FLINT TWP. — A proposal to conduct a comprehensive engineering study of the township sewer system will be on the agenda for the April 2 township board meeting, said Township Supervisor Karyn Miller.
She announced the plan in response to a question from Trustee Frank Kasle who asked for an update on a preliminary report to the board in early February indicating serious potential problems in the township’s 40-50-year-old sewer system.
Mike Pifer of Kraft Engineering presented a preliminary report which included findings that the aging sewer system could be close to failure. A visual inspection indicated that two of four pump stations are showing signs of problems including rusting and leaking, he said. Failure could lead to costly sewer backups.
Pifer proposed conducting a comprehensive engineering study, at a cost of $40-50,000 to determine sewer conditions and to identify problems. He said he would return with a formal proposal.
Having heard nothing further from Pifer, Kasle asked Miller for an update.
“Are we going to wait until a pumping station goes down and we have a real problem?” he asked.
Kasle added that his concerns were not alleviated by an appearance at the board’s March 5 meeting, by John O’Brien, from the Genesee County Drain Commission Water and Waste Division, disputing Pifer’s preliminary report.
The Drain Commission maintains and operates the township’s sewer system.
“As you operator for the last 35 years, we strongly disagree with the (report),” O’Brien said. “The sewer system is fully operational. All lift stations are working fine.”
O’Brien also voiced concern that that stations were entered without notifying the commission, which he termed “a high risk.”
He said his staff is in the process of changing all the locks at the stations. He said he had sent a formal letter to Supervisor Miller detailing his concerns and also said he would be happy to attend a future meeting to give the board a full presentation about the sewer system.
Supervisor Miller acknowledged receipt of O’Brien’s response letter but said she did not see a problem with entering the stations because “they are ours.”
The township has about 184 miles of sanitary sewers, 159 miles of water mains and about 1,500 fire hydrants, Pifer said in his preliminary report. Overall, it is a good system but needs to be examined, updated or repaired, as needed, he said.
He also mentioned that about 18 months have passed since he first began consulting with township officials about upgrading, repairing or replacing township sewer lines.
“A sanitary sewer pump station is not something you can have go down or back up,” Pifer said. “If it backs up that can be catastrophic. I don’t mean to scare anybody, I am just saying these are important things that need to be looked at.”
Pifer also said he was having trouble getting information and from Genesee County Water and Waste, which the township pays about $4,000 a month to operate and maintain its sewer and water system. Those records would provide insight on the current condition of the sewer system, he said.
Pifer’s preliminary report included comments from Randy Stewart, a former building and planning administrator in Davison Township, who oversaw an overhaul of its sewer system. Stewart recently was appointed Deputy Supervisor of Flint Township and has taken over the responsibilities of the Planning, Zoning and Building Department.
Supervisor Miller said. She added that Stewart is not taking the stipend usually paid for deputy service and that he began working for the township as a part time, contracted employee in September, similar to other inspectors in the Building Department. He owns a consulting company and is a Michigan State certified building official, building inspector and planner. He worked for the City of Burton for 13 years and Davison Township for 18 years.
At the February board meeting, Stewart shared information about Davison Township fixing on-going sewer problems by taking over management of its sewer system in 2004 and implementing a ten-year plan to repair and upgrade it.
Davison Township now has a model system with generators, alarms, mapping, telemetry and other modern technological advances to monitor and maintain the system, he said.
Prior to that the township was experiencing eight to 10 sewer backups a year, he said. Problems have been minimal since the upgrade, he said, adding that Davison Township also had difficulty getting sewer records from county water and waste.
Pifer said replacing the township’s two worst pump stations should be a first priority. He estimated the cost at about $1 million. The project can be bonded and paid for over time but the township has about $8 million in its sewer and water fund.
Miller added that township officials also consulting with Pifer about a water and sewer rate study to determine if the township is charging too much or not enough.