Inspections reveal $3.5 million in sewer repairs
By Kevin Elliott
The Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees on Monday, January 9, authorized design work to begin on $3.5 million in sanitary sewer repairs needed in order to avoid costly overflows to the township and residents.
Bloomfield Township Public Works Director Noah Mehalski said the township was awarded a grant in 2019 to inspect some of the 225 miles of sanitary sewer lines in the township. The work revealed several defects in the system that could lead to backups near Forest Lake, Club Drive and Brafferton Road.
“When you start looking, you find things, and this is some of the stuff that we found,” Mehalski said.
Under state law (PA 222), once the township is aware of defects in the system, it may be held responsible for damages incurred by residents. Mehalski noted there are about $3.5 million in priority projects. The work is ultimately funded through sewer rates, but specific funding may come through bonding, general fund or reserves.
“Once we become aware of defects within our sewers, we become liable if there is some kind of back-up after we are aware of that,” he said. “Then it comes down to a question of whether we acted in a prudent nature to fix these or not. That would be a question that a judge would answer, not me. Obviously, on our timeline, we believe its prudent.”
Mehalski said the township a decade ago repaired a portion of sanitary sewer adjacent to Forest Lake on the Forest Lake Country Club property, near the tennis courts. The inspection showed a pipe upstream from the original repair is now failing. The repair, which replaces a portion of sewer originally constructed in 1978, will cost about $1.2 million.
“This sewer is rated as highest priority for replacement due to the location adjacent to the lake and the impact to upstream properties should the sewer ultimately fail,” he said. “It is likely that the Forest Lake Country Club will request that the construction be performed during the off-season as the work is also adjacent to the tennis courts, pool and lake access.”
On Club Drive, the inspection showed a portion of sewer constructed in 1972 needs to be repaired and replaced. The work will cause Club Drive to be closed. The work is expected to cost about $1.5 million.
The final project was identified along Brafferton Road, where a section of sewer runs in the rear yards along Timson Lane, between Bafferton and Coachmaker Drive. In addition to being located in rear yards, there is a natural pond that impacts the sewer, which was constructed in 1963. The cost of replacing the sewer is $771,000.
Mehalski noted the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will be reconstructing Square Lake Road from Woodward to I-75 in the summer of 2024. Sewers under Square Lake have an estimated $473,000 in repairs needed, and that it is recommended that work should be done at the same time as the MDOT work.
At the meeting on January 9, Mehahski requested authorization to begin design work with engineering consultants Hubbell, Roth & Clark. The final construction costs will be included in the 2023-24 water and sewer budget, which will be approved by April 1.
Bloomfield Township trustee Neal Barnett thanked Mehalski for bringing the projects to the board’s attention to begin the work needed.
“As you mentioned, once you discover it, you have to do something about it,” Barnett said. “Certainly for the residents and also getting into the liability, starting the engineering process is showing due diligence and that we are taking it seriously.”