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Projects aim to stop 48 million gallons of overflows in Rouge River

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The Great Lakes Water Authority is working with Detroit and Oakland County officials on three projects that are expected to prevent about 48 million gallons of untreated stormwater from flowing into the Rouge River each year, officials announced Wednesday.

The effort, an estimated $68 million investment, "is truly a unique solution to reduce untreated overflows in Oakland County and in the city of Detroit," said Suzanne Coffey, chief planning officer at the GLWA, in a statement. “This opportunity has rightfully given way to our new motto 'cleaner water, faster and cheaper’ and is a direct result of unprecedented regional collaboration."

Water nearing Berg Road due to high water in the Rouge River in Detroit on May 19, 2020.

The collaboration evolved through the authority's Wastewater Master Plan and discussion on reducing combined sewer and sanitary sewer discharges into regional waterways, GLWA said. The Wastewater Master Plan is a "40-year regional roadmap" to manage the wastewater system "and provide a path to affordability through partnerships and collaborations." 

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That led to memoranda of understanding between the authority, and Oakland County and Detroites for the three projects:

  • The Evergreen-Farmington Sanitary Drain Drainage District, which collects sanitary sewage operated by the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner and secures wet-weather flow capacity in the regional wastewater system.
  • The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which will implement its Far West Detroit Stormwater Improvement Project, and aims to reduce street flooding by installing sewers that move stormwater through two new green stormwater infrastructure projects in the city's Rouge Park. 
  • A two-part improvement project by the GLWA at its west Warren combined sewer outfall in Detroit to correct wet-weather discharges there and bring it into compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. The effort includes constructing a new diversion weir chamber west of the Rouge River.

GLWA said by coordinating the projects across communities, the projects will maximize investments and cost savings for the region, "providing significant environmental benefit and securing increased system reliability."

The Detroit project is slated to begin this summer, while the GLWA project follows after its completion, officials said Wednesday. Oakland County’s project is expected to start in summer 2022.

“Preserving safe, reliable water, sewer and storm drain systems is extremely important for our region,” said Jim Nash, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner, who chairs the drainage district. “We are now thinking differently and working together

to protect the public health and natural resources of all our residents."

Palencia Mobley, deputy director and chief engineer at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department called the partnership "beneficial for the city and region at-large. And, like we have been doing the last five years under our current leadership, we will continue engaging and gathering input from the community in all phases of the project.”