New $43M sewer main needed to help protect Muskegon Lake watershed from ‘high risk’ break
HomeHome > News > New $43M sewer main needed to help protect Muskegon Lake watershed from ‘high risk’ break

New $43M sewer main needed to help protect Muskegon Lake watershed from ‘high risk’ break

Jun 16, 2023

About 6 miles of aging sewer main in Muskegon County, including a section that poses a "high environmental risk," need to be replaced at an estimated cost of $43 million. In this file photo, a sewer main break caused damage along Sumner Avenue in Muskegon. (Ken Stevens | MLive file photo)

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – An aging sewer main that crosses the Muskegon River poses a "high environmental risk" and needs to be replaced at an estimated cost of $13.4 million.

That's according to a consultant for Muskegon County, who said a second stretch of main also needs to be replaced, for a total cost of $43 million.

The county public works board agreed to apply for a state loan to pay for replacement of the approximately 6 miles of metal pipe that is at risk of breaking and does not meet capacity needs.

If the sewer main that runs across the causeway between Muskegon and North Muskegon breaks, "wastewater would be released to the environment" and repair crews would have a difficult time accessing it due to wetlands, Mark Prein, vice president and senior project manager for Prein&Newhof told the board last month.

"If we have a break, it will be very difficult to take care of," Prein said, adding that the 50-year-old pipe is at a "very high risk of failure."

"That terrifies me," responded Brenda Moore, a public works board member and the county's water resources commissioner.

The second stretch of sewer main needing replacement runs alongside Getty Street in an urban area and already has had two breaks, Prein said. It took weeks to repair the last failure, he said.

"It's a high risk and a high-flow pipe, and it's right in the middle of the community," he said.

That pipe would cost an estimated $29.6 million to replace, he said.

Muskegon County previously received a grant to assess the condition of the sewer mains and then prepared a capital improvement plan in 2018.

That plan called for the replacement of the causeway sewer main four years ago, Prein said.

The state's Clean Water Revolving Fund provides loans with an estimated 2.75% interest rate over 20 years, he said. That's about half the interest rate the county would pay on the open market, he said.

If the county receives a $43 million loan, it would cost the average wastewater user about $5 per month to pay it off, he said.

The bad news is that the water fund has about $1 billion to loan out, but about $3 billion in applications are expected this year, Prein said.

The county's loan application could receive extra points because a break, especially along the causeway section, would significantly impact the environment, Prein said.

That damage would be to critical Great Lakes coastal habitat, Moore said, adding that that should be emphasized in the county's application.

In addition to breakage risk, the size of the main is insufficient for demand, Prein said. That means inserting a protective sleeve to reinforce the pipe instead of replacing it isn't an option because it would reduce the size of the pipe, he said.

When the pipes are replaced, the old ones will be capped and kept in place in case they are needed in the future if there are troubles with the new ones, he said.

The causeway section that needs replacement runs between Bayou Avenue, close to pump station C on Ottawa Avenue, and pump station A on Whitehall Road south of Dykstra Road. The pipes range from 16 inches to 24 inches and would be replaced with all 24-inch HDPE pipe, Prein said.

Studies of the best route for the new pipe indicate it should remain at its current location, he said.

The Getty Street pipe runs from pump station Q, which is at Wayne and Getty streets in Norton Shores, to Nims Street and then along Ambrosia on its way to pump station C on Ottawa.

That main includes pipes that are 24 inches and 36 inches and would be replaced with HDPE pipes that are 30 inches and 48 inches, Prein said.

That pipe, which serves Muskegon, Norton Shores, Muskegon Heights and Muskegon Township, would be moved under the Getty Street pavement. It currently runs along an alley next to Getty and is a risk to residents if it was to break, Prein said.

There also is a risk of damage to the pipe if other utilities also buried along that alley route need to be repaired, he said.

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