Officials: Fraser sinkhole could cost $100M to fix
Mount Clemens — Officials say Macomb County’s massive sinkhole is expected to cost at least $78 million but could exceed $100 million to fix.
That estimate came Friday as as the county extended its state of emergency as it continues to address a sewer line collapse in area along 15 Mile in Fraser.
“This is an enormous thing that’s happening to the county,” said Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, who appeared before the county’s board of commissioners on Friday. “We’re up to the challenge. We’re going to get through this thing. We’re going to solve this problem. And somehow we’ve got to figure out how to pay for it.”
Miller said earlier this month the county may seek a bond issue and rate hike to pay for the repairs. On Friday, she told the board that officials have already met with bonding attorneys.
“We’re starting to talk about what we have to do from a financial standpoint here,” she said. “We’re probably going to do a short-term bond. Maybe a long-term bond because we need some immediate cash for many of the expenses here.”
The funding could also come from federal or state sources, including the Federal Highway Administration and Michigan Department of Transportation, said Vicki Wolber, director of Macomb County’s Emergency Management Department.
The 100-foot-wide, 250-foot-long sinkhole emerged on 15 Mile near Eberline on Dec. 24 after the county-owned Macomb Interceptor collapsed, displacing homeowners and requiring a temporary bypass of the ruptured line.
The 3-mile-long, concrete sewer main runs west along 15 Mile from Garfield to ITC Michigan’s electric transmission lines corridor. The pipe is about 11 feet in diameter.
The Board of Commissioners on Friday unanimously voted to extend its emergency through Feb. 9, the date of its next meeting. Extending the declaration covers the county for what is an ongoing threat of emergency issues at the site, Wolber said.
“While the sinkhole itself appears to be what you may want to call stable at this time, there are many varying factors that could change that,” Wolber said before the board Friday afternoon. “That includes weather conditions, the soil, the sinkhole could collapse further. Some of the emergency equipment out there could fail.”
Fraser has been under a “local state of emergency” since Dec. 24. Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency earlier this month, authorizing the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division to coordinate state efforts.
Meanwhile, a long-term emergency bypass system, Wolber said, won’t be in place until the end of January or early February. For that reason, she added, the emergency period must continue “because we obviously don’t want to discharge into Clinton River or cause sewer backups affecting 500,000 people in the county potentially.”
County Executive Mark Hackel also declared a state of emergency on Jan. 5, however, it was to last seven days unless the board voted to extend it.
“This declaration will allow us to continue to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the county and ensure all necessary precautions and protective actions are available until the long-term emergency bypass system is put in place,” Hackel said in a statement.
Wolber said the emergency is covered in some aspects under a state declaration that expires Feb. 3 to pursue funding resources from the state.
Officials say the sinkhole was caused by the collapse of the leaking county-owned Macomb Interceptor Drain sewer under 15 Mile. The interceptor, a 3-mile-long, concrete sewer main, transports sewage from 11 Macomb County communities to a waste water treatment plant operated by the Great Lakes Water Authority in Detroit.
The impacted sewer services about 150,000 and 500,000 residents, according to county officials. The affected communities are the cities of Fraser, Sterling Heights, Utica, New Haven and Chesterfield, Shelby, Clinton, Harrison, Lenox and Washington township. Selfridge Air National Guard Base is also impacted.
There were 22 homes affected by the sinkhole, including three which have been condemned.
Once the longterm bypass is in place, Miller said the county will be able to get a better assessment of the sinkhole, how to fix the interceptor and get a firmer handle on the cost. Crew are currently bookending the sinkhole with grouted pillars to prevent it from spreading, Miller said.
Miller also addressed how the county will handle the three homes that were condemned due to the sinkhole.
“We’re trying to figure out if we can come to an agreement with these folks,” she said.
Bob Smith, the county board’s chairman, said he fully expected his colleagues to extend the emergency declaration. He considers it a small part in helping Wolber and Miller navigate the costly project.
“The numbers are a little bit staggering, but at the same time, we are not sure yet where we’re going to end up, or how much money we might be able to offset by with some funds the federal and state government,” he said.
“The unfortunate truth is whatever it is is what we have to do. We can’t have sewer systems that are collapsed or even for the future are about to collapse.”