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Public Works Eyes Local Partnerships in Drain Clean-out Effort

 

Work on the Harrington Drain in Clinton Township earlier this summer. Under a new partnership program, the Macomb County Office of Public Works will be working in local units of government to clean up county drains in various communities around the county.

More than 30 clean-up projects in storm drains in Macomb County have been completed so far in 2017 and now, thanks to a new $125,000 appropriation, more work is being scheduled.

On Wednesday, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners approved moving the money into a fund controlled by the Macomb County Office of Public Works to pay for drain maintenance around the county. The money is derived from savings in personnel costs at the Public Works office in the first six months of 2017.

“This is part of our ongoing review of operations, seeking ways to put these taxpayer dollars to use in a way that best serves the taxpayer,” said Public Works Commissioner Candice S. Miller, who took office on Jan. 1, 2017. “I appreciate the support of the Board of Commissioners in this effort. We all want the same thing, to get these drains cleaned out and operated as they should be.”

The $125,000 transfer back in to the Public Works fund was offset by more than $300,000 in personnel expenses savings recorded by the Public Works Office since January.

Miller said the money will be used to provide 50 percent match dollars with local communities in the county seeking to engage in drain clean-out projects.

There are several types of drains in Macomb County. In the northern half of the county, they are primarily open waterways – small streams, creeks, sometimes ditches that only fill after heavy rains, that carry away rain and snow melt from developed areas and roads. In the southern half of the county, drains are primarily large, enclosed underground pipes that collect storm water. All of the drains eventually deliver the water to Lake St. Clair, often by first dumping in to the Clinton River.

“Most of these drains have had little to no maintenance for decades, so they are just filled with blockages that cause localized flooding every time it rains,” Miller said.

The drain clean-out projects have taken place in 10 different Macomb County communities to date. Perhaps the biggest project so far has been in the Harrington Drain, from roughly 15 Mile Road and Garfield in Fraser to Little Mack and Harrington roads in Clinton Township. In December, raw sewage from the 15 Mile Road sinkhole was dumped into that portion of the drain, making that area a top clean-out priority. Numerous blockages were removed from the drain.

Happening at the same time as the clean-out work is a series of enclosed drain inspection projects in St. Clair Shores and Sterling Heights. In St. Clair Shores, three drains that lead directly into Lake St. Clair are being inspected. In the Shores, the drains fill with lake water due to the level of the drain, meaning temporary bulkheads have to be put in place and the drains pumped out to allow the inspections to occur. The St. Clair Shores drains originate in Roseville Eastpointe. In Sterling Heights, a total of 13 miles of drains, primarily running under the major north-south roads in the city, are being inspected, along with dozens of manholes.

In both cities, the inspections are looking for any possible sanitary sewer connections, which would allow raw sewage to enter the lake. The inspections are also checking the integrity of the sewer lines, gauging any levels of sediment build-up that would restrict storm water flow and ensuring the manhole structures are solid.

The projects in St. Clair Shores have a cost of about $1.6 million; in Sterling Heights, about $103,000. Almost all of that work is being paid for by state grant monies.

“None of these systems have been inspected since they were first constructed in the 1960s,” Miller said. “Just like the open drains, they need to be inspected and maintained.”

Properly functioning drains reduce localized flooding and reduce soil erosion around the drains, thereby reducing the amount of sediment that ends up in the Clinton River or Lake St. Clair.