House approves $3M for Fraser sinkhole fix
Lansing — The House approved Wednesday a supplemental appropriation that allots $3 million in state money to repair the Fraser sinkhole and allows $100 million to pass to Flint after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week awarded the money.
In a 101-7 vote, the House approved money for Macomb County to fix a Fraser pipe that collapsed on Christmas Eve and caused residents at nearly two dozen homes to evacuate after a massive sinkhole opened. A Macomb County official told lawmakers that a permanent solution could cost between $140 million and $150 million to coat the pipe with a protective layer that would prevent leaks for the next 200 years.
That may sound like a long time, said Macomb County Public Works Operations Manager Anthony Forlini, but not necessarily for the county’s future residents. He urged lawmakers at a Wednesday morning hearing to approve the state aid.
The latest collapse is the pipe’s third rupture, the latest likely caused by the same problem as before: Small leaks along the pipe allow water to escape and fine silt to be sucked in until it slowly clogs and collapses, Forlini said.
The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate before Gov. Rick Snyder can sign off on it.
County officials previously had said it could cost up to $100 million to fix, but making sure the drain interceptor doesn’t leak again for future generations will take more money, Forlini said. Macomb County already has approved a $20 million loan for expenses related to working on the sewer line to cover the cost of a long-term $10 million bypass.
State Rep. William Sowerby, D-Clinton Township, said it will cost $75 million just to fix the bypass. The long-term fix to the pipe’s minor leaks will cost more.
Sowerby said “those nearest to it fear basement flooding due to heavy rains. Any amount is a big help.”
A county board charged with fixing the pipe has awarded a $32.7 million construction contract to Dan’s Excavating in Shelby Township to fix the failed interceptor by Sept. 15, which is about two weeks earlier than county officials had expected.
Fixing the drain interceptor is the first phase of the project. Officials also plan to repave 15 Mile and remove old piping after the collapse forced people in 22 homes to evacuate. People in 19 homes have since been allowed to return but three homes were condemned.
Macomb County is under a state emergency declaration until March 31 after the House voted in January to extend it to help coordinate local, state and federal resources to repair sinkhole damage.
The repairs are supposed to help prevent against severe storms overloading the system and dumping partially treated sewage into nearby water or even people’s basements, Sowerby said.
Forlini said Fraser has been on the verge of a system overload that could have dumped sewage into nearby Lake St. Clair on multiple nights after the collapse.
Apart from leaks contributing to the collapse, Forlini said residents’ flushing wet wipes into the toilet also hurts the system and forces workers to clean portions of it multiple times a day.
The same legislation officially directs the state to pass along to Flint the $100 million approved last week by the EPA to help deal with its aging lead pipes that led to the lead contamination crisis after state officials failed to require corrosion control chemicals. About $40 million would go toward replacing lead pipes while another portion goes for improvements to the city’s damaged water mains and to the water treatment plant.
The state Legislature already passed a $20 million matching grant for the Flint federal aid.