundry, dishes, bathing and even flushing a toilet.

“I am on the alerts; the city has alerts. Be aware and be conscientious, one less flush a day. Full loads only of laundry and dishes, just trying to be respectful,” Cotey said Monday afternoon.

Cotey, a 10-year resident who lives south of the sinkhole, said her heart goes out to the families who’ve been forced from their homes. The sinkhole has forced the evacuation of 22 homes near the corner of 15 Mile and Eberlein.

The sinkhole was caused by the collapse of the leaking Macomb Interceptor Drain sewer that runs under 15 Mile, the border between Clinton Township and Fraser.

Over closer to the sinkhole work area, where the county-owned interceptor transports sewage from 11 northern Macomb County communities into a network that leads to a wastewater treatment plant in Detroit operated by the Great Lakes Water Authority, the smell of sewage is hard to miss.

Lindsay Genna, who manages Windsor Beauty Supply on 15 Mile in Fraser, has a front-row view of the construction from inside her store, which is full of shiny and pleasant-smelling beauty products.

Genna said the sinkhole, the closed roads, the construction mess and the smell have cut into customer visits and sales.

“We are generally very busy. We supply most of the surrounding salons. People are avoiding this area,” Genna said. “It’s hard to say how much it’s down, but it’s slower.”

Genna and others are concerned about how long the repairs will take.

“People are calling and asking. We are telling them we are open. It’s going to take a while,” Genna said.

Police have closed the road between Utica and Hayes as a precaution and the city declared a state of emergency in the area.

The stretch of road is scheduled to be closed to through traffic for several months, but businesses in that area remain open, and traffic to and from them is permitted.

Wayne Oehmke, a spokesman for the lead engineering company on the project — Anderson, Eckstein and Westrick — said on Monday to counter the negative impact the sinkhole is having on businesses along 15 Mile, a command headquarters set up inside the senior center is ordering more than 50 lunches a day from nearby businesses.

Construction workers at the Fraser sink hole on 15 mile and Hayes, Monday, January 01, 2017.

“We are trying to rotate around and get our stuff from different places each day to help a little bit,” said Oehmke, pointing to more than 50 brown paper bags from the Arby’s on 15 Mile just a few hundred feet from the sinkhole.

Oehmke said gas was turned back on Sunday night for the evacuated homes and water was being restored on Monday.

“Things are coming back, and the goal is to have (residents) back in their homes no later than Jan. 9,” he said.

One of two bypass pumps that will reduce sewage flow through the damaged sewer main became operational earlier Monday, according to Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller’s Office.

Crews were working to install the second ahead of rain expected in the area.

“If we can all reduce our water usage even by a couple of percent, we can help to prevent a discharge into the river,” Miller said in a statement.

Mayor Joe Nichols will update residents on efforts to fix the sinkhole at 6 p.m. meetings on Jan. 9 and Jan. 31 at Fraser City Hall.